An 8-by-9 foot mural found in a demolished Pasco building was a surprise for contractors. And the surprises kept coming when the mural was moved.
Contractor Ray Poland found a wad of Japanese yen in an interior wall of the basement of 201 W. Lewis St. when the mural was being moved Friday, said Pasco public works Director Ahmad Qayoumi. The basement was in the former home of Japanese immigrant Harry Yamauchi, who painted the mural of what appears to be a seascape around 1951.
The money was dated around 1894, Qayoumi said.
“They probably brought it from back home,” he said.
But for now, the city is treating the money like evidence, Qayoumi said.
“We’re going to turn it over to the police department, until we determine what to do with it,” he said.
State law indicates that Poland, who found the money in a tin can, has a legal right to the money, Pasco Senior Civil Engineer David Tanner told Qayoumi in an email. But it also could be put on display with the mural or returned to Yamauchi’s family, members of which grew up in the home that was originally built as a bank branch.
Japan changed its currency after World War II, so the money is no longer recognized. But Tanner said the yen could be valued as high as $18 per bill by a collector.
The Yamauchi family bought the house two years after it was built in 1929. Harry Yamauchi painted the mural as a backdrop for a stage to be used as part of an educational program, where he taught young people about Japanese culture.
The building at Lewis Street and First Avenue was among the last to be demolished in a two-block area. The city plans to eventually build an overpass there to replace an aging underpass under BNSF railroad tracks.
The city decided to save the mural after it was found during demolition. It is being stored at city hall until Pasco officials decide where to display it permanently.