04 August 2021

Florence Truelson and her House of the Seven Crooked Gables

Truelson’s House of the Seven Gables,
from Deseret News 1944-03-31
The House of the 7 Crooked Gables was the unusual home of Salt Lake City artist Florence Truelson (1901-1958).

Truelson was an artist with little formal training but had amassed praise at a national level for her natural talent.

During the Great Depression she worked for the WPA and consequently many of her illustrations of Utah pioneer life are now archived in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

She was also well known for painting the Landing of the Pilgrims mural in the Mayflower Café at 154 S Main. The mural is still there and is now Ary's Barbershop which is likely to be demolished along with the Utah Pantages Theater.

In her later years, it was her house on the extreme westside of Salt Lake City that became well known. As her mental illness progressed (her death certificate indicates she suffered schizophrenia with paranoia) she became more recluse, preferring isolation from strangers which she enforced with a shotgun.

She designed and built her own small house located at 1978 W 100 South (about where Orange Street Corrections Center sits just off the I-80 and I-215W interchange) and adjacent to the old Brighton Canal. This whole area was demolished for the interstate.
Florence Truelson in 1928
when she was 26. From
Goodwin’s Weekly 1928-07-14
Her home was built about 1939 from found pieces of mismatched and unpainted boards. The house was 2 stories supported by cut tree trunks and had a few small windows. The home had a dirt floor, no lights, and no running water. Entry to the second story was through a trap door and ladder and on the southeast corner of the house was single story room with a “widows walk” around the roof. Inside the home was a grand piano bolted into a section of stone flooring.

In 1944 she abandoned her home leaving for Los Angeles (where she may have stayed with relatives). She left numerous paintings in her house which slowly deteriorated from the leaky roof and damp surroundings.

At some point Truelson returned to Utah and she was committed to the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo. In 1958 she wandered off (escaped?) from the hospital and her skeletal remains were found 9 months later in Slate Canyon.

Listen to Demolished Salt Lake Podcast episode 10 to see what life was like in the Asylum.

Sources: SL Herald 1918-12-30; Goodwins Weekly 1928-07-14; SL Trib 1937-12-22; Des News 1944-03-31; SL Telegram 1944-03-31; Daily Herald 1959-04-06  

Florence Truelson while working for the WPA.
From Deseret News 1937-03-24

Mayflower Café mural by Florence Truelson. From UDSH.
Florence Truelson’s The Kiss 1924.
Florence Truelson’s Patchwork Quilt, National Gallery of Art.

Florence Truelson’s painting owned by SL County.
This one is reportedly owned by Salt Lake County and is on
display on the 4th floor of the County’s north building.
Per Artists of Utah.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story about her. I want to know more of course.