Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

Frederick B. Kress [1888–1970]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

KRESS, Frederick B. [Am./1888–1970]

“Palace of Fine Arts” [San Francisco, CA]


oil on panel / 6 inches by 7 7/8 inches

Trained by his father as a sign painter, Fred Kress studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco with Maynard Dixon. He began working at Foster & Kleiser (sign painters) in 1915 and was the supervisor of the paint dept. He did not participate in art exhibitions after 1918.

The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Francisco, California is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art. The eclectic designer was Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck [1862–1957]. Completely rebuilt from 1964 to 1974, it is one of few surviving structures from the Exposition.

The town where I live…

…as opposed to the one I might prefer.

It’s exceptionally odd to have lived in one place for so many years. I arrived in the F-M community in August 1971, terrified of the job I had recently accepted, because nothing had prepared me to do it. And the only story I’d ever heard about North Dakota came from my Great-uncle Adam. But that’s another tale.

Technically speaking, Fargo was established a hundred years earlier, 1871, as two ramshackle settlements: Fargo-in-the-Timber and Fargo-on-the-Prairie. Each of them consisted entirely of tents, if early visitors can be believed. Of course I had no idea that an “anniversary” was in progress, or ought to have been, but didn’t seem to be. Four years later, in 1975, we put on our dungarees, grew scruffy bears to look like Grandpa Walton or Gabby Hayes, and broke out the fireworks. There were some longer-lasting products of those months, several of them on my library shelves. I didn’t grow a beard.

Well, a lot of calendar pages have been torn off and drifted to the floor. I’m in my 100th “semester” (if you convert the quarter system we once used at NDSU). Well, now I seem to have survived from what “ought to” have been the Fargo Centennial (in my view) until the year that (again, I think) ought to be our Sesqui-Centennial — damn, I love that word. I have a good idea what Agincourt would do in this circumstance. Fargo is another thing altogether.

Maybe it’s not going to be a thing. I’ll get back to you.

Richard Walker [1925–2009]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

WALKER, Richard Ian Bentham [1925–2009]

“Irish Industrial Landscape”


color linocut and engraving / 21 inches by 16 inches (image)

Richard Ian Bentham Walker (1925-2009), portrait, figure and landscape painter and printmaker, was born in Croydon, schooled at Canford school where he excelled at Art, but joined the RAF. After a time at Oxford, he trained later at Croydon Art School and became a student teacher there before going to the Slade School of Art in London where he studied under William Coldstream. Richard was elected a member of the United Society of Artists and of the Society of Graphic Artists, and he exhibited widely including at the Paris Salon and Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

This is another mid-century modern piece from the Bendix family collection.

Tod und Verklärung, Op.24

“Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” by J.M.W. Turner (1842)

The tangled links between my various long-term research ventures mystify even me; they make me believe that “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is pessimistic. This evening I’m actually working on the William Halsey Wood manuscript and particularly the chapters which might be called “Birth” and “Death”. It’s a sobering task.

In the wake of 9/11, several works of artistic expression followed soon after. I’m not familiar with specific works of visual art — painting, sculpture, and possibly some other media — but among musical compositions, there is a piece by John Adams titled “On the Transmigration of Souls” which brings me to abject sobbing when e’er I hear it and I don’t care who knows.

Some of you may be aware that Halsey Wood has touched Agincourt three times (through my agency, I must admit): 1) as inspiration for the dollhouse Anson Tennant crafted for his sister Claire the Christmas of her fifth year and his fifteenth; as architect of the second Fennimore County courthouse, the sole example of “public” design in Wood’s oeuvre; and as source for the first set of “Wm Halsey Wood Blox™”. You may not believe at least two of these were innocent borrowings founded with a modicum of logic, though I don’t believe that Wood would object to my interpretations of his creativity. Bringing these to the attention of his grandson WHW III doesn’t concern me because our relationship has grown stronger as the manuscript on his grandfather progresses in recent months. Still, it is humbling to write about anyone’s death, especially an historic figure of Wood’s significance (to me) and architectural merit (again, to me). And intimidating when I think of failure.

