Home News Vision Historically Speaking: The beginnings of the Roswell Museum, part 2

Historically Speaking: The beginnings of the Roswell Museum, part 2

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives The captions reads, "Roswell Museum and Art Gallery. Roswell — home of Paul Horgan, writer, and Peter Hurd, artist — has in its museum a wing devoted to the art of Hurd. His wellknown landscapes along with portraits by his wife, Henriette Wyeth, and other well known artists hang on the museum walls. Courtesy of the Security National Bank" — date unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

Following is the second part of an article taken from the Roswell Daily Record, dated Oct. 7, 1937 and written by Maurice G. Fulton.

This is the completion of the article of how the Roswell Museum and Art Center got its beginnings, with the help of the Work Progress Administration (W.P.A.), and those who worked so diligently for it to come about.

John Raymond Terken, W.P.A. artist, who designed the busts — which are now housed in the Historical Museum — became a famous artist, whose works are still sought after today. I added a couple of follow-up articles on the opening of the museum. I hope you enjoy.

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“Roland Interviewed

“The first step was to interview the state W.P.A. administrator, Mr. Lee Roland, and learn from him definitely what would be expected of Roswell and the society if the museum became a W.P.A. project. The general plans were discussed with him and he gave a cordial promise of full cooperation. At the same time the committee discussed the matter with the mayor, Mr. Jack Moore, and with the city manager, Mr. Clyde Fulton. The outcome was that application was made to the W.P.A. for a $12,000 building. The Historical Society undertook to raise locally $1,800. The committee felt assured that this sum could readily be raised; a preliminary canvas had given great confidence in the general interest among the citizens.

“The red tape surrounding W.P.A. work required that the application be sent on to Washington for the approval of the president. Several months elapsed and then the project came back marked ‘Unapproved.’ The committee was not daunted by this disappointment; immediately the application was renewed. Mr. Lee Roland remained cooperative to the last, and after the application went a second time to Washington, it came back after a little delay, finally approved. Thus it became possible to start work on Dec. 10, 1936.

“In the meantime the $1,800 expected of the community was raised. In May 1936, the committee met at the Chamber of Commerce with representative businessmen. The plan first adopted for raising the money put the canvas altogether in the hands of a committee consisting of Mrs. J.P. Church chairman, Mrs. E.A. Calhoun, secretary and Mrs. W.W. Phillips, treasurer. The expectation was that these ladies would engineer a campaign for funds, the actual soliciting to be done by a group of younger women whom they might select. But it was found desirable to have the assistance of a group of men in the work, and Messrs. R.H. McCune, J.F. Hinkle, W.C. Lawrence, Dan Wilmot, and H.M. Dow gave generously of their time and efforts in raising the money.

“Money Secured

“The result was gratifying for not only was the required $1,800 secured, but enough additional to secure the services of Mr. Frank Stanhart as architect. He prepared the plans and supervised the construction. Mr. Clyde Fulton, representing the city, gave valuable assistance throughout the erection of the building.

“As the building drew toward completion, the committee of the Historical Society realized that it was faced with the problem of furnishing the building and of maintaining it through the years. By a stroke of good fortune, further assistance came from the W.P.A. Mr. Vernon Hunter, director of the W.P.A. art projects for New Mexico, was seeking suitable facilities for the display at Roswell of some of the art exhibits that were in his charge. The most desirable place was the museum. Mr. Hunter suggested that if he was allowed the use of the building for his purpose for a year he would have furniture, light fixtures, and other furnishings made through some of the workers under his direction. He would also send with the art exhibits two curators and a caretaker. The society was glad to enter into this arrangement for it seemed to solve for at least a year the problem of supporting the museum. The understanding was that the Society would raise a few hundred dollars additional to pay for the material used in the furniture.

“Museum On Its Feet

“This arrangement solved the problem of putting the museum on its feet and made it possible to have it begin functioning for the benefit of the community. The building in itself is notable architecturally, for it is the only building in southeastern New Mexico that may claim to be the so-called pueblo style, inside as well as outside. The furnishing of the building is to be strictly in keeping with its architectural style. The collections that are to be installed are already a sufficient size and importance to make a useful display and to assist in the study of local archaeology and history. Other material is either on hand or inside with which to enlarge the collections as it can be properly displayed.

