Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What's up with that mural in the Columbia Post Office? Here's the story

Columbia History - Did you know?

Did you know the mural in the Columbia Post Office lobby was commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury? It's true!

"Columbia Bridge" by Bruce Mitchell is displayed at the Columbia Post Office.

The painting "Columbia Bridge" by artist Bruce Mitchell was commissioned by the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture (later named the Section of Fine Arts) in the 1930s. "The Section," as it was known, funded such murals as part of the cost of new post office construction, with 1% set aside for artistic enhancements. Mitchell completed the oil-on-canvas painting in 1938, three years after the completion of the post office at 53 North 4th Street. The canvas is attached to the inside north wall of the post office, just above the door to the postmaster's office.

The mural depicts 1850s Columbia Borough.

The mural depicts 1850s Columbia Borough and shows a man astride a horse, carrying a bag marked "U.S. MAIL." The horse and rider are positioned before a red building, presumably a post office. A Conestoga wagon pulled by two horses is about to enter a covered bridge via a snow-covered road. A small train is also about to enter the bridge, on an attached side structure. In the center of the painting, a small footbridge connects to an islet containing a small red building. Government authorities initially thought the rendition of the bridge was inaccurate, but the artist prevailed despite the criticism. Mitchell noted that the bridge was the longest such structure in the world at the time. The bridge depicted is almost certainly the second Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, which was completed in 1834 and burned on June 28, 1863 during the Civil War. [The actual bridge piers can still be seen today, just north of the Veterans Memorial Bridge.]

Unlike other New Deal programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the mural commissions were not a relief program but were selected from the winners of national and local art competitions. Almost 850 artists were commissioned to paint 1,371 murals, most of which were installed in post offices; 162 of the artists were women and three were African American.

Artists were asked to paint in an "American scene" style, depicting ordinary citizens in a realistic manner, and were encouraged to produce works appropriate to the communities where they were to be placed while avoiding controversial subjects. The murals were intended to boost the morale of Americans enduring the Great Depression by depicting uplifting subjects. Some people objected to the murals, however, believing the very idea was communist, because Soviet Russia was also making them at the time.

More than 1,200 original works of art were commissioned for post offices nationwide. Of those, 88 were in Pennsylvania and about 80 survive today. Of the original 88, about half were sculptures. Murals were usually painted on canvas but sometimes as frescos. Pennsylvania has the second largest number of such murals, behind New York.








Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Library

After slow start, Columbia tops Lancaster Mennonite 68-58 in District 3 Class 3A boys basketball quarterfinals

After twice beating Lancaster Mennonite in the regular season to capture the L-L Section Five crown, Columbia completed the season sweep of the Blazers with Monday's win.

With the victory, Columbia (17-7) advanced to the district semifinals for the sixth time in nine years, second time under fourth-year coach Kerry Glover, and first time since 2017. Columbia also qualified for the PIAA Class 3A tournament.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Columbia Borough Meetings - Week of February 17, 2020

Counterfeit $100 bill suspect | Columbia Borough Police Department

At 6:34 P.M. on Sunday February 16, 2020, a male suspect entered the Grand China Restaurant at 156 Lancaster Ave. in Columbia Borough. The male ordered food and paid with a $100 bill. The male returned at 6:55 p.m. to pick up his order. As he left the restaurant, an employee realized that the $100 bill was fake and followed the male outside. The employee confronted the male over the fake bill and the male ran away on Cherry St. toward 5th St. Attached photos are of the male suspect.

Anyone with information regarding his identity is encouraged to contact Columbia Borough Police through the Crimewatch app or by calling 717-684-7735.      
Date:  Sunday, February 16, 2020 
Case Status: Current Case 
Type: Criminal 
Source:  Columbia Borough Police Department

Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®https://lancaster.crimewatchpa.com/columbiapd/10552/cases/counterfeit-100-bill-suspect

What IS the name of that bridge, anyway?

A while ago, while researching the upcoming Veterans Memorial Bridge project, Columbia Spy contacted the offices of PennDOT.  A woman who answered the phone seemed confused as to which bridge we were referring to. We offered several of the well-known and correct names for the bridge, but she remained dumbfounded. When we explained it was the bridge where Route 462 crosses the Susquehanna River, she insisted it is called the "Wrightsville Bridge." She said she knew this to be true, because she has lived in this area for years. We could not convince her that the bridge is not now - nor has it ever been - known as the "Wrightsville Bridge," and that it is in fact the Veterans Memorial Bridge, previously (and sometimes still) known as the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge.

