Tenants have come and gone at 251 State St. in Schenectady, but Edwin Becker’s art work remains.
While the current tenant, First Niagara Bank, is merging with KeyBank and will close that branch this fall, Becker’s 52-foot long mural depicting the long history of Schenectady is in safe hands. Rick D’Errico, a spokesman for Transfinder CEO Antonio Civitella, who owns the building, said Becker’s work will be preserved.
“The bottom line is that Tony loves the painting and he’s not touching anything,” D’Errico said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a gem and it’s probably not coming off the wall.”
Becker, a former state worker, painted his mural in 1960 on the wall at what was then the Schenectady Savings and Loan Association. Home to First Niagara Bank since 2005, the building also housed a large painting by Becker of Schenectady founder Arendt Van Curler trading with the Native Americans.
The building was also owned by the Hudson River Bank and Trust Company before it was purchased in 2005 by First Niagara. Civitella bought the building from First Niagara three years ago and while the bank branch remained open, other parts of the three-story building were occupied by another Civitella company, New York BizLab.
“It’s about three-quarters filled now and we continue to look for tenants,” said D’Errico. “I’ve probably given a hundred tours of the building and that mural is a real selling point. It’s beautiful.”
Along with the mural, a reproduction of Becker’s painting depicting Van Curler dealing with Native Americans has also been on the wall since 2000. The original work went up at the same time of the mural but due to the renovation work in 2000 it was hidden between two walls.
“Tony has no plans right now for the painting, but you can be sure, absolutely, it will be safe,” said D’Errico. “He loves the painting, and he loves every aspect of the building. We pulled the carpet off the atrium and exposed the marble floors. On the third floor we’ve also exposed some of the beams. It’s a great building and he wants to reveal as much of it as he can. He’d like to get it back to the way it was as much as he can.”
Becker, a Brooklyn native who lived in Delmar, also produced a large mural illustrating the history of New York’s merit system that is now on the wall in the front lobby of the Alfred A. Smith Building in Albany. Becker died in 1989 at the age of 76.
His Schenectady work, which took him more than two years to complete, consists of a series of images depicting the area’s long history. Included in the mural is a familiar image of Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz meeting at the General Electric Company in 1922, while other scenes show Native Americans, early settlers, and travelers on the Erie Canal.
The merger of KeyBank and First Niagara was completed in March. Officials announced last Monday that the First Niagara branches at 251 State St. and on Broadway would close later this year.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]
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