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Published: Tuesday, 8/14/2001

Colored murals brighten central court, children's area


After more than two years in forced hiding, some of the most colorful touches of the Main Library have reawakened.

Panels of specially designed colored murals called Vitrolite are visible again in the central court and the children's library after being incased in a protective layer of wood while the library was expanded and remodeled.

The murals, depicting scenes from philosophy, science, commerce, history, literature, religion, art, and music, are so unique that they draw visitors from throughout the area and across the country.

"It's just part of the library," said Jim Marshall, manager of the local history and genealogy department. "It would be impossible to separate it from the rest of the Art Deco architecture."

Designed by artists in Toledo and New York City, the panels were made in West Virginia and finished at the former Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Co. facility in Rossford. Vitrolite panels, depicting fables, myths, and children's books characters, are also found in the children's library on the second floor.

They command the most attention, however, in the central court, where they stand more than 30 feet above the floor and on the columns of the court. The eight-foot tall panels surround the court in a series of murals.

"You don't see it anywhere else," said Charles Russell, a retired graphic artist who has long enjoyed the Vitrolite panels at the library.

When the library was being designed L-O-F worked with artisans in New York and Toledo to design the panels, composed of mosaic colored opaque flat glass. It took 30 workers to cut, prepare, and fit the thousands of pieces of glass together.

The result is a palette of colors that sparkles as much today as it did more than 60 years ago. And should for another 60 years.

During the planning for the expansion, library officials did not consider moving or eliminating the Vitrolite. "There was never a question but making sure it was preserved. It is such a part of the facility," Mr. Mar-

shall said.

But to make sure damage was minimal, the panels had to be covered during construction. Unfortunately, that caution proved problematic. One group traveled to Toledo to see the panels. Instead, it saw plywood. If the group were to come back after Aug. 19, it'll see what so many have enjoyed.

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