The conservators at The Conservation Center had the rare privilege to conserve a mural in one of Chicago's historic buildings. The University Club of Chicago is a private social club that was founded in 1887 “by university graduates who wanted a special place where they could enjoy intellectual pursuits.” The Club’s current building was constructed in 1907-09 by renowned architectural firm Holabird and Roche, and with its distinct Neo-Gothic facade, it still stands out today amongst the buildings along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. For the interior spaces, the Club hired fellow member and Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett (1873-1953) to design the interior decor of the club, which included such original artwork as Bartlett’s 56-panel mural on the ceiling of the Club’s Michigan Room.
In 1994, The Conservation Center, received a phone call that would put into motion one of the largest mural restoration projects Chicago has ever seen. At the request of a teacher from Lane Tech High School, TCC staff were called to examine a torn painting at the school. That painting turned out to be one of 66 murals that are part of Lane Tech’s collection of Progressive (1904-1933) and New Deal era (1933-1943) murals. Those 66 murals were only the beginning of the trove of murals in the Chicago Public Schools that had been all but forgotten.