Oh, and “Tod und Verklärung” (Op.24) is a musical composition of 1888-1889 by Richard Strauss. If it had been performed in Great New York City, he might have heard it.

Linear and Lateral

Chart of apple hybridization / Who knew there were so many varieties?


The second of our weekly zoom chats this morning — I can give you the code, if you’d like to eavesdrop — was as productive as the first, though we still don’t have much to show. I’m glad of the slow beginning, however, since we’re laying a foundation for everything that will follow and those footings need to be sound. Slow and steady and all that.

Among the topics today was movement: After being introduced to Agincourt as both a place and an idea, it’s hard to predict where folks will want to go. Are they interested in people, business, culture generally or specific institutions, architecture, historical happenings, yatta, yatta? Hard to say. But in this context, up came the idea of linking genealogy with a site map and how those two notions might reinforce one another.

I’ve done a couple large genealogical charts (none of them for my own family) and found that the kinds of charts you can buy or download aren’t terribly useful for my purposes, because I’m interested in human relationships that stand well outside “family”; relationships which are lateral rather than linear; genealogy isn’t always about begetting. I could show you a very preliminary diagram (I’ll call it that) of a few dozen people instrumental in building and using the early Episcopal church buildings of Dakota Territory. It was my way of understanding the tangency of social, business, and highly personal connections among this cast of characters. Well, it’s on eight or ten horizontal sheets of note paper, taped together, which means it’s about eight feet wide. And the lines of interrelationship swoop and wiggle all over the place. It’s complex but reveals a lot about how the territory “worked”.

Googling “genealogy charts” brings up several types, all of them for sale and none of them very workable for our purposes. Then I discovered the chart above which attempts to show the hybridization of apples into the dozen or so varieties available at Cash Wise.

If any of you out there have some experience with this kind of thing, please let us know at: plains.architecture@gmail.com.


Pictor Ignotus [19th century]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

Pictor Ignotus (19th century)

Portrait of K. Marx

oil on canvas / 31 inches by 23 inches

Though Karl Marx [1818–1883], author of Das Kapital, was born in Germany and died and was buried at Highgate Cemetery in north London, the influence of his thinking has been worldwide and long-lasting. Marx’s philosophy was directed at the industrializing West but took root, ironically, in rural agricultural Russia, where it was distorted into Soviet Communism. In our own era, when political labeling is hurled about so thoughtlessly, these two terms have become conflated. Considered apart from its political overtones, however, this handsome work is typical of portraiture at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Ironically, revolutionaries like Marx and Capitalists like, say, Andrew Carnegie were represented in much the same way — not that their “gospels” are interchangeable.

This is another work (without much provenance) which has come from the NINC Art Department study collection. It is on long-term loan to the Community Collection to give it greater exposure.

Yuri Gusev [1928–2012]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

GUSEV, Yuri [1928–2012]

Kremlin / Кремль

oil on board / 13 inches by 17 inches


Art from behind the former Iron Curtain is troublesome to document, as is the case with this study for a painting of the Kremlin at the heart of Moscow, a place which represents Mediæval Russia as St Petersburg does the rule of the Romanovs. In the Stalinist era, art was called into the service of the State. But following his death in 1953, a somewhat more romantic, even nostalgic, means of expression was increasingly tolerated. Gusev was born into the repressive regime and grew to artistic maturity in its aftermath.

This study was used in exactly that way, as a teaching tool, in the Art Department at Northwest Iowa Normal College and comes to us from that source. Compare this work with that of Anatoly Sedov.

A lower-case kremlin in Russian means a citadel; capitalized, it refers specifically to Moscow.

