Murals

Three mural panels by Ralf Edgar Nickelsen are located on the second floor of the Main Library. The murals are titled:

  • Reading of the Mail – Communication of Ideas (87” x 204”) Depicts women reading their mail and conversing in representation of the manufacturing workers of Worcester in the 1930s.
  • Street Building – The Foundation of All Communication (97” x 204”)  Depicts men building a road in the 1930s.
  • Farming in the Worcester Region (97" x 382") Depicts agricultural activities in the Worcester area prior to 1910.  Men are reaping and women are gathering the fallen stalks into sheaves. Wheat and rye were grown in this vicinity.

The murals are on permanent loan from the National Museum of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution. They were sponsored by the Section of Fine Arts of the Public Buildings Administration, Federal Works Agency.

Ralf Edgar Nickelsen was born February 2, 1903 in Hamburg, Germany. He received his training in his father’s studio and the State Art School of Hamburg. He came to the United States and studied at the Art Students League in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts School, and the Art Students League in Boston. He spent several years working with stained glass in association with C. J. Connick.

Mr. Nickelsen was 35 years of age, living in Auburndale, MA, when he won this commission in 1938 through a regional competition of 47 New England painters. The committee in charge of the competition was chaired by Paul Morgan, Jr. with members Perry Cott, associate curator of the Worcester Art Museum; Umberto Roman, painter; Maurice C. Meade, architect of the Parcel Post Building; and Henry Scott, head of the art department of Amherst College.

The murals were originally located in the Worcester Parcel Post Office Building in 1940. The Post Office abandoned the Parcel Post Building in the late 1960s and the building turned then transferred to the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  The building was razed and a parking garage was constructed on the site adjacent to Union Station. The murals were moved to the New York studio of restorer Hiram Hoelzer, who cleaned and restored them.  The Worcester Public Library’s Board of Directors and the Friends of the Library led a campaign to return the murals to Worcester.  The Friends raised the money for transportation and rehanging.  A dedication ceremony, attended by the artist, was held on December 14, 1972.

Mr. Nickelsen also recreated stained glass windows for Wesley Methodist Church and the chapel of the Memorial Hospital in Worcester.

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