On Wednesday, the Morton D. Barker Jr. family donated the original
artifacts to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which
administers the Dana-Thomas House. Among those present for the
ceremony were family members R-Lou Barker, Robert John and Anne
Barker, and John Andrew Barker.
"I am pleased to return Susan's
personal items to the Dana-Thomas House. They are so particular to
what would have been precious to her," said R-Lou Barker.
The donated materials include:
matching christening outfit with the original price tags still
attached, purchased in Paris by Susan Lawrence Dana for the
child she never had.
A large circa 1920
Turkish Oushak rug owned by Mrs. Dana.
An Abraham Lincoln
print owned by her father, Rheuna Lawrence. The print hung in
the original, Victorian-style Lawrence home.
Five Japanese block
prints, three of them made in the 1700s and two around 1900,
that were said to be a gift from the emperor of Japan to the
home's architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who then gave them to Mrs.
Dana. These prints were displayed on print tables specifically
designed by Wright for that purpose in the home's Gallery Room.
The July 1943 auction of Susan Lawrence Dana's properties and
personal effects was perhaps the largest in the history of
Springfield and required five days. Several stores in the downtown
area displayed some of the thousands of items that were being put up
The estate, which included the Dana House, the Lawrence Building
on South Sixth Street and the Roland Building on the southeast
corner of Sixth and Adams, was sold to the firm of Barker, Goldman
and Lubin Co., of which Morton D. Barker Sr. was the senior partner.
Earl Bice, Mrs. Dana's lawyer, arranged the sale, with Springfield's
Marine Bank acting as trust officer. The Sixth Street properties
were considered prime real estate at the time, but the Dana House,
built in 1904, was not.
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The auction of personal effects, presided over by auctioneer Luke
Gaulle Sr., occurred in a large tent at the corner of Fourth and
Cook streets, where the YMCA is now located. Barker and his partners
determined that what was not sold at auction would remain with the
house, which kept the home's priceless furniture and art glass
Mrs. Dana (1862-1946) was by then a full-time patient at St.
John's Hospital, where she eventually died. She had outlived all
members of her immediate family, but witnesses at the time reported
that she was alert enough during the auction to ask, "Did you know
they're selling my things today?"
A few weeks later, Charles C Thomas Publishing announced they
were in the process of purchasing the home from Barker, Goldman and
Lubin Co. The sale of the 12,600-square-foot home was finalized in
April 1944. Charles C Thomas Publishing maintained the house, its
extensive collection of Wright-designed oak furniture and its
world-class set of 450 art glass windows, doors and light panels for
the next 37 years, until the house and its contents were purchased
by the state of Illinois in 1981. It has since served as a house
museum, attracting more than 1 million visitors.
"This major gift from the Barker family brings us yet closer to
the goal of owning and displaying all of the major artifacts related
to the house," said Donald Hallmark, site manager.
Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site, administered by the
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is open for public tours
Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last tour
of the day beginning at 10 minutes to 4. Tours require about one
hour and generally are offered at about 20-minute intervals. The
house is closed Mondays and Tuesdays and some state holidays. The
suggested donation is $3 for adults and $1 for children ages 3-17.
[Text from Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency news release received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]
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