Ear: Column

Today is the 95th anniversary of the dedication of the Astoria Column in 1926. The artist who designed the mural on the Column, Attilio Pusterla (1862-1941) of New York, was known for his skill in the art of sgraffito, an engraving technique used by potters.

Time was tight to complete such an ambitious artwork, yet the artist and his assistants didn't arrive on the scene until mid-June. Work finally began on the Column on July 1, according to AstoriaColumn.org (which also provided the photos). A wooden structure circled the Column, and dangled from a 110-foot high platform at the top.

Pusterla would haul his drawings up onto the scaffold, then start creating a section of the sgraffito mural, a long, involved process. If he wasn’t happy with the outcome from ground level, he had no qualms about trashing a day's work and starting over.

With such a painstaking approach, and so much surface to cover, only three bands of the artwork were completed by the time the Column was dedicated. But apparently nobody cared, as 8,000 showed up for the event, and three days of festivities commenced with great fanfare.

Pusterla finally finished his work on Oct. 29. With a great sigh of relief, no doubt.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.