Below some wooden planks at a Tallahassee storage facility are Anton Refregie's world famous murals from Miami's Americana hotel. Designed by architect Morris Lapidus, the hotel was demolished in 2007. The mosaics were salvaged.
Now the explorer portraits are finding a new home in Tallahassee.
"Tallahassee, the state capital, also is known as Arch Trail, and it was an explorer's trail. Ponce de Leon moved through here, other explorers came through here," said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer. "These murals are referred to as "the explorers." So what better place for the explorers to be, then in Tallahassee."
The packaging is keeping the mosaics safe. They will be restored for the next several months.
Deborah Desilets is an architect who worked with Lapidus and is grateful the mosaics will be taken care of.
"These works need restoration, and they're in a perfect home for that kind of love and care that the restorers will need," she said.
Ziffer says the city doesn't know where the mosaics will be shown but he can't wait to unveil them.
"I remember them when I was a kid, like six or seven years old, visiting Miami one time with my Dad... the hotel they were in... and I remember everything about these... that's how overwhelming they are," Ziffer said.
They city says they should have the mosaics on public display by the beginning of next year.
Tallahassee, Florida - August 18, 2011 -
Each weighing approximately as much as a baby elephant, the City of Tallahassee will welcome six Anton Refregier’s “Explorer” mosaic tile murals arriving from South Florida. A gift from Starwood Hotels, the artwork formerly located in the lobby of the Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour, will soon call Tallahassee home. Saved by the hotelier prior to its demolition four years ago, will be restored and reside in Tallahassee for residents and visitors to enjoy.
“Anton Refregier’s murals are a part of Florida’s history and we are honored to donate these beautiful works to the capital city,” said Keith Fordsman, Vice President of Development for The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. “The murals will be a stunning addition to the city as they represent Florida’s richness in art and culture, two aspects St. Regis and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. strive to support in the community.”
The Tallahassee City Commission accepted the gift at the July 13 Commission meeting recognizing their significance to Florida, specifically Tallahassee. “With just 500 days remaining until we celebrate Viva Florida 500, the 500th Anniversary of Spain’s first exploration of Florida, we are thrilled about this opportunity,” said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who was instrumental in coordinating the gift from Starwood. “The exploration of Florida is marked by the Ponce de Leon Trail which travels through Tallahassee. I can’t think of a better place for the murals of these famous explorers to make their permanent home,” added Commissioner Ziffer.
Architect Deborah Desilets, a Tallahassee native and Miami Beach resident, served as the representative for Starwood who identified Tallahassee as the best place for the artwork to reside. “Morris Lapidus, the designer of the Americana Hotel, commissioned Refregier to create these masterpieces,” said Desilets. “Refregier is recognized as the most famous Works Progress Administration era artist and Lapidus was a staunch supporter of displaying art in public places, incorporating it in his architecture during the 1950’s. The prominence of Tallahassee in the history of Florida aligns with the desire to locate this art in a public place where Lapidus’ intent for art for the people will be achieved.”
“We are extremely thankful for Starwood for paying for the transportation of the mosaics and assisting in identifying the necessary donors to pay for their restoration and relocation,” said Commissioner Ziffer. “Our community is excited and already stepping forward to help. AMWAT Moving and Storage is donating storage space for the mosaics until we are able to identify the conservator for the restoration process.”
Refreigier created the mosaics that served as a focal point for visitors as they arrived at the Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour. Six of the original 12 mosaics, being donated include explorers Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, Sir Francis Drake, Vasco da Gama, Robert LaSalle and Vasco Nunez de Balboa.