“For the first year the larger part of the building will be given over to the art exhibits of the W.P.A. Roswell thus acquires a cultural factor that might never have come this way had not the museum building been available. As the exhibits are to change frequently, the people of Roswell are to enjoy a series of picture displays. If it were simply an ordinary picture gallery the average person might be content with one or two visits; but with the new displays being presented at relatively short intervals, a person will have to come to the museum repeatedly if he wishes to keep abreast of the W.P.A. art.

“The museum is affiliated with the state museum at Santa Fe, it will be managed as far as possible in much the same way. It will become the nucleus of whatever this section may contribute to the proposed Quatro-Centennial celebration. But it is primarily a locality museum, and intends to remain peculiarly Roswell’s own, with a distinctive local complexion and appeal. It’s coming into being is to some extent due to the untiring efforts of the Chaves County Archeological and Historical Society. But behind these appear the people of the community and their generosity and interest. From the start, those interested in the movement to secure a building, felt that it ought to stand a memorial to the early settlers of this section. Somewhere on the walls of the new building is to appear eventually the declaration that it is dedicated to the builders and founders of Roswell. In some manner there will be displayed a roster of those men and women of the older generation who have helped in securing the building either directly by their own contribution or indirectly through the gifts of their descendants.

“Is A Memorial

“The fact that the museum is a memorial will be set forth to every visitor. In niches in the foyer will be busts of four of the early pioneers, who have been selected by a committee as worthy to form the nucleus of a collection of portraits and photographs that will exhibit to later generations the men and women of courage and hardihood and enterprise, who inaugurated and carried forward the development which in less than 75 years has wrought a marvel, both material and cultural, in the valley of the Pecos.

“At some appropriate place near the entrance will be the inscription, ‘Dedicated to the Pioneers and Builders of Roswell.’

“Such is the outcome of the movement that the Historical Society generated when years ago it invested the returns of that evening called ‘Billy the Kid in Song, Story, and Dance’ in display cases. Credit goes not only to the Chaves County Historical Society, but to the generosity of the people of Roswell, reinforced by federal aid through the W.P.A. What is here in Roswell is a branch of the state museum and is to be administered in much the same way. When the Quatro-Centennial rolls around, Roswell will have both a building and its contents that will take a worthy role in whatever type of celebration may be decided upon.”

Las Cruces Sun News

Wednesday, July 17, 1940

“Roswell Museum Opens Art Exhibit

“A special exhibition of paintings by prominent Southwestern artists at Roswell Museum and Art Center during the Coronado Quatro centennial celebration in Roswell July 17-19, has been arranged by R. Vernon Hunter, director of art exhibits for the Coronado Quatro centennial.

“A feature of the show is a portrait of Percy Hagerman by the well-known artist – Boardman Robinson. Percy Hagerman is the son of J. J. Hagerman, railroad magnate who lived on the old Chisum Ranch south of Roswell, and was known as the builder of the Pecos Valley railroad which came to Roswell in 1892.

“Former Governor Hagerman of New Mexico is the brother of Percy Hagerman.

“A bust of J. J. Hagerman is permanently displayed in the foyer of the Roswell Museum.

“Another portrait to be exhibited at the Roswell Museum is called ‘J. Frank Dohle, One of Coronado’s Children,’ painted by Alexander Hague, Texas artist.

“Works by prominent painters from Taos and Santa Fe will be placed on exhibit at the museum at the same time.”

The following article was taken from a recorded interview we have at the archives of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico.

On Oct. 3, 1938, Georgia Redfield wrote of the W.P.A. busts, and Amelia Bolton Church:

“In the selection of Mrs. Church, by the committee of the Society, as one of the four outstanding pioneer builders of southeast New Mexico, of whom a bust was to be sculptured for the Roswell Museum, she was justly honored, above all the women contributors to the upbuilding and advancement of what was an undeveloped new section of the territory not so many years ago.

“The life-like heads modeled of Mrs. Church, John Chisum, Capt. Joseph C. Lea, and James J. Hagerman, the work of John Raymond Terken, a Santa Fe sculptor, were done under the W.P.A. Federal Art Project of New Mexico. They have been placed in an area especially designed for them, built, shrine-like, in the four corners of the foyer of the museum. Here they will be safe and serve to perpetuate the memory of, not only Mrs. Church, but all the pioneer wives and mothers for whom she stands, and not only of the three pioneer men, associated with Mrs. Church as builders, but all those pioneers for whom their sculptured heads stand as symbols, who were contributors in the development and cultural advancement of a new civilization in the country of Southeast New Mexico.”

The sculptures can now be viewed upstairs at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Museum, 200 N. Lea Ave.

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.