Historic Paul Bunyan Room Murals / Memorial Union Reinvestment (MUR)

The Paul Bunyan Room has been home to beautiful murals by artist James Watrous for more than 70 years. The murals, which Watrous began as a graduate student in 1933, were initially funded by the Public Works of Art Project as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Although the program was only funded for six months, Watrous used his free time to continue the murals to completion in 1936. Watrous created the murals using a centuries-old medium: egg tempera, which is delicate and difficult to use.

The Paul Bunyan Room, loved for its character, often faced criticism for the uncomfortable temperatures visitors encountered. ‘Behind-the-scenes’ improvements to the room’s infrastructure have allowed the Paul Bunyan Room to be comfortable for guests while maintaining its historic integrity and charm. Prior to the start of construction, the murals were carefully removed with the help of Joan Gorman, a senior paintings conservator at the Midwest Art Conservation Center, a regional non-profit organization specializing in art conservation and preservation. The renowned murals were carefully unscrewed and dismantled panel by panel to be stored off site, safe from any damaging construction vibration. The murals returned Oct. 5, 2018, and the room is open and available for members and guests to enjoy. Visit https://unionreinvestment.wisc.edu/paul-bunyan-room/ for additional information about the Paul Bunyan Room.