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Borough to Request Damaged Mural from Library

Historic Committee says the mural has significance to Fort Lee but is in poor condition.

Members of the Fort Lee Historic Committee, along with representatives of the Fort Lee Coalition for the Arts and the Fort Lee Historical Society, will try and convince the Fort Lee Library Board of Trustees to permanently place a mural of historical significance to Fort Lee by an artist of equal importance in the hands of the borough at the library's board meeting Wednesday evening.

The mural in question is by the late Paul Ortlip and depicts a Native American, General George Washington, the George Washington Bridge and images from throughout the borough's history. It is thought to have been completed by Ortlip in the 1970s and most likely sold to Arthur Bruni, a realtor and well known borough resident, who had it displayed in his Main St. office until the 1980s, when he closed the business and donated it to the library.

The historic committee believes the mural has been kept in poor condition at the library and is in need of restoration and says the Ortlip family, including Ortlip's daughter and her husband, who operate a gallery on Martha's Vineyard, has offered to restore the mural at no cost as long it is placed in a public building operated by the Borough of Fort Lee and is secured in that space in a safe manner. The historic committee hopes to leave Wednesday's meeting with the mural in hand and to prevent further damage.

Paul Ortlip, his father, Willard, and Paul's sisters operated several art studios atop the Palisades throughout the 1970s. Paul's last studio in Fort Lee was on Bigler St. off Main. Many of the Ortlip family's works are displayed today in such public spaces as the Fort Lee Museum, Fort Lee Historic Park Museum, Fire Houses No. 1 and No. 3 on Main St. and perhaps most prominently in Borough Hall, where many of the portraits of Fort Lee's past mayors were done by the Ortlips and where one of Willard Ortlip's greatest works, Washington on Horseback in Fort Lee, hangs prominently behind the mayor's chair in council chambers.

The Library Board of Trustees meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Fort Lee Public Library's meeting room on the lower level.

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