Construction crews uncover hidden mural in old Edmonds storefront

 

Jen Lawson gets her first view of the mural hidden for decades behind the wall of her new business. (Photo courtesy Jen Lawson)

It might not be on the scale of the recent unearthing of 30 well-preserved, 3,000-year-old mummies in Egypt, but the discovery of a major work of art that’s been hidden for decades behind a wall in downtown Edmonds is creating excitement and raising questions about where it came from, and what should happen to it.

“I was shocked when I got a call from my work crews telling me that they’d uncovered a long-forgotten 40-foot mural behind an interior wall,” said Jen Lawson, who will soon open her new business in the storefront at 114 4th Ave. N. “There’s no doubt that we’ve uncovered a piece of Edmonds history here, and that it probably has an interesting story to tell.”

Work crews uncover the mural. (Photo courtesy Jen Lawson)

Lawson’s shop will be called Crow, and will feature original items from local artists along with cards, gift items, candles, soaps and similar wares. “I’m looking to stock a well-rounded mix of items and create a one-stop shop where customers will find everything they need to decorate for a special occasion or find the perfect gift,” she said.

The space, vacant for several years, was formerly home to Salon Pena, which occupied it beginning in about 1990. Prior to that things get a little uncertain.

Geraldine Hansen Noble, circa 1940

“The story as it comes to me is that during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s an Edmonds woman named Geraldine Hansen Noble owned the property,” relates Lawson. “She operated an art studio in the downstairs space and lived upstairs with her two daughters. I’m 100 percent certain that she is the artist who created the mural.”

It turns out that Noble was a local artist and sculptor of some renown. According to an article about her by Dorthy Brant Brazier and published in The Seattle Times on Dec. 16, 1968, she was one of Mark Tobey’s last private students and for a time specialized in portraits of local notables including Ada Breen, Nicholas Damascus and the Rev. John C. Leffler. Her work was recognized outside of the Seattle area, as evidenced by her receiving a commission in 1968 to create a major oil painting –dominated by an image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and including likenesses of Moses and Abraham Lincoln — to hang in the former Highland Elementary School in Portland, which had just been re-named in King’s honor. Of this work, the article quotes her as saying, “How close I have come to the physical likeness I cannot know, for we had never met on this plane. But through the miracle of color, his soul seemed to emerge and say to me what I had felt of him.”

Noble died in October 2004. Her obituary describes her as the daughter of Jens and Mary Hansen, owners of the Hansen-Sunbeam Bread Company on Seattle’s lower Queen Anne, “a professional fashion model, and an accomplished portrait and sculpture artist who studied under Dupen, Mark Tobey, Nick Damascus, Kenneth Callahan and Ray Jensen.” It goes on to say that she taught at Burnley’s Art Institute and Edison Tech, and describes her as an “elegant, fashionable and sophisticated lady.” Funeral arrangements were handled by Beck’s Funeral Home in Edmonds.

Details from the mural panels. (Photos by Larry Vogel)

But with renovations in full swing for Jen Lawson’s planned opening later this year, the fate of Noble’s mural is uncertain. The workers have carefully removed it from the wall and stacked the various panels in the back room, but where it will go from here is an open question.

The mural panels have been removed from the wall and stacked in the back room at 114 4th Ave. N. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

“I’ve contacted the Edmonds Historical Museum and representatives from Art Walk Edmonds,” said Lawson, “but while folks are expressing interest there’s no solid plan in place as of now.”

Story by Larry Vogel, with additional research and reporting by Chris Deiner-Karr and Betty Lou Gaeng

13 Replies to “Construction crews uncover hidden mural in old Edmonds storefront”

  1. The records seem to show that when Geraldine Hansen Noble and her husband Charles Noble were divorced in 1999, he became the sole owner of the building. The mystery is when and why the paneled mural was covered over. Another mystery, is the black and white cat at the entrance to the walkway the signature of the artist? Geraldine “Nanny” Hansen Noble is buried in Edmonds at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

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    1. Geraldine Noble became the sole owner of the building. The mural was covered by a wall so Lori Pena could open her salon. My Mom was a great artist and it took her a year to paint the mural.

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  2. Please follow up with me~ My grandmother is Geraldine Hansen Noble and this is her art work~♡
    There is more in the back room on a few walls as well. I would love to fill in your question.
    Thank you! Gretchen

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  3. Hi, I am Geraldine’s daughter Charlene Noble and I live and work in Edmonds. The mural was covered by the wall to save it. Lori Pena had a salon there and Mom asked her to put up a wall to protect the mural. Mom died in October 2004 and the family sold the building. I am so happy to see it again and never thought I would. I watched my Mom paint the mural when I was 19 and am in my 50s and haven’t seen it since then. I am praying that it doesn’t get destroyed at all. I am working with Joan Longstaff and she has connections to store it hopefully. The picture of my Mom in the article is one of her sisters. I was beyond happy to see it again.

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    1. It’s beautiful! Hopefully Joan and others kind find a way to restore it and make it a permanent part of Edmonds charm 🙂

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    2. Hi Charlene! We used to be neighbors and I remember seeing some of your mom’s paintings when we took care of your dog! This is so cool. I hope it lands in a place where many can enjoy. What a gift!

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  4. The Hansen Baking company (Sunbeam) was home to Jake O’Shaughnessy’s, Harry’s Burger Bar, Sunday’s Church. Phoenecia restaurant and Morfey’s Cake Shop all located at what they called the Hansen Baking company back in the 80’s and 90’s until sold to a Canadian company. Now Metropolitan Market and Bartells are at that same location. Very cool about the mural.

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  5. Great story and thank you, Jen Lawson, for preserving that history. The children and/or grandchildren should hopefully be part of disposition whether to the Museum or held in a private collection.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this story as there were so many names from my past growing up on Capitol Hill: Callahan ( note the correct spelling) Leffler, Dupen and others. I went all through school with Tobey Callahan ,Kenneth’s son. I hope these treasurers find a new home and can be enjoyed by many.

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