This summer, three interns from Ripon College undertook several projects at the Ripon Historical Society.
While working on a new museum exhibit, they discovered a large 30-inch by 40-inch pastel portrait in a 6-inch-wide frame leaning against the wall of an upstairs storage room.
This painting had been marked in the company’s inventory in 1969, long before modern inventory systems and computers.
Currently, artifacts are marked in a museum computer program called “Past Perfect” and their location can be found with a click.
But this painting was not in the modern system and is now a rediscovered gem.
The pastel on paper applied to canvas is by Bertha Hollenbeck Ortiz Rollins (1872-1961). Rollins’ father, Homer Hollenbeck (1826-1920), came to Green Lake in 1848 and settled in Ripon in 1865. He married Betsey Wood (1832-1906) of New York in 1849 and they had five children.
Ripon historian Sam Pedrick (1868-1963) noted that “Before the family moved from Ripon to Denver, I remember Bertha playing the lead role in a Gilbert & Sullivan opera here, with success. When I was in Denver in 1893…I made occasional visits to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Homer Hollenbeck and their daughter Bertha; she was single at the time.
Rollins married Carlos Ortiz on May 14, 1904 in Havana, Cuba. Pedrick noted that Ortiz “was from a distinguished Cuban family in Havana”. Ortiz died two days after the wedding. In 1907 Rollins married Charles E. Rollins Jr. (1875-1957) in Denver, Colorado, but they made their home on Sheridan Road in Chicago.
Later in life, Rollins lived in Melbourne, Florida in the winter and spent his summers between Green Lake and Chicago. She was a trustee of Ripon College.
After his death on September 28, 1961, the Ripon Commonwealth Press on October 18, 1962 reported that Rollins’ estate paid $5,000 (equivalent to $45,016 today) to Ripon Hospital for the purchase of a new portable x-ray machine.
The Commonwealth article stated that the machine was needed to “take X-rays of patients who are too ill to transfer to the X-ray department and can also be used in the surgical department in selected cases that need to be X-rayed during procedures. surgical.”
Rollins had no children, but was survived by his niece, Mrs. J. Langlen Leslie, and a great-nephew, Robert Ogilvie. Leslie was the donor of the portrait.
Ripon’s Butzin Funeral Home (now known as “Butzin-Marchant Funeral Home”) took care of Rollins’ funeral. However, she was buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.
The portrait was made in 1907 by Harriet Hutchinson Horton (1864-1922). Horton was born in Prescott, Wisconsin, and lived in Bald Eagle, Minnesota. Surprisingly, she was best known for her miniatures.
“It’s a big, beautiful piece,” said Travis Nygard, an assistant professor of art history at Ripon College and a board member of the Ripon Historical Society. “Obviously they were wealthy people because a very large house was needed to accommodate a portrait of that size. It would also be expensive to commission an artist to do the piece and have it framed so beautifully.
The painting is now on display at the Ripon Historical Societies Museum and can be viewed Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm or by appointment.
The Ripon Historical Society is Wisconsin’s oldest continuously operating historical society. It is located at 508 Watson Street and is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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