ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - An e-mail led to the discovery of a war-time treasure from the 1940s.
Newschannel 5 was at Union Station when a priceless piece of art was brought back into the light. Doubletree now owns the hotel at Union Station, and there's a big rehab project underway. As part of that, staffers got an e-mail a few weeks back telling them to be on the lookout for some important artifacts.
Renovate a train station from 1894, and you never know what you'll find.
When workers recently punched a hole in some drywall in a vacant part of the hotel at Union Station, they found a hidden closet. And what was inside led them to call the hotel's general manager immediately.
"There's a lot of different pieces of artwork in there, all stacked up," says Tom Cooper, the general manager for Doubletree by Hilton at Union Station. "We didn't know what we were looking at. But eventually I saw one of the pictures of the train and I knew that's what we were looking for."
We were at Union Station as crews cut out the wall of the closet to get to the priceless piece of St. Louis history inside.
Moments later, pieces of a seven foot high, 28 foot long mural called "Commerce on the Landing" came back into the light for the first time in 30 years.
It depicts the St. Louis Riverfront at the turn of the century. Art expert Jonathan Kodner of the Kodner Gallery was on hand.
"Surprisingly it's been kept in great shape."
This triptych was commissioned in 1940. That's when famous Chicago artist and child prodigy Louis Grell was asked to paint something that would hang above the train shed's new ticket counter.
It's considered one of the most important public art projects ever created for St. Louis.
"Each one in my opinion reasonably could command a figure of $30 to $50 thousand dollars apiece," says Kodner.
But it's not for sale. And after some restoration, the Doubletree plans to hang it again, above the hotel's front desk.
"What a discovery," says Kodner. Not only for Union Station itself but for St. Louis and its community."
The renovations at Union Station have uncovered several other treasures, including an historic mosaic that surrounds a drinking fountain, a fireplace, and some of the original terrazzo floors in the Grand Hall.
Crews are continuing to find two other artifacts in Union Station, which are shown along with the story.