GRANT WOOD RELICS (Continued)
Ninety feet of cornfield murals, which Grant Wood painted at an Iowa hotel ballroom in 1927, are being reassembled. Torn out and scattered in 1970, the canvas vistas of bundled cornstalks, wooden fences and farm buildings have been found in attics and offices all over the state.
“This is like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again,” said Laural Ronk, the executive director of the Bluffs Arts Council in Council Bluffs, where the former Hotel Chieftain, now converted into apartments for the elderly, contained the pastoral ballroom. The arts council has located 29 mural segments so far; the nine that it has acquired are being sent for treatment to the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, a division of the Nebraska State Historical Society in Omaha. Reattaching loose paint and preparing the canvases for storage, among other repairs, will cost about $120,000.
A few mural sections are temporarily stored at Ms. Ronk’s home and her office. “One is folded and shrink-wrapped, and we’re afraid to even open it,” she said. “I’ve been collecting any flakes that fall off.”
The arts council has been contacting government officials about potential display spaces for the restored landscape. “This could be an icon for our community, and a tourism draw,” she said. “We’d like to be added to the Grant Wood trail.”
WHITE HOUSE HISTORY
Few parts of the White House interior actually date back to its early 19th century origins. Harry S. Truman’s chief architect for renovations, Lorenzo S. Winslow, gutted the place, reinforced it with concrete and then installed new crown moldings, fluted columns and carved eagles, stars and shields. The house turned into an “eerie modernized avatar” of its former self, Ulysses Grant Dietz and Sam Watters write in a history due next month, “Dream House: The White House as an American Home” (Acanthus Press).
Evidence of Winslow’s heavy-handed approach will be for sale on Thursday at James D. Julia Auctioneers in Fairfield, Me. One lot, estimated to bring $12,000 to $16,000, contains 23 drawings from Winslow’s office for new reception rooms, staircases, corridors and family gathering spaces. Owned by an unidentified consignor in Maine, the pages are three or four feet long, and their ripped edges and handwritten measurement notations suggest they were used at the construction site.
William G. Allman, the White House curator, said workmen in the 1950s probably took home many such drawings as souvenirs. “I don’t think,” he said, “there was an official policy, the kind there would be from the Secret Service today, that something like this could not leave the premises.”