The orange barrels and fencing that block off the site of a demolished downtown Pasco building don’t just keep people from falling in a hole. They also protect a piece of art.
Workers at the site of an old hotel at the northwest corner of Lewis Street and First Avenue recently uncovered an 8-by-9-foot mural in the building’s basement.
“We are going to save it,” said Ahmad Qayoumi, Pasco’s public works director, in an email to the Herald.
The city is evaluating placing the mural, which is now all that’s left of the building’s walls, in its new police station, he said.
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“We’re trying to get it out in one piece,” City Manager Dave Zabell said.
The police station is expected to be built next year near city hall.
The mural features a scene of a cove surrounded by grass, evergreen trees, hills and cliffs. In the distance sits what appears to be a snow-capped volcano.
The painting appears to depict the Columbia River with Mount Hood in the background, Zabell said. He said the painting is about 100 years old.
The scene reminds Franklin County Museum administrator Sherel Webb of Hawaii.
“The scene is not local, but it, of course, was done by a local artist,” she said.
City officials contacted Webb on Tuesday. She said they wanted to know about storing and moving the mural.
Webb suggested they contact officials in Toppenish, a city known for its murals.
“I just think it’s way beyond our expertise,” she said. “Perhaps they would be of some help on how to preserve it.”
The city is tearing down a two-block area to make way for the planned Lewis Street overpass project. Zabell said the job of demolishing everything between Lewis and Clark streets and Second Avenue and Tacoma Street is 98 percent complete.
“All that’s left is to clean up the rubble,” he said.
The city still needs to secure an estimated $26 million to build the overpass above the BNSF Railway tracks. It would replace an aging underpass.
The city made getting overpass money from the state one of its legislative priorities for 2015. Because the city completed the design and demolished the buildings, it can promote the project as “shovel ready.”
The city also plans to preserve a streetlight workers took down from its location near the hotel for the demolition, Zabell said. It’s the only remaining light that predates the construction of the existing underpass, which was built in 1937.
The city might even use the streetlight to illuminate the mural at night, he said.
“It’s an exciting find,” he said of the mural. “Combined with the streetlight, it will be a pretty neat display.”