A mural that renowned local artist Jack Lewis painted in 1974 for the then Delaware Trust building in west Seaford has a new home. On Saturday, members of the Seaford Historical Society gathered in the Seaford Museum to admire the mural, which tells the history of Seaford and the Nanticoke River that flows by.
Jim Blackwell, curator of the museum, told those gathered that PNC Bank, which now occupies the former Delaware Trust building, donated the work to the museum. The mural, which was painted on pieces of wallboard, was installed on the museum walls by Bi-State Builders, Delmar.
“There is no better place in the universe for this mural right now,” Beverly Hutton, president of the historical society, told the gathering. “And it will be here 100 years from now. We are stewards of the treasures that we hold, and it won’t be sold or given away.”
Half of the 32-foot mural has been installed on the back wall of the lobby, over what used to be the service window for the former post office. “It fits there perfectly,” said museum curator Jim Blackwell. “Just like it was made for us.”
The second half is in the museum’s Webb Room, on the back wall over a row of built-in glass-front cabinets.
The part of the mural that is in the museum lobby tells the story of Seaford in the second half of the 19th century. It shows a couple of farms, one with a farmer walking behind a mule-drawn plow and the other with a woman picking tomatoes and putting them in a basket. Also represented is High Street, with Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church, built in 1897, and the Seaford Hotel, which was located on the east end of the street and which burned down in 1954.
Blackwell said that the scene has to depict a time before 1898, as that was the year when Seaford got telephone service. The wires that were put along High Street to provide that service aren’t shown.
The mural also shows the old Greenabaum’s Cannery, located on the Nanticoke River and at one time the largest pea cannery in the United States. Its three tall smokestacks, shown in the mural, were distinctive, Blackwell said.
Lawrence, the unique 19th century Greek-revival mansion that was northeast of town and that was demolished in 2007, is part of the mural. In the scene, a man is riding up to the mansion on horseback.
Blackwell said he believes that the second mural shows a 1960s scene in Seaford. He is basing that in part on the fact that a car that is featured in the mural appears to be the dune buggy that was owned during that decade by Seaford resident Benny Hurley. “He drove that car all over town,” Blackwell said.
The mural shows St. John’s United Methodist Church as it looked originally, before it was covered in brick. It shows a chicken farm with four two-story chicken houses, the Seaford train yard, the Southern States facility on the Nanticoke River and the DuPont nylon plant, built just outside of town in 1939.
Blackwell said that Lewis took some artistic license in painting the mural. “He wasn’t a historian; he was an artist,” he said.
For example, houses that appear in the lobby mural resemble houses that in actuality are in Bethel. Lewis depicts a bridge in the mural, crossing from the south side of the river to the north, that Blackwell doesn’t believe ever existed. A second bridge could be the Blades Causeway Bridge, but doesn’t really look like it.
On the other hand, three buildings in Woodland — the Woodland United Methodist Church, Cannon Hall and an old store — are easily recognizable.
Blackwell said that he is delighted that the museum is now home to the murals. “It’s just a wonderful thing; they are just perfect in here,” he said. “I just hope that everyone who comes into the museum sees this 32 feet of history, and understands it as a preview of what is in the museum. I also hope that everyone who comes in appreciates the mural as a wonderful piece of art.”