Preservationists familiar with the building recognized it right away as the original home of the historic Julien Binford murals located at 101 West 14th Street. They were alerted to the murals by Andrew Cronson, who spotted the murals, but also noticed a demolition notice on the door. The murals at the 14th street location appeared to still be intact. The building, a shuttered HSBC bank branch, was built in 1952, designed by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer. The website nysonglines states that the Binford murals at that location were painted in 1954, and could gloriously be seen from the street.
Cronson’s alert took place in 2017, setting in motion a plethora of efforts by the non-profit organization Save Chelsea, the primary historic preservation advocate in that area. Council Member Corey Johnson’s office was also onboard, as was Jamestown, and soon after, a newcomer to the area ~ Google.
We had a chance to catch up with Andrew Cronson, V.P. of Save Chelsea for an update in December, 2021, and were delighted to hear about the enormous progress over this past four years.
Through the generosity of Google, high resolution images were taken, section by section, creating a digitized version of the historic murals. The ill-fitting sonotubes that the murals had been stored in were discarded and replaced (also through the generosity of Google) with acid-free housing for optimal storage.
Now on the final leg of this project, Save Chelsea is scouting for a permanent home for the entire 150′ wide historic mural. The goal is to keep the mural in Chelsea, in a location that would be open to the public to be seen by all. Funds will also have to be raised for infill and cleaning. But we can say it has been a very good few years for preservation.
Below, read the history of the murals, and the great ‘save’ thanks to the efforts of Andrew Cronson, Save Chelsea, Speaker Corey Johnson, Jamestown, Google and others.
Julien Binford (1909-1997) was an American Painter, known for his paintings and murals of rural settings in Virginia, where he lived. In May of 1941, LIFE Magazine featured a four-page article on an art show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts entitled The Eighth Exhibition of the Work of Virginia Artists in which Binford was one of 85 participating artists, whose average age was under 30.
Binford’s painting entitled “The Crap Shoot” was one of the paintings in The Eighth Exhibition that ran from April 12 to May 25, 1941. The Crap Shooter, (image below) originated when Artist Julien Binford was shooting rabbits near his home in Fine Creek Mills, Virginia. Pointing toward think bushes, his dog suddenly “flushed a corey of crapshooters who were evading the law. Their riches were spread on a blue linoleum mat.” Binford joined the crap game – lost, then decided to commemorate the disaster with this painting. His first one-man show was to be at a New York Midtown Gallery that following October.
The mural on 14th Street is aptly named, “A Memory of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue, ” capturing street life in the late 1890s. Andrew Cronson, V.P. of Save Chelsea got a chance to see the original after the mural was removed from the bank, describing the center panel image ~ looking down 14th Street, with columns of the L train open on either side.
Locating all of the murals painted by Binford has not been easy. In addition to his commissioned mural in the lobby of the Virginia State Library, and mural for Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond, Virginia, it appears he painted at least two murals for two separate Greenwich Savings Bank buildings in New York City ~ seven panels in the banking room of the bank located at 3 West 57th Street, and 14th Street at Sixth Avenue.
What 101 West 14th Street looked like just before demolition (below).
While much attention was being paid to the mural, the street artist, Banksy paid a visit to 101 West 14th Street – announcing his presence on his Instagram account. Below are a few images, quickly taken, before the clock was removed.
Banksy’s rat painted on the clock atop the entrance to the former bank building. But less than a week later, the building owners removed Banksy’s clock. It will be placed in storage ~ future as yet undetermined.
The historic murals were successfully removed, images below.
Corey Johnson’s office, the community group Save Chelsea, Jamestown (an investment and management company), and Julien Binford’s family set out to preserve the 1954 mural. The result is that Gemini Rosemont, the building site’s developer, successfully removed the murals.
In 2010, Jamestown and its partners sold 111 Eighth Avenue to Google for $1.77 billion. Jamestown owned 70 percent of that property, which sits directly across Ninth Avenue from Chelsea Market. Since that time, Jamestown and Google have collaborated on a number of community-focused initiatives, including a computer lab for Robert Fulton Houses and most recently, the purchase of the historic Julian Binford mural that was donated to the Hudson Guild.
Follow Save Chelsea for updates on the Binford Murals.