WV Press InSight Videos

Charleston’s Irene the elephant in six rooms so far

Charleston Daily Mail courtesy photo  Charleston artist Jesse Corlis restored the old White Elephant Saloon mural at the Charleston Pies & Pints nine years ago and is now creating replica murals at each new Pies & Pints location as the franchise spreads across several states. He’s painted six so far.
Charleston Daily Mail courtesy photo
Charleston artist Jesse Corlis restored the old White Elephant Saloon mural at the Charleston Pies & Pints nine years ago and is now creating replica murals at each new Pies & Pints location as the franchise spreads across several states. He’s painted six so far.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Her name is Irene, and at 118 years old, she’s becoming a bit of a celebrity.

For years, she hid in obscurity, covered up by wallpaper in an empty storefront in downtown Charleston.

But now she has grown into a kind of mascot as the Pies & Pints pizzeria franchise expands across several states.

No one is certain who first painted the White Elephant Saloon mural, but artist Jesse Corlis is the one who saved it. Not once, but twice.

“I restored it, and then I re-restored it,” he said with a laugh from Columbus, Ohio, where he is currently working on the seventh Irene at the soon-to-open Short North neighborhood Pies & Pints.

In 2006, the new owners of the building at 222 Capitol St. were doing some renovation work when they peeled back some wallpaper and noticed the remnants of an old mural.

“It was pretty ghosted and cruddy, but it had a lot of natural appeal in the space,” Corlis said.

The owners were interested in restoring the mural, which used to be on an outside wall until 222 Capitol St. was built, and learned that Corlis, who worked upstairs, had a background in painting.

He got to work on restoring the mural to its former glory. He salvaged what he could, but had to repaint most of it (he likes to point out that the highlight in her eye is entirely original paint).

The space then became home to Cazon, a short-lived restaurant that framed the mural. But after Cazon moved out, a new tenant began the process of moving in.

The new tenant, who never opened a business, took it upon himself to repaint the interior, including poor Irene.

With the flick of a brush, Corlis’ painstaking work was no more…

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter