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Location of Grant Wood murals remain a mystery at Tallcorn

Evidence Wood student may have been artist

October 28, 2012
By MIKE DONAHEY - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

Grant Wood aficionados and local historians will have to wait until December - or later - to learn if Wood's murals are under a number of panels in the Georgian Ballroom of Marshalltown's Tallcorn Towers Apartment building.

Adding to the mystery is building co-owner Barbara Bryngelson of Marshalltown recently found a copy of a magazine article attributing the decoration not to Wood, but to Chicago artist Edgar Britton in cooperation with artist Edgar Miller.

The same article claimed the two designed the hotel's Bow and Arrow Coffee Shop.

Britton was a muralist, bronze sculptor and landscape painter, according to

He studied at the University of Iowa from 1918-20 and with Wood from 1920-24.

He was commissioned to paint a fresco for the Waterloo Post Office in 1939 and exhibited award-winning work in Des Moines.

Research by Times-Republican staff in February, 2011 revealed Wood had been commissioned to decorate the Tallcorn's ballroom and restaurant, known as the Iowa Corn Room.

That information was obtained from a June 6, 1949 special T-R edition.

Barbara and spouse B.O. Bryngelson sold the historic 84-year old building to CommonBond Communities of Minneapolis and that company will assume control of the property in December.

The company will then move forward in January with a $10 million renovation project, which will convert 64 efficiencies and one-bedroom apartments to 49 one-and-two bedroom apartments for low-income families.

Federal requirements require investigation on the building to determine if historical significant artifacts exist.

General contractor Koester Construction Co. of Grimes hired Renaissance Restoration Co. of Galena, Ill. to determine if the murals exist under solidly constructed plaster panels.

Zak Dunne of Renaissance has been in the Tallcorn checking into the possibility.

Also, Dunne said he would be examining photographs - and by use of a special process - determine if murals are located underneath.

"I'm not sure how long it might take to determine if there are murals there or not," he said.

Local historians Dorothy Apgar and Barb Scafferi said they were not aware Wood had ever worked at the Tallcorn.

Historian Jay Carollo and the Historical Society of Marshall County were asked to investigate as well. After extensive research neither could confirm Wood worked at the Tallcorn.

Wood did paint murals at other hotels - including one in Sioux City - owned by Eppley Hotels Co. of Omaha, the same company that built the Tallcorn, which formally opened Oct. 4, 1928.

B.O. thinks if there are Wood murals, they might be located in a hallway near the ballroom.

"We are as anxious as anyone else to find out what if anything is under the panels or elsewhere," Barbara said.



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