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The Hassle with Hassall

Dale’s home in Murfreesboro, built-in 1830, was known as the Overseer’s House. Dale had the home restored in the 1990s as a summer place of refuge from NYC. However, he left the city to live in it in the late 1990s.

In 1999, after a two-year relationship, Dale asked me if I might consider moving closer to him in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. At the time he owned a very small but beautiful Greek Revival home that was built-in the 1830s while I owned a 1914 house in Norfolk. I put my house on the market in 2000 and started searching for a home near Dale’s. Although the cottage I wanted was just a block away from Dale’s and in the historic district, we felt the price was too high for the work it needed. Therefore, we began looking at houses in nearby towns until I settled on a 1860 cottage in Woodland, about ten miles from Murfreesboro.

My cottage in Woodland. Built in 1860, the house was a perfect size for me and my dogs. I moved in in June, 2001.

It was a decision I would never regret, but no sooner had I moved in that month of June, 2001, when Dale was offered a six month job in New York City as chief achivist for the opening of the first exhibition of the Museum of Sex. Admittedly, Dale was hesitant to take the position as I had just moved nearby but when I asked me if I was offered a wonderful but temporary job in LA would I take it, I answered, “Of course!” He left for the city sometime in late August while I accustomed myself to my commute, putting my dogs on a schedule, acting in a play, Jesus Christ Superstar (so I would not be bored), and meeting my neighbors. During the first week in September a woman from Chicago was offering a John Hassall Peter Pan poster on Ebay for an amount I could not afford. Upon reading her description I realized that she had dated it wrong,

Peter Pan at the Duke of York’s Theatre, circa 1910. This beautiful poster by John Hassall depicts the Napoleonic Tableau which in turn mimicked the painting, The Surrender of Napoleon to Great Britain by Sir William Quiller Orchardson.

the 1920s rather than 1910 or there about. I don’t know where I got the nerve but I wrote to the owner and after giving her correct details about  the lithograph, I asked if it did not sell if I might buy it for $1500 and pay in three monthly installments of $500. The woman responded that she would try the auction one more time and if no one bid on it, she would indeed sell it to me for the price I requested. Well, you can

Detail of Peter Pan as Napoleon. The colors are much more vibrant.

  • imagine how closely I watched that auction! Strangely, no one bid on the poster and I bought it. The following week was the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC, and though I made my monthly payments, my interest was not really on this work of art. The horror of 9/11 touched all of us in the tiny town of Woodland and drew us closer. Within a few weeks I made several close friends. At Christmas time Dale came home for a week and while we were out on the day he was to leave, the poster arrived. My neighbors, Brenda and Michael, signed for it leaving a note on my door that a LARGE package had arrived from UPS. Dale suggested that I pick up the package while he go home to pick up his suitcase. Upon his return he found me in my dining room, opening the package. “What is that?” he asked. “Oh, this is that poster I

    Detail of the Pirates.

    had told you about on the phone. Don’t you recall when I called you for your advice on what I should offer  the seller.” “Yes,” he answered, “But I thought it was a small poster. You bought a broadside! Didn’t you look at the size of the print?” Actually, so had I but in my excitement during the time I had made the offer, the size never registered in my mind; it was probably a one sheet lithograph, I thought.  Opening the package we discovered a 10 sheet linen backed lithograph poster measuring 7 1/2 feet high and 10 feet long. Dale quickly made arrangements to stay one more day so we could hang it in my dining room, the only room in my house with a wall big enough and a ceiling high enough to properly exhibit the John Hassall Peter Pan poster. Happy endings: after ten years

    Our home in Petersburg. Built in 1860, it survived the cannon balls shot over the river by the Yankees in the Civil War.

    together, we sold our houses in North Carolina and bought one together in 2007 in Petersburg, Virginia. While my other dogs, Mona and Blue passed away  a few years ago, we acquired a mangy mutt, Homer (named after the poet, not the cartoon character), from my friend Margaret, then mayor of Woodland, seven years ago. He was left off in front of the Woodland Supermarket at the age of three months. As

    Dale, on a cold winter’s day, standing in front of the river across the street from our house in Petersburg.

    for the Hassall poster, I bought it with the intention of including it in my book, Peter Pan On Stage and Screen, but alas, it was too large to be photographed properly (and much too expensive to have it professionally shot). Still, I’m glad that I own; I’m grateful to a woman in Chicago, who originally received the Hassall poster as a retirement present from the art gallery where she worked;

    Homer and me; my best friend after Dale, on an unusually warm day last winter. As you can see, I love my Russian style hat that Dale gave me for Christmas.

    and I was able to spend an extra day with Dale that Christmas holiday season. Sorry if I got carried away with the length of this blog but I thought you might be interested in a little more about me as well as Peter. In the book there’s a wonderful photograph of the Napoleonic Tableau as well as well as an illustration of Orchardson’s painting.

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “The Hassle with Hassall

  1. Great story – and great houses, by the way! They’re in what we call here (ahem) ‘Colonial’ style… I particularly liked the cottage in Woodland, such a beautiful verandah.

    You did tell me the story about the Hassall poster but, like you, I hadn’t quite taken in its length. Wow. Worth every penny. Where do you hang it these days?

    Posted by Christine | August 3, 2011, 2:43 PM
    • The poster is still rolled up. It will be hung in our guest bedroom as not only is the ceiling high enough, 12 feet, but it is the only room in the house, besides our dining room, that has a wall long enough. Right now I can’t afford the cost of the glass or even plexiglass and we don’t want our cats to climb it.
      I liked my house in Woodland too! The wrap around porch covered the whole front of the house and 1/2 of the left side. However, Dale’s house remains my favorite. It has such a quiet grace in the back with a lovely porch looking out into a forrest. I guess what I love most about the house we are in is that we are in it togother.
      ‘Colonial’ style, huh? Very funny!

      Posted by Bruce K. Hanson | August 3, 2011, 3:08 PM
  2. What a great story, Bruce, thanks for sharing. You do seem to lead a very interesting life! Congrats again on the book. It is very, very fine, and one I’m sure I’ll be reading again and again over the years. In every way, it improves the previous version. Dan Patterson

    Posted by Dan Patterson | August 16, 2011, 3:57 PM
    • Thanks for the great review, Dan. Now I can tell you that your name is among those in the acknowledgements. Its funny but it was not until years later that I realized how poorly the photos were reproduced in the first edition; and way too small! Also, thanks for reading my blog!

      Posted by bkhanson | August 17, 2011, 2:38 PM
  3. Thanks for the charming post, Bruce. It inspired me to create my own blog today entitled From Beach Boy to Mountain Man. You’re mentioned in the first post. All the best to you.

    Posted by kdoughertyesq | September 11, 2015, 5:16 PM

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