On The Beat: 1/31


The Talbott Tower Murals Case comes to a close

By Jim Bucher

In a recent column late last year, I asked you detective types for help solving a mystery. You see, inside the main floor of downtown’s Talbott Tower, at First and Ludlow Streets, there’s a series of murals depicting Dayton’s landmarks and industrial might from days gone by.

There are four total—three you can plainly see were completed by a professional. One added in 1980 was not. No offense to the artist.

But no signature could be found, nor information on their origins. So, I put out an all-points bulletin (that’s an APB in police lingo) for any and everyone to pick their brains and figure this out.

Well, lo and behold, not only did I receive information to solve the mysterious origins of the murals, but was contacted by a very important person, who knew the artist himself.

How ‘bout that for the power of the press?

The phone call went something like this:

BUCH: Hello, Jim Bucher.

CALLER: Yes, I have information that could help answer your questions on the Talbott murals.

BUCH: Great, go ahead.

CALLER: I am the guy!

BUCH: (Drops the phone.)

The artist’s name is George Hauk.

“It was in the summer of 1949 when a member of the Talbott family asked me if I would be interested in doing a pair of murals in the downtown Dayton building his family owned. At that time, I had completed my junior year at Yale as a fine arts major and was looking for a project for my senior thesis, as well as a post-graduation job,” George recalls.

The Talbott family dates way back here in the Dayton area. Harold Talbott, Sr. was Oakwood’s first mayor, secretary of the Air Force, and president of Platt Iron Works.

George kept good company.

“I began to work with a couple of Talbott family members to decide on suitable subjects for the murals. We agreed that one panel would focus on historical aspects and the other on present-day educational, cultural, and industrial aspects of the Dayton/Miami Valley area,” George says.

“I prepared sketches for various elements of the murals, then did a ‘maquette’ (a scaled-down version of the full-size panels), got it approved by my senior thesis advisor at Yale and by the Talbott interests, and negotiated a financial arrangement for the finished work,” he adds.

George graduated in June 1950, spent a couple weeks in the Ontario wilderness, then returned to Dayton and got to work.

“I bought the canvas, paints, brushes, and other needs, and set up a studio in the Talbott building basement in an otherwise unused space made available for me. I worked pretty much on a five-day, 40-hours-a-week basis, finishing the work in the fall of 1950. The two large canvases were carefully rolled up, taken upstairs, and installed in the two first-floor spaces. There was a brief unveiling ceremony, but all I can remember from that event was that it was presided over by one member of the Talbott family, the building manager, and Esther Seaver, director of the Dayton Art Institute,”
Hauk says.

But George’s work wasn’t without a little controversy.

“Shortly after their installation, the Talbott interests got an angry phone call from some area bureaucrat who had something to do with air pollution… ‘Paint over all that smoke coming from those four chimneys!’ he demanded. [The four chimneys were those of the old Dayton Power & Light coal-fired generating station at Miller’s Ford, on the Miami River downstream from Carillon Park.] We ignored this demand, pointing out that it was more steam than smoke,” he says.

Is that funny or what? George’s work remains for us to enjoy today, although he hasn’t seen it in 40 years.

“However, about 30 years ago, Sue Walsh, who was curator of decorative arts at the Dayton Art Institute, was asked about those murals by a Columbus investor who had bought the Talbott Building. She asked my wife Pamela, who was also on the DAI staff, if she had any idea about who painted them. Some 1930s era WPA artist, perhaps? No, Pam said, but I do happen to know who the artist is,” George says with a laugh.

So, there you have it. The Case of the Mysterious Murals is solved. Do yourself a favor, and next time you’re downtown enjoying a meal or a show, stop in and check them out. It’s really cool to see a visual “snapshot” of our city and region from over 65 years ago.



For the first column of the Talbott Tower mural mystery, please visit DaytonCityPaper.com/On-The-Beat-1129/.

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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