Saving A Colorful Part Of Odenton’s Past

By: Jay Winer

I’ve written a bit about my family’s start in Odenton in 1941, creating National Plastic Products Company, known to many as the Nevamar plants.  By the early 1950’s, nearly 1,500 people worked there and that growth fueled my family to invest in property in the area that today are projects like Midway Industrial Park and Piney Orchard.

In addition to my family’s philanthropy in the community, something about which they were very proud but very private, they wanted to instill a sense of style to everything they built. So, the deco style industrial buildings housing their factory represented their vision for the future. They built an elaborate rotunda as an entrance to the complex in 1948 and brought a Lithuanian born artist named Nathnan Imenitoff from France to Odenton to paint a mural depicting the history of the “industrial revolution”. Much of the artist’s work had been destroyed by the Nazi’s during WWII.  The artist lived with a local family and spent a year on the 6-1/2 foot high and 38 foot long mural. It was full of vibrant colors, workers and machinery and welcomed visitors to the plants from then until the plants closed a few years ago.

When the new owners and developers of the property, Stonebridge Carras Co., contacted me to find out more about the history of the facility they also expressed an interest in what was worth saving. It was clear that the buildings, now being demolished, were obsolete as worthwhile manufacturing buildings and the land had been designated by our Odenton Town Center Master Plan for new mixed density development. When the new owners asked what was worth saving, “The Mural” was my immediate answer.

To their credit, they did not flinch at the idea and began research to determine if it was even possible to save. To our amazement, they found that the mural was painted on canvas, adhered to the wall and might be removed. They brought one of the top conservationists in the field who agreed it could be removed. They committed to get it done and did. Now, the painting on canvas will take a few months to “stabilize” before it can be installed in a new location.

Our goal is that the Mural’s ultimate location will be local and public and available to all to learn about the art, the artist, the history of the buildings and their place in the community. Much work remains to be done and Stonebridge Carras and I are working on the complexities involved.  Hopefully, by the end of this summer, it will be re-installed for all to see along with more information about its history.

It’s bittersweet for me to see the place my family built, and I grew up dreaming I would work someday, coming down now. But I feel really proud of what was accomplished and happy the property will wind up a major part of the re-birth of the area and our new Odenton Town Center.