The murals on the side of the Bank of America building depict the Hamburg of the past, for present residents to enjoy. Photos by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — The Bank of America building at 43 Main St. in Hamburg became blasé for the scenescape of the area, according to Village Trustee Paul Gaughan.
“It’s an architectural term called brutalism,” Gaughan said, in reference to that building. Brutalism is an architectural style that was prominent from the 1950s – 1970s. It is defined as massive and plain. With knowledge of the buildings previous structure, he was inspired to change the building back to the vintage limestone. First, he needed to approach the bank’s headquarters.
“I decided one day to find out who the actual president of the Bank of America was, I did some research and I found it,” Gaughn said. He emailed the idea pitch and while on vacation in the Outer Banks, N.C., he received a voicemail from Kevin Murphy, the Bank of America market president for Buffalo.
“This really started a year ago,” Murphy said. “Paul approached the bank with some concern about the buildings on Main Street. His concern was that the building was not in the character with the other buildings on the street.”
After Gaughan discussed his proposed idea with Murphy, it came to the conclusion that taking out the exterior (which was cemented and bolted to the limestone) would cost approximately $3-4 million. Bank of America could not invest in that construction.
An artistic touch breaks up the “brutalism” style of the building, according to organizers.
“Paul and I had very good conversations, and Paul was understanding that we had to take a business approach here,” Murphy said. Apparently, the conversation continued and they decided that it was “perhaps much more workable to repaint the building,” he added.
The façade of the building was repainted with an earthy, neutral tan, which Gaughan said would blend in with the other establishments within the village. The mural idea was incorporated, by Gaughan, and approved by the Bank of America. Funding for the project was assisted by a foundation developed by the bank.
For the content of the murals, Murphy said, “We didn’t want anything controversial or offensive. We worked with the artist to focus on some photos that would sort of show the bank and the street circa early 1990s to use as the theme.
Gaughan, among others (including Jack Edson, local librarian and historical expert), explored historical photos for mural inspiration. Three photos were painted into mural form by commissioned artist Stephen Rovner, who received his master’s of fine arts from the University of Pennsylvania.
A mock up of the murals were brought to the trustees of the town of Hamburg to be approved, and were then brought to Bank of American and Murphy for approval. After receiving the OK from both parties, work commenced; the paintings took Rovner approximately five months to finish.
“He worked pretty much all winter to produce these murals,” Murphy said. The three murals, all painted from turn of the century photos, were mounted and hanged by someone hired by the bank, when the weather broke in April.
One mural is an old photo of Main Street. Another is a view of when that building used to be a Peoples Bank, from the perspective of looking in. And the other is of a railroad trestle over Eighteen Mile Creek.
“I was impressed with Kevin and the Bank of America, because they moved it along rather quickly,” Gaughan said, adding that the entire process took approximately a year.
“It has worked out pretty well,” Murphy said, adding that the murals are “generally being viewed very positive by the community.”
Gaughan added that he has heard the public say that it is “another nice thing to look at when you’re walking around.”
“We hope that it makes the building look better and provides a nice touch to our presence in the community. I think it’s more an example of us as the bank working with the town, making the building fit better on the street but to do so in a practical and responsible way,” Murphy said, of the murals.