Walk along Main Street from Afton Avenue and you’ll see a mural that you think you’ve seen before – not on a wall, but on a postcard.
It reads “Greetings from Yardley.”
This iconic message, “Greetings from…” debuted at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, produced by the Teich Company, which, by 1956, had made around 1,000 individual postcard designs, paying homage to American cities in all 50 states.
“Greetings from Yardley” owes its inception to Experience Yardley founder and board president, Jef Buehler, and its artistic execution to Tony Napoli.
Tony, an Artist of Yardley (AOY) – Pennsbury High School’s art teacher for 30 years and the mastermind of the renowned PHS senior prom murals – was chosen as the lead artist for the mural, and guided by AOY artist Cindy Fastis and Experience Yardley board member Liz Young.
AOY collaborators also included Jo-Anne Osnoe, Anne Gannon and Renee Egan.
Current PHS art teacher and department chair, Curtis May and former art major student, Rick Sharon, assisted Napoli in the original layout of 11’ x 26’ foot mural.
Since such annual events as Canal-o-ween and Second Saturdays were canceled this year due to COVID-19, Jef was able to secure grant money instead for creative placemaking, such as the mural, from Visit Bucks County and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Experience Yardley is 100% volunteer-driven and benefits from donations can made on its website.
In the future, Jef envisions the mural as a photo-op for bands performing in Music on Main Street or for individuals to share on social media.
Researching the design principles of the “Greetings” cards, Tony noticed that “they give you little glimpses, usually oversized, a magnified version” of the sites that are depicted.
His next step was to decide which sites would be contained in which letter, or panel.
The site that Tony considers most iconic to Yardley is the library, to which he devotes two panels, one for the entrance and the other for the exit.
“I used to bring my students there,” says Tony, “where they could sit beside Lake Afton and plein air sketch. The yellow house on the far side of the lake was often in their paintings.”
Known as Lakeside, it was the first residential home built by William Yardley, who settled on Prospect Farm in 1682, purchased land along Brock Creek and began to build his home in 1728.
The Grist Mill, the first commercial building in Yardley, is also depicted in the mural.
Perhaps the most meaningful panel is the one that portrays a scene from the Underground Railroad.
A Black woman holds a lantern, lighting the way at night for three fugitive slaves crossing the bridge at Afton Avenue.
Since Tony and his team of over 20 art students and AOY artists began painting the mural in August, people would stop to admire the work in progress.
When he completed the scene from the Underground Railroad, a Black woman approached him and said, “Thank you. Thank you for including that.”
Tony says, “That made me feel like I was successful in what I was trying to do.”
The mural is located on the side of the Firehouse Cycles store, which was the original Yardley firehouse, now a building owned by Tom Cramer of Cramer’s Bakery.
There are brightly colored round tables and chairs installed by the Borough, where people can take a break from their bike ride or walk along the canal, enjoy a refreshment, and most importantly, have fun taking a selfie or group photo with “Greetings from Yardley” as the perfect backdrop.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Tony. “I’m getting former students who are sending me selfies in front of the mural. This is the most attention-getting project I’ve ever done, even more than the 10 years I worked on the Pennsbury prom murals. I could have never predicted it.”
Tony and his cadre of artists will put finishing touches on the mural in time for the October 17th dedication ceremony.
A plaque commemorating the key sponsors will be installed adjacent to the mural.
“The dream I had for this mural has become real,” says Jef, “and I’m grateful to the participants and all the businesses and organizations who helped to make it happen.”
PHOTO CAP: Working on the mural from left, Paige Attara, Jo-Anne Osnoe, Julianne Rushing, Deirdre Hennessey, and Tony Napoli.