Long Beach Airport Reveals Maintenance Workers Discover Roosevelt-Era Mosaic Tiles In Original Terminal; See Pix


(Nov. 29, 2012, 8:05 p.m.) -- Editor's note: Here's the "rest of the story" not mentioned in City Hall's release on the story below. Although the release states that a "maintenance team was renovating the historic terminal when they lifted the carpet to reveal mosaics by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist" (inviting the inference that the workers discovered the mosaics), Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske writes on Facebook at late afternoon today (Nov. 29) that she encouraged Airport management to take up the carpet and look for the mosaics when she learned of the mosaics in 2009 while researching her second book on Long Beach history.

"I came across the fact that buried underneath the carpet at the LB Airport were a series of floor mosaics that were designed as part of the Southern California Art Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA) under the supervision of Grace Clements (1905-1969)," Councilwoman Schipske writes on her non-taxpayer-paid blog tonight. She adds that some of the mosaics were visible on the staircase and the restaurant but the remainder had been covered over by carpet. Unfortunately, the wall murals that accompanied the floor designs were painted over in 2005 and could not be recovered."

Councilwoman Schipske added on Facebook in the 11:00 p.m. hour:

...The mosaics floors were covered some years back and glue and tacking put over them when the top carpet was replaced. When we got a new Airport Director, I told him the mosaics were underneath and we needed to find a way to recover them because of their historical significance. I found out about Grace Clements and the WPA project which produced the mosaics in the 1940s when I was research my book "Early Aviation in Long Beach." As part of the terminal improvements, the Airport Director included removing the carpeting and cleaning the mosaics -- which they just did. The mosaics were not just found. You can read all about the 4300 feet of mosaics done by Grace Clements in my blog:

So LB Airport management has apparently known about the mosaics for some time and has now [to its credit] made the mosaics public We've adjusted our text accordingly.

(Nov. 29, 2012) -- Long Beach Airport has made visible maintenance workers have discovered artistic mosaics completed 71 years ago when the terminal was originally completed...and at some point were covered over with carpeting and remained hidden from public view for many years.

Photo source: LB Airport

A Long Beach Airport release says the Airport's maintenance team was renovating the original terminal building when they lifted the carpet and found mosaics by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist Grace Clements.

Photo source: LB Airport

[LGB release text] The mosaics served as the finishing touches on the Airport's art deco style terminal building. Located throughout the first floor, they are in great condition, and include a large global map, birds, a ship, an oil well and a hand dialing a telephone...

"This is our way of respecting and preserving the roots of the City and of Long Beach Airport. As we turn a new page in history by opening a more spacious and comfortable concourse for our passengers, LGB remains extremely proud of its beginnings," Airport Director Mario Rodriguez said.

The use of ceramic mosaic floor tiles throughout the building was an innovative way to include extensive mural decoration as public art. Clements’ themes and decorative style of the ceramic murals were unique and innovative, whereas much of the WPA artwork at the time was considered realistic.

News of the uncovered mosaics captured the imagination of people who are interested in Long Beach history. Laurel Howat, Architectural Historian and a member of the Cultural Heritage Commission in Long Beach said that she was surprised by one of the mosaics. Howat believes one of the newly recovered mosaics may have represented Clements' hand dialing a telephone.

Photo source: LB Airport

"It's so exciting to see the preservation of the floor and the personalization Clements brought to her work. She gave a personal touch to it all, signifying a very modern time in travel and communication. I'm so glad that the Airport took the track of saving this floor," Howat said.

Photo source: LB Airport

Photo source: LB Airport

Quoted in the Airport release, Mayor Bob Foster said, "There's a lot to brag about the Long Beach Airport. Our airport is a premier transportation hub in the region, a significant economic engine, and an outstanding partner in sustainability -- and now we can add historic art preservationist to the list."

The release also quotes Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske (the Airport is in her 5th Council district) who's authored books on Long Beach history and organized events highlighting the city's aviation history. "These mosaics signify another chapter of the rich aviation history here in Long Beach. This artwork represents the importance of flight to Long Beach, ever since the first transcontinental flight landed on our beaches more than 100 years ago," the release quotes her as saying.

LB Airport offers personal history tours (docent-type guides point out the sights). Reservations are required. Call (562) 570-2678 for information.

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