Lee Mansion local art gallery receives new donation | Journal of Independence


A historical painting with local roots has been added to the growing collection of works of art assembled by the Buchanan County Historical Society.

The public will have the chance to view this artistic representation of Independence’s iconic landmark, The Mill, as well as 20 paintings curated and curated by the company for the Lee Mansion Art Gallery on an open house from noon to 4 p.m. on the 12th. December at the Lee Mansion, located at 809 First St. E.

Over the years, the historical society has built up an inventory of works of art, which has been kept until now, says Leanne Harrison, president of the Buchanan County Historical Society.

But the restoration of Captain Lee’s historic home, which has continued since the 1990s, has created a space to display the paintings in all their glory.

The latest acquisition is “a generous donation of an almost 50-year-old painting of the Wapsipinicon Mill,” according to Judy Olsen, a local historian and member of the society.

The original was painted by Mary Beth (Blakesley) Leytze in 1972 for Darlene and Ozzie (Walter) Esmoil.

“The painting depicts the mill at a time when the lean-to for storing corn cobs was still attached to the south side of the building and the Independence Water Works was to the north,” Olsen wrote in a press release. “It reflects Leytze’s earlier style and is rendered in oil in bold strokes with vivid colors. Leytze is perhaps best known locally for her artwork on a series of pewter plates depicting historic sites in Buchanan County.

“The painting graced the walls of three Esmoil homes for almost 50 years, always in a prominent location for family and friends to enjoy,” Olsen added.

Darlene Esmoil has been active in the Buchanan County Genealogical Society for 16 years. In addition, she has a long history of supporting the Buchanan County Historical Society.

“When she learned of the existence of the local art gallery that was to be part of the Lee Mansion, she was delighted to donate this painting of Independence’s iconic monument to the gallery,” said Olsen.

The public is invited to see the progress made in the restoration of the historic house and to see this painting and others that are on display.

“We now have a house that has an open staircase and an upper hallway that allows us to display the works of art,” said Harrison, president of the historical society.

The self-guided tour offers the public the opportunity to travel through time and admire the work of local painters, dating back to the 1800s.

The open house is held twice a year, since 1995 on Flag Day and in early December, added Harrison, and is one of the company’s many fundraising initiatives.

“We’re 90% done with the restoration and we’re trying to open it up so people can see what we’ve done so far,” she said.


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