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The Beauty of Burlingame

Public art in Burlingame from years past adds to the city's historic feel.

In the 1930s, while much of the country was stifled by the Great Depression, Burlingame continued to thrive. New businesses opened, including Bob's on Broadway, which referred to itself as "The Finest Cocktail Lounge on the Peninsula," a Bi-Rite store featuring carrier pigeons and Rorke's, a china, linen and crystal retailer, according to Burlingame Centennial 1908-2008 by Joanne Garrison.

Although Burlingame may not have been plunged into depression with the rest of the country, it did benefit from depression relief efforts, most notably the Works Progress Program (WPA). The WPA was a federal program providing unemployed people work.

The program employed many artists, and it is these artists who made their mark on Burlingame.

A WPA-sponsored artist, Frederick Paula, created several murals at Burlingame High School. The 6-foot, canvas murals done in oil paints represent explorers from Europe and America coming to and settling in California. 

Other public art blossomed in Burlingame during the Depression Era, as well. A cast stone relief produced by James Hansen, The Letter, is located in the Park Road post office. According to Burlingame Centennial 1908-2008, it was funded by the Section of Fine Arts, Department of Treasury. 

Although the depression did bring artwork to Burlingame, not all notable public art in town was designed during that time. Behind the present day Paper Caper sits a hidden Burlingame treasure. The fountain, Three Dancing Maidens, won the grand prize at the 1910 World Exposition in Brussels.

It was brought to the United States by Rudolph Wurlitzer. His son placed it behind the family-owned property in the 1950s. A copy of the statue is located in New York City's Central Park.

Other notable public art in Burlingame include the four tapestries housed in the Burlingame Public Library. A 17th century Flemish piece depicting scenes of the Crusades measure 15 feet by 11 feet and 4 inches. It was donated to the library in 1966 by Mrs. Herman Roger Burke. 

The other three tapestries are 19th century French pieces and include Castle, Pond, and Jousting in the Woods, which can be found in the reference room.

One of the most notable pieces of Burlingame public art was discovered in 2000 when the Regan building was torn down. A mural meant to advertise Severn Lodge Dairy and Dairy Delivery Company was found at 220 California Dr. The Burlingame Historical Society had it restored in 2003.

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