Uncovering History

While removing additions to the Turner Mansion that were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the construction crews uncovered many interesting details—several of them unseen for more than forty years. It has been very exciting to see these many architectural details revealed and to imagine how it will influence visitor experience when the spaces are reopened next spring.

In the early 1970s, the Museum of the Southwest made its first expansion, enclosing the back porch of the Turner Mansion by adding the Thomas Gallery to provide additional exhibition space and a new entrance to the galleries. When the acoustic ceiling was removed from this portion of the building, the workers found the original patio ceiling still remained. With simple Masonite, a design was created that complemented the shutters and brickwork that continued around to the back of the house. The original light fixtures were also still in place and echoed some of the design elements seen in other parts of the house. While the ceiling isn’t salvageable, it is being documented with photographs so that we have a better understanding of how all of the design concepts relate to one another.

As you move from the back of the house into what was the former guest room of the Turner Mansion, the removal of carpet revealed the original layout of the halls and closets that made up the space. The staff was quite surprised to find the tile on the floor and one wall of a former bathroom still existed—and actually still looked pretty amazing. Each of the original six-and-a-half baths in the home had a unique tile program and color scheme and this one was no different: a border of quatrefoil tile in two shades of pink, lilac and light blue surround a central portion of blue tiles set in a chevron pattern. On the wall, a delicate pink tile was bordered not in grout, but by a metal strip that may be zinc or spun aluminum.

Finally, with the removal of an acoustic drop ceiling in the Turner Mansion dining room, additional bands of the crown molding program that were not visible were uncovered, but more importantly the rosette or medallion in the center of the room was revealed—a detail of the architectural plans long forgotten. Like much of the molding in the house, the rosette was hand cast in plaster and has four bands of gracious petals plus two additional bands of decoration that surround it. It was quite a surprise for everyone, but when conserved and restored will add to the understanding and appreciation of the original plans and the myriad of details that were a part of that design.

The Turner Mansion truly is a work of art and the restoration of the historic spaces is going to be something for our entire community to celebrate and enjoy. The Museum of the Southwest is proud to call it our home and is excited to reveal all of these fascinating historic details to Midland next spring—refreshed and renewed for the next generation of visitors. Likewise, we are thankful to Fredda Turner Durham and Dorothy Turner Scharbauer who made a gift of the property to the Museum in 1968 and set us on our current course to inspire discovery, interaction and exploration of art, science, culture and history, enriching the lives of people of all ages.

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Museum of the Southwest
1705 W. Missouri Ave.
Midland, TX 79701