It was once mentioned in the newspaper, that Mr. Henry's had been maintained in a state of "arrested decay". Perhaps this was a polite way of saying that the old management never made an effort to fix anything, basically allowing the place to fall apart.
Under the new management of Mark Steele, the famous pub has received a loving restoration, with much attention paid to historic preservation.
As part of this restoration, we started an extensive community project to restore the artwork in the downstairs dining salon. The wall of artwork had for the most part, been untouched over the last 50 years, although some pieces had been lost or stolen over time.
The artwork at Mr. Henry's is often a subject of conversation among the pub's patrons. Did Henry have any plan in mind when the art was first displayed? Did Henry randomly aquire the art from rummage sales, or was their a specific collectors taste in mind? With Henry and most of the old-timers now gone, perhaps we'll never know.
There are a few things we do know, however, with a little digging. Most of the artwork on the wall relates to entertainment in the teens & 1920's, particularly the silent movie era, vaudeville, and burlesque.
Prior to the renovations getting started, Charles Epting paid a visit to the pub this summer. He was writing a book on Bebe Daniels, who also appears on Henry's wall of fame. Charles is the editor of Silent Film Quarterly, a publication dedicated to Silent Film. He helped us to kick start our restoration project, and his publication has also provided us with valuable info for acquiring new pieces for the Henry's collection.
For the last several months we have been attempting to identify all the pieces that appear on the wall. We've also been comparing the current display to older photos, in an attempt to identify what has been lost or stolen over time.
One lost item , is a photo of Julian Eltinge, on the back of the photo, was an authentic Sophie Tucker telegram. Henry's has fallen victim to a few thefts over the years, with photographs and lithographs occasionally disappearing at random.
The task of identifying the artwork took place between August and January. Finally, everything was removed from the wall during the big overhaul in January. While the restaurnt's main dining room was closed in January, the picture backs on the most damaged pieces were completely replaced.
There were a handful of items that were considered beyond repair, but for the most part, all of the original artwork was preserved.
This blog is an intro for a series of entries about the Henry's Wall of Fame. As always, I apologize for the numerous typos. I usually blog on short breaks, between work and practice, by typing on the iPhone. Stay tuned for more about the wall.