Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014: Letters to the editor

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Feds hid priceless art in Biltmore mansion

The movie ‘Monuments Men’ currently playing at the local theater tells the story of a detachment of military personnel in WW II who were trying to recover stolen art works plundered by the Nazis and stored in various locations. In America it became a concern of the National Gallery of Art in Washington that the war could come to these shores, and the art could be in jeopardy of an enemy attack.

The curator, David Finley, knew about the Biltmore estate near Asheville, N.C., and he knew its owner, Edith Vanderbilt. The house was in a remote location and was relatively fireproof, and Finley asked Edith Vanderbilt if it would be possible to bring the gallery’s art to her house for safe keeping during the war. She agreed it would be all right.

The art, by Rembrandt, Raphael, Anthony Van Dyck and others, came to Biltmore by train in a January 1942 snowstorm. In all, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures made the trip. They were put in the mansion’s unfinished first floor music room at the back end of the main hall. Why the room was unfinished by the builder of the house, George Washington Vanderbilt II, is uncertain, since it was located in one of the most prestigious spots in the house. The walls were mere bare brick, but steel doors were installed, and bars were put up over the windows, even though on that side of the house it was 30 feet down to the ground, and armed guards were posted around the clock. Curtains were placed over the doors to further conceal everything, and the whole project was accomplished in the utmost secrecy. During this time the house was closed to tours.

In 1944, with the threat of the war decreasing, the artwork was returned to Washington in just the opposite way it arrived — this time with great fanfair, a motorcycle escort and sirens blaring.

George Vanderbilt himself was an art collector and filled his house with many valuable works. A large canvas, “The Chariot of Aurora,” by Italian artist Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini was bought by Vanderbilt and installed in the ceiling of his large two-level library room. In doing so Vanderbilt preserved a work of art by a major artist from almost certain destruction in WW II, during which most of Pellegrini’s work perished.

Vanderbilt undoubtedly would have been proud to know his great house had been used to shelter some of the nation’s art treasures during a perilous time in its history. And today, many people visit that house and have the opportunity to see his own art collection he had the vision to assemble and preserve.

He would like that also.

Jeff Hatton


Too few in numbers for public policy?

A recent letter writer states the proposed Indiana constitutional ban on marriage equality for gays will try to “protect an institution,” that being marriage. How?

Will any heterosexuals have to divorce if there is marriage equality? No. Will any be barred from marrying the person they love? No. Will their marriage or ability to marry, or the marriage of anyone or everyone else in the state of Indiana, be affected in anyway whatsoever? Of course not.

He also states gays are at a proportion of the population that “make it insignificant for public policy.” So they are both a threat to marriage and too little in numbers to be worth considering when it comes to marriage rights? There are more gays than Jews, Muslims or Hindus in Indiana. Are those groups too insignificant when it comes to marriage rights? I am sure the gay couples in Indiana would be surprised to know they aren’t significant enough on this issue.

The letter writer states he is left-handed, so he asks, facetiously, where are his civil rights? Left-handed people at one time were commonly discriminated against. In fact, it was considered immoral or evil, according to the religious beliefs of hundreds of years ago, to be left-handed, just like homosexuality is with many today!

Finally, a different letter to the editor states our Constitution recognizes the deity of the Christian Bible. No, it doesn’t. No mention of the Bible, the Christian God or Christianity in general in the Constitution. In fact, many Christians of that time opposed the Constitution because it explicitly made no mention of these things. The Constitution is an Enlightenment document based on reason and free-thought, not based on the Bible.

Shaun Slack


We welcome “Letters to the Editor” on any topic of general interest. The Kokomo Tribune reserves the right to edit all letters for grammar, brevity, good taste and libel. Letters of 250 words or fewer are preferred. All letters must be signed with a full name, address of the author and a daytime telephone number so authorship can be verified.