The Mystery of the Whitefield, N.H. Murals

By Carla Charter

A sketchbook has found a home at the Whitefield New Hampshire Historical Society.  According to  Sara Daly Secretary-Treasurer of Whitefield’s Historical Society, the watercolor sketches and a black-and-white photos in  the sketchbook depict murals which were painted on town hall walls. Daly said Bob Stiles, a town resident, remembered the paintings being in town hall in the 1930’s. The murals were taken down in the 50’s. She added the murals inspired a play by Carl Allensworth, Director of the local Chase Playhouse, which was performed on Broadway.  In 1953, the play became a television movie by the same name.  The question is who painted these murals, which depicted the four seasons in Whitefield and why?

The society does have one clue, an article from a local paper in the 1970’s. The article states the murals were painted in appreciation for a kindness shown to Edgar Britton in Whitefield.  We do not know what that kindness was, Daly said.  The article also has the cryptic line we all know about the murals at the town hall.  She added when I read that I thought, “No we don’t!”

Edgar Britton was a WPA artist born in Kansas who worked with Edward Hopper.  Britton painted murals in Chicago and worked for the WPA for a while, Daly stated.   He then moved to Colorado in the 1940s, in the hopes of improving his Tuberculosis. Daly has not found any mention of Britton coming to New Hampshire.

Daly continued that along with the playhouse, the area was also home to Mountain View Hotel, both of which attracted New York tourists at the time, however she has no definite lead as to why Britton may have been in the area.

The sketch book was donated to the society in 1995 by Charlene Fitzsimmons in memory of her son, Paul. The society records stated that the murals were done by another man, Shepard Vogelgesang.   I believe the records are incorrect.  Vogelgesang, she said was an architect at the time who was friends with Britton.  She said Vogelsang also painted a mural with his sister Zenaide at a local church.

Anyone who has information about the murals, Britton’s possible time in NH or the kindness shown to him can contact Daly at whitefieldnhhistoricalsociety@gmail.com

If you know of an interesting New England Mystery you would like to see highlighted in this blog, e-mail Carla Charter at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net

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