“The Murals of Royal Oak”

May 19, 2009

ROMS muralsAn article today in
The Detroit News announces a documentary about a special event in my hometown: the restoration of three large Depression-Era murals commissioned through the Works Progress Administration.  (The picture to the right is from News photographer Velvet S. McNeil.)

The three  mural panels, each 22 feet tall, represent art, history and education in Royal Oak.

The article, written by Jennifer Chambers, explains that these murals hung for decades in the auditorium of what was then Dondero High School in Royal Oak.   But in the 1970s, the murals were removed from the auditorium in an effort to “modernize” the school. 

The story of how these murals were found, restored and rehung in the auditorium parallels the story of how our community pulled together a divergent group of citizens to pass a much-needed bond to update or rebuild our older school buildings. 

Today, I’m as impressed by the murals as I am by the beautifully restored auditorium and school.  While Dondero High School closed, and those students merged into another high school, workers were busy stripping out old and inappropriate items in the school, replacing the wire, ductwork and pipes,  and then updating the school for computers, science labs and the latest in technology.  Workers also restored the original terrazzo flooring and the Pewabic tiles seen over the water fountains throughout the school. 

The school emerged as the new Royal Oak Middle School, where our youngest son now attends.  The beautifully restored murals now fit perfectly with the thoughtfully restored auditorium. 

It’s a fine example of how our community embraces the new while respecting its past.




  1. Stories like this about continuity in our communities give me hope. There is value in retaining parts of the past as we build for the future.

  2. Sharon, I feel the same way. I like seeing the old with the new, and this story is a case-in-point.

  3. I am so sorry to have missed the event — but happy that the murals are in a beautiful place where we can all enjoy them. I am so proud to live in Royal Oak!

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