James Albert Holden (1881–1956) / Richard A. Loederer (1893–1980)

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HOLDEN, James Albert [1881–1956]

Tall Ship

color woodcut / 12 inches by 10 inches / open edition?

no date

Painter, muralist. Born in Stockport, England on June 26, 1881. Holden was taught to paint early in life by his father who was a fresco painter. In 1904 he immigrated to Oakland, CA where he was a pupil of Richard and J. H. E. Partington. Later he served for many years as art director of Pacific Railway Advertising Company. He painted landscapes of northern California and many murals in homes and public buildings of the San Francisco Bay area before his death in Oakland on Jan. 13, 1956. Member: SFAA; Bohemian Club; Bay Region AA; Society for Sanity in Art. Exh: Oakland Art Fund, 1905; Calif. State Fair, 1910 (gold medal); San Francisco Art Association, 1912-13; Sequoia Club (SF), 1914; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932-44 (prizes); Santa Cruz Art. [from an on-line biography]

LOEDERER, Richard A. [1893–1980]

Pirate Ship

color woodcut / 14 inches by 10 inches / 191 of 300


Richard A. Loederer was born in Austria. He studied at the Reinmann Schule in Berlin, and at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. In the USA, he worked in advertising in the 1920s, and as a book writer in the 1930s (‘Ozark Mountain Folk’, ‘Vood Fire in Haiti’). Loederer worked as an animation art director for the Amedee J. Van Beuren studios and at RKO. He was also present in the National/DC comic books of the mid-1930s, illustrating features like ‘Brad Hardy’, ‘Bubby and Beezil’, ‘Caveman Capers’, ‘Jumpy and Bunny’, ‘Midshipman Dewey’ and ‘Weird Asia’. He additionally worked as an editor. [from an on-line biography]

Coincidence has been a common occurrence in the Community Collection, such as the arrival recently of two works in the same medium and of the same general subject. Though they each merit individual treatment, we post them here together to make the point.



Don’t ask me why I know this. But I do. The state fish of Hawai’i is the humuhumunukunukuapua`a.

I think it comes from a Reader’s Digest in my dentists office when I was about twelve. One of the sure signs of aging is the phenomenon of events, even exceptionally small, even minor ones from sixty years ago, being recollected far better than what I came to the pharmacy to pick up this afternoon. And so, the humuhumunukunukuapua`a popped into my head this morning and made me wonder about what all those this states and municipalities claim as representative of themselves.

Since northwest Iowa is deprived of triggerfish, the Bowmen of Agincourt is still our best bet.

Note to Self


There’s one hell of a lot of stuff remaining to get done in Agincourt before all the sand runs out of my hourglass. More people than I ever expected have come to play in the sandbox of history with me and may even have had more fun that I’m having: making stained glass windows or wrought iron wreathes, writing sesqui-centennial fanfares and setting Shakespeare to song; crafting the sesqui-centennial quilt; imagining an Orthodox religious icon of Saint Ahab, patron of obsessive-compulsives; writing the corporate history of the Northwest Iowa Traction Co.; or a dollhouse for what might have been a little girl’s last Christmas. Well, you get the picture.

Just as a reminder — and a temptation to anyone paying attention — here is what will be a growing list of “wants”, in no particular order.

  • “Agincourt, the Board Game”.
  • A play for the local theatre company.
  • The Agincourt Archers double-A baseball team (uniforms, roster and stats, season poster, etc.)
  • Infrastructure: the story of the city’s water, sewer, and telecommunication — lines in chronological order, no less.
  • The Pandemic. Enough said.
  • A National Register Nomination for one of Agincourt’s buildings, possible Christ the King or St Joseph-the-Carpenter.
  • A model of Asbury Methodist Church, but just the front elevation.
  • The FitzGerald Flynn mausoleum at The Shades.
  • The Square and all its testosterone-laden war memorials.
  • A whole bunch of other graphic designs for posters, certificates, membership cards, etc.

Others will be appended here as they come to mind. Oh, and if none of this gets done, that’s O.K., too. I just won’t die with a smirk of satisfaction on my face.

Thanks for watching this space.