One of the most extraordinary features of the Lakewood Theater is the mural that lines the walls of the lobby and mezzanine. Measuring an incredible 156 feet in length and 8 feet tall, the mural was a collaboration of theater architect H.F. Pettigrew, interior decorator/muralist Eugene Gilboe and artist Perry Nichols. Nichols, one of the “Dallas Nine” artists prolific during the 1930s and 1940s, worked regularly with Gilboe. By 1940 they had worked together to execute 30 murals for theaters and public buildings, including the Lakewood and Inwood theaters. This mural was included in the protections of the Dallas Landmark designation, the first interior feature in a privately owned building to ever be so designated.
The mural was recently examined by noted Dallas decorative arts conservator, Stashka Star. She found the mural to be in excellent condition with no sign of mold growth, one of the most serious concerns associated with such installations. It had been reported that earlier renovations at the theater included some re-coloring of the mural to better reflect a new decorative scheme for the lobby. She was able to confirm that rumor, although the change is minimal and could be reversed. The one concern identified was that the entire mural had received a protective varnish coating in the distant past. This was almost certainly not done by the original artists and the varnish used was not a conservation-type product. Consequently, it has yellowed and darkened over the years, making some of the subtle colorations and details difficult to see. Recommendations are that this varnish be removed and a modern protective varnish coating be installed. However, while this is a frequent approach to the restoration of smaller artworks, the sheer size of the Lakewood mural, more than 1,200 square feet, means the cost to do so would be several times that of completely restoring the exterior lighting. As it does not pose a threat for the mural, that is a step that will be considered at a future time.
Historic information from the Dallas Landmark designation report, written by Nicky DeFrees Emery.