Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest Blogger: Allyn Boone

In 1903, Nina and Wallace Rogers built an elegant redwood home in the Prairie style of architecture on Laurel’s beautiful Fifth Avenue. There they raised their son, Lauren, and participated in the life of the community, managing one of the town’s lumber companies and entertaining friends and business associates in their well-appointed home.

Upon Lauren’s untimely death at the age of 23, his parents and grandparents created the Eastman Memorial Foundation to operate a museum and library for the town. As a result, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art opened in 1923 across the street from the Rogers house, and the Museum continues to serve as the cultural heart of the city of Laurel.

In 1950, the Rogers house passed to Gardiner Green, Sr., who was Lauren’s second cousin, and his wife, Eleanor. In 2003, the house became the property of the Eastman Memorial Foundation through a generous bequest from the Greens, who had been longtime supporters of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art and its programs.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a pivotal structure in the Laurel Historic District, the Rogers-Green House is highly significant in terms of its age and its architecture. A rare example in Laurel of the Prairie style, the house stands as one of the primary examples of the Belle Epoch period. Outstanding features include original Tiffany light fixtures and extensive leaded glass windows.

The Rogers-Green House has become an indispensable part of the community. Five museum offices are situated on the second floor of the building, and LRMA utilizes the main level and grounds for numerous Museum events.

Additionally, the house has become a popular site for a wide variety of community celebrations including parties, weddings and receptions. The rental income from these festive occasions helps offset the expense of operating and maintaining the 7,000 square-foot structure, and the community enjoys the opportunity to utilize the house for special occasions.

Initial renovations to the house were funded by a Mississippi Arts Commission Building Fund for the Arts grant and contributions from generous individuals in Laurel and as far away as San Francisco and New York City. The common denominators among these donors were a connection to Laurel, a love of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, and an appreciation of this fine old building.

Thanks to the donors’ generosity, the Rogers-Green House is the center of activities ranging from LRMA planning and administration to festive parties and elegant receptions. As we look to the future, we envision renovating a small guest cottage on the grounds for LRMA overnight guests including lecturers and artists-in-residence. Other needs include roofing improvements for the Carriage House Studio and an endowment fund for future Rogers-Green House repairs.

A Taste of Art & Wine on Friday, April 16, at the Rogers-Green House will provides an opportunity to have fun and raise money for the Rogers-Green House. The annual event is presented by the LRMA Guild of Docents & Volunteers and features gourmet food and wine, a silent auction, and music and dancing. Area businesses and individuals have the opportunity to become sponsors for the event and be recognized on the invitation and in other publicity.

Later this year, we plan to unveil a plaque that will list the generous individuals and businesses who helped us restore and renovate the Rogers-Green House for LRMA and the community. Categories range from the 1903 Society for gifts of $1,903 to the Redwood Society for gifts of $50,000 or more. For more information about these and other giving opportunities, please call George Bassi or Allyn Boone at the Museum, 601-649-6374.

Allyn Boone is Director of Development at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

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