To assure our readers we are correct, we took the following photos of several plaques currently mounted on the bridge, three of which display the bridge's name.

A plaque placed on the bridge at the completion of construction in 1930 displaying its name: COLUMBIA-WRIGHTSVILLE BRIDGE

A plaque commemorating Armistice Day 1930
(Armistice Day is now known as Veterans Day.)

 A 1931 plaque with bas-relief image of the Susquehanna and environs

A 1984 plaque from the American Society of Engineers denoting the bridge as a historic civil engineering landmark and calling it the COLUMBIA-WRIGHTSVILLE BRIDGE

However, the American Society of Engineers must have missed this 1980 plaque commemorating the rededication of the bridge as the VETERANS MEMORIAL BRIDGE.

Google Maps denotes the bridge as the VETERANS MEMORIAL BRIDGE.

Columbia's "Returned Soldier" has a twin brother in New York

Columbia History - Did you know?

Columbia's "Returned Soldier" has a twin brother.

Did you know that "The Returned Soldier" in Locust Street Park has a twin brother? It's true!

An identical statue, called "The Woodside Doughboy," stands in Doughboy Plaza in Woodside, Queens, New York. The design was created by sculptor Burt W. Johnson and was dedicated on Memorial Day 1928, a decade after the end of World War I. The New York statue is the original. Columbia's is a replica.

Columbia's statue (above) is a replica of one that stands in Queens, NY.

The original (shown here), known as "The Woodside Doughboy, stands in Woodside Plaza," in Woodside, Queens, NY.
(Photo by Cmprince, posted on Wikipedia)

Here's the backstory: The New York monument was commissioned by the Woodside Community Council at a cost of $5,000 after Johnson's concept took first prize in a war memorial competition. The purchase contract included a stipulation that a copy would never be made or sold.

However, Columbia wanted a war memorial of its own. After scouting around and discovering Woodside's monument, a Columbia memorial committee contacted the sculptor's widow, Ottilie Johnson. [Burt Johnson died on March 27, 1927.] The committee explained that it was impressed with her husband's work and persuaded her to contact Woodside officials and revisit the contract.

With its payment of $1,000 to Woodside, the committee obtained permission to have a duplicate made for Columbia, thanks to Mrs. Johnson. In an agreement with Johnson, the committee contracted the Roman Bronze Company [now operating as Roman Bronze Studios] in Corona, Queens, NY to cast the replica.

As the statue was being cast, a financial committee collected funds for the work and "the citizens of Columbia responded loyally," according to a newspaper report. The total cost was about $6,000.

The base was erected by Charles W. Knipe, who traveled to Vermont to select the stones.

The base was erected by Charles W. Knipe, then proprietor of Columbia Memorials. Knipe made a special trip to Barre, Vermont to select the stones. The base is reportedly nine feet thick and weighs 33 tons.

The monument was dedicated as a "Memorial to All the Wars" at a 4 p.m. ceremony on Memorial Day 1928. Over 3,000 people from all parts of the county attended, including veterans of the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I. It was the first permanent memorial to be placed in Columbia.

In 1928, the American Federation of Arts selected the Woodside Doughboy as the best war memorial of its kind, an honor that could also be bestowed on Columbia's "Returned Soldier."

Plaque mounted on the front of the base

The statue is 7'-7" tall and is made of bronze.

 Behind his helmet, the soldier is holding what look to be olive branches, a symbol of peace since ancient Greece.

 Detail of rifle and leggings

 Rear view showing cartridge belt


 Inscription of the sculptor's name and the date the original sculpture was cast.

 This inscription on the base appears to read: "ORIGINAL OF THIS STATUE AT WOODSIDE LONG ISLAND NEW YORK"
However, the word "OF" is spelled "OE" an abbreviation used by artists to designate an "open edition."

This inscription reads: ROMAN BRONZE WORKS NY"
The replica was cast there.

 Front view of helmet and olive branches

Side view of helmet, branches, and rifle

The soldier has a war-weary look. His head is bandaged and his eyes convey a thousand-yard stare. These features and the olive branches inside his helmet suggest the sculptor intended this statue as a tribute to soldiers of all wars but also as an anti-war statement. 

The crypt of Charles W. Knipe and his wife at Laurel Hill Cemetery. Knipe oversaw the creation of the base for "The Returned Soldier" memorial.


More information can be found in the following clippings which were used as source material for this article. The clippings are from the Lancaster Newspapers archive.