Mary Ann Hall’s mural, “Second Story High,” is downtown Jefferson City’s ever changing reflection of community and progress.
Over the course of more than 30 years, it has been lost, found and returned from Columbia.
Now, it will find a new home on the old street it represents in the Lohman Opera Building.
“I hope that (the mural) remains in that block — because that’s what it represents — and be somewhere where the public can appreciate it,” Hall said.
Since she created the mural in 1985, Hall has altered the acrylic painting twice to reflect the changing appearance as businesses moved in and out of East High Street’s 100 block. The picture extends east from the Lohman Opera House to Hawthorn Bank.
In 2005, Hall sanded away some trees and added the decorative top of the opera house, along with vintage streetlights, textured sidewalks and crosswalks. The most recent update added windows and replaced decorative tile with dark bricks to reflect a renovation to the building at 108 E. High St., currently housing Divinity Religious Gift Shop.
“I felt that (the new details) needed to be there or else people would look at it and wonder, ‘What’s wrong there? What’s missing?’” she said. “I want people to be able to appreciate the beautiful architecture in the top parts of those buildings, and this is how I decided to preserve them.”
The passage of time is even reflected in the sky. Using deep blue changed midday to dusk. “I decided it needed more color,” Hall said. “(Dusk is) my favorite time of the evening. The glow on those bricks are a beautiful warm color.”
Hall is a mainstay of the Jefferson City art scene, a prior Historic City of Jefferson president and founder of local gallery The Art Bazaar. The Jefferson City native and former Hallmark artist was first known in Jefferson City as a pen-and-ink specialist. She has drawn thousands of architectural pieces over the years, including the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.
These credentials drew Darrel Dunafon to commission Hall for a mural of specific buildings to hang in the second floor of his Taco Bell that was moving into 100 E. High St. “Darrel Dunafon was very into historic buildings … and I was pretty well known around town for doing buildings,” she said. “I always said I preserve the buildings by drawing them.”
Hall liked the idea. A mural would give her more freedom than pen-and-ink pieces and let her use some of the skills gained from making backgrounds for community theater productions at Lincoln University’s Richardson Auditorium. But she wanted to make a 4-by-8 mobile mural on masonite in case Dunafon wanted it moved. However, Hall never thought it would become such a well-traveled piece of art.
Companion pieces of the Hope Mercantile Building, Merchants Bank, Monroe Building and L.C. Lohman Residence were also painted to complement the mural. The pieces of the collection were framed in matching light oak and hung together in the Taco Bell restaurant for 15 years.
Dunafon sold the building to the Missouri Optometric Association on July 25, 2000; two of the smaller paintings stayed in its offices. The mural and other pieces were moved to Dunafon’s property at 612 E. Capitol Ave., where they remained after Gaslight Reality bought the building.
About three years passed and Hall had moved on to other projects, but she remained curious about where the mural would end up. She asked about it when Gaslight Realty sold the building, but nobody on staff knew where the big painting had gone.
Another year went by before Hall decided to get serious about the mystery of the missing mural. After contacting several people, she learned it was in the real estate company’s Columbia office.
After a short discussion, Hall arranged for Gaslight to donate the mural for a tax benefit to the Historic City of Jefferson, of which she was then president. It was returned to Jefferson City in 2005 and placed in Hall’s studio for cleaning and the challenging update that gave an evening glow to the scene nearly 20 years later.
By this time, the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) had taken over 100 E. High St. and accepted the mural on loan from the historic society to hang in its conference room, along with two other pieces of the original collection. The mural stayed in its original home for another 10 years.
The CVB moved to the Marmaduke House on Capitol Avenue in 2016 and didn’t have wall space for Hall’s mural. She was determined to keep it downtown and inquired of local businesses in the 100 block of High Street. Hawthorn Bank and The Missouri Association of Truckers, which owns the Lohman Opera Building, expressed interest.
Before it could be rehung, Hall wanted to add brick to replace the white and green tile of the recently renovated old Schleer Hardware building at 108 E. High St. Hawthorn Bank offered to let Hall make the updates on a folding table in the basement.
“It was kind of interesting. She just scraped (the paint) right off,” said Gregg Bexten, the bank’s regional president. “We are happy to house it until Mary Ann finds a home for it. We are here to help the community, so for us to house it until she finds a better home for it is our pleasure.”
Second Floor High is complete again. Revel Catering — located in the Lohman Opera Building — decided its guests would enjoy the mural at the buffet serving area catered by Johnny Graham. It will be hung after the wall space is prepared.
“It seems like an appropriate home for (the mural), and we are always happy to show off a local artist’s work,” Graham said. “I’m happy to be a part of this historic district’s (story).”
Hall hopes it will remain there for a few more years and doesn’t plan to touch it again. Instead, she is dedicated to passing on her artistic expertise to the young artists she mentors. Perhaps they will be the ones to do the next updates to a mural that develops with the town.
“If the mural is to continue to represent that part of downtown and needs an update, I’d be honored for an artist ‘friend’ to do that when I am no longer around,” Hall said. “I do have one in particular in mind.”