• The Dancer, the Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania: How an Unlikely Quartet Created America's Most Improbable Art Museum

  • By: Steve Wiegand
  • Narrated by: Sarah Snow
  • Length: 12 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
  • 1.0 out of 5 stars (1 rating)
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Publisher's Summary

The Maryhill Museum of Art is located on 5,300 acres in the Columbia River Gorge. Miles from any sizeable town and surrounded by the gorge's spectacular scenery, Maryhill is an internationally recognized - and undeniably eclectic - repository of art that ranges from one of the nation's best Rodin collections to one of the world's largest assemblage of chess sets. It is, as The New York Times once described it, "oddly fitting - it brought the better works of man near one of the better works of nature." 

Dancer, Dreamers, and the Queen of Romania is the story of the four widely disparate people whose lives intertwined in such a way as to lay the foundation for the museum. Loie Fuller was once the world's most famous dancer, who dreamed of becoming beautiful by creating beauty. Alma Spreckels was one of America's wealthiest women, who dreamed of being accepted for who she wanted to be rather than who she was. Sam Hill was a rich man who dreamed of becoming a great man. And Marie of Romania was a real-life queen who dreamed of being a fairy-tale queen. 

And it is the story of those who followed them. These people nurtured and grew Maryhill from a fascinating oddity that Time magazine once called "a top hat in the jungle" to one of the relatively few U.S. museums accredited in every category by the American Alliance of Museums. 

This is an audiobook that will appeal to rlisteners who like both biography and history, and will have particular appeal, but by no means be limited to, Western U.S. and Pacific Northwest audiences. It is "side-street" history in the tradition of Boys in the Boat, Unbroken, or Dead Wake. It will appeal to art lovers. It will also appeal to everyone who has visited or just passed by an inviting-but-oddly-located museum and wondered how it got there and who keeps it going. 

This heretofore untold and remarkable story is narrated by a master wordsmith and historian. Steve Wiegand is the author or co-author of numerous books, including U.S. History for Dummies (Wiley), the 4th edition of which will be out in March 2019; Lessons from the Great Depression for Dummies (Wiley, 2009); The Mental Floss History of the World (Collins, 2008) and Papers of Permanence: The First 150 Years of the McClatchy Company (McClatchy, 2007). 

Wiegand spent 35 years as a newspaper reporter and columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee, and has published in numerous magazines and periodicals. 

©2020 Steve Wiegand (P)2020 Bancroft Press

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Profile Image for Hamburgerpatty
  • Hamburgerpatty
  • 03-02-20

Here's to the crazy ones...

Maryhill Museum is a once seen, never forgotten kind of a place. When I visited in 1979, there were a number of signs warning that there would be No Services for 66 miles and that rattlesnakes had been seen in the area. Neverthelss we persisted. I'm glad we did. The day still remains in my memory one of the happiest of my life. As the book outlines, along with American and European paintings, there were working model sculptures crafted by Rodin, memorabilia of Queen Marie of Romania and of course posters and other memorabilia devoted to the innovative dancer Loie Fuller. In the basement oodles of Native American baskets and chess sets and more chess sets. It was, to me, quite wonderful.

I'm glad Steve Wiegard produced the story of how Sam Hill and his bevy of ladies came together and parted (as only women can and do) and how the musuem has survived into the present century. And of course the collections have evolved and found new homes in the building. Where are the chess sets now I wonder?

FWIW I'd vote with Sam Hill being a visionary some decades before his time. He understood the geography of the area and the potential for soft fruit growing (eg grapes) in that particular section of Washington State where the Cascades give way to eastern Washington's flat lands. Just a pity Prohibition and the temper of the times got in the way. Hill understood the need, necessity and growth potential in the provision of "good roads". He generated ideas. Some took; some didn't.

I felt the narrator let the book down. Although she read slowly and therefore every listener should hear every word, there was however, a lack of passion and intellectual curiosity in her voice. Some of her pronunications had me cocking my head in slight puzzlement. However, I might be mistaken.

Over the piece I'm glad Maryhill's story has been told and thank you Audible for making it accessible.