PaperCity Magazine

September 2018- Houston

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Page 105 of 151

102 Slonem's boldest acquisition, dwarfs the scale of the six other preservation projects combined. The 1900 armory was an ode to the Victorian era's obsession with the Romanesque Revival style, down to Gothic flourishes and, above all, the crenellated double turrets flanking its imposing arched stone entranceway. Designed by New York architect Lansing C. Holden — also the architect of the Woolworth Mansion — the mammoth four-story edifice served for more than a century as the home of Scranton's chapter of the state's National Guard. With its castle façade boasting 20-by-26 bays, the sturdy fortress formed from brick and stone also served as a hub for town life. Politicos on the trail, especially sitting presidents or presidential candidates, orated from its halls (Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, and JFK, among them). It also offered up its vast spaces to serve as clinic during epidemics or as athletic courts for nearby University of Scranton. Its most cultural use was as concert hall; composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff once graced its stage. Now a glorious new book, Gatekeeper: World of Folly (Assouline), documents the extraordinary interiors, where Slonem's exuberant decoration is at play, layered with scores of collections, treasures from bygone 19th-century epochs and isms. Fortuitously for the painter, the armory serves another purpose: It's a veritable museum housing thousands of his canvases — decades upon decades of prodigious art making. Due to its fragility, Slonem rarely opens Watres Armory's "THE BOOK IS MY WAY OF SHARING THE WATRES ARMORY WITH THE WORLD." — Hunt Slonem Romanesque Revival doors, and then only for special, intimate groups that usually involve historians, fellow preservationists, or academia. As we queried by phone the keeper of this American castle, he answered the question on everyone's mind: Is the Watres Armory haunted? Are there ghosts? Slonem replied in the affirmative: "A century of them, and it has tunnels that go on for miles and miles beneath it. It's also built over a coal mine, so there's all this history. They think it was even part of the Underground Railroad." For more on saving the Watres Armory, the conversation with Slonem continues at Gatekeeper: World of Folly by Hunt Slonem, published by Assouline, $85; through,, and area booksellers. Hunt Slonem is represented in Texas by Laura Rathe Fine Art, Houston and Dallas. Hunt Slonem photographed by Luigi Cazzaniga The Romanesque Revival Watres Armory, Scranton, Pennsylvania © CHRIS BOLTON © MARCO RICCA (continued from page 100) Inside the armory, an example of the artist's opulent decorating scheme.

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