Houston: Julia Ideson Building (Houston Public Library) Murals
Graceful and ornate, the 1926 Spanish Renaissance-style Julia Ideson Building reflects the optimistic spirit of the 1920s in an oil boom town. But within a decade of completion, the country’s fortunes had turned and, during the Great Depression, the interior became a canvas for muralists of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). A total of eight murals painted by three women make it Houston’s largest collection of WPA murals and contribute to the building’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside, a quick right turn brings visitors to three murals painted by Angela McDonnell between 1934 and 1936 depicting the New World’s Spanish influences. The first mural, “Avila, the Excuses for Conquest,” illustrates Spain’s 1492 Conquest of Andalusia. The central mural, “La Rabida, Cradle of the New World,” features Christopher Columbus and Father Juan Perez, a monk who helped ensure Queen Isabella’s funding of Columbus’ historical voyage. “Toledo, Art and Literature in Spain” symbolizes Spain’s cultural influence on the west. It depicts El Greco, a prominent figure of the Spanish Renaissance, and Miguel de Cervantes’ fictional windmill-slayer Don Quixote.