Portrait comes home: Cross brings Fuller painting back to Eureka
Eureka Springs has reclaimed a piece of its history.
John Fuller Cross, chairman of Cornerstone Bank, recently reclaimed a 1954 portrait of his grandfather, former congressman Claude Albert Fuller, and hung it in Cornerstone Bank’s museum at 70 S. Main St. in Eureka Springs.
The portrait was painted by local artist and muralist Louis Freund, Cross said, and features Fuller with the town he loved and took so much pride in as the background. Cross said the background shows two of the hotels Fuller owned at one time, the Basin Park Hotel and the Crescent Hotel.
“Freund did the mural behind the tellers in the bank and the mural on the north side of the building,” Cross said. “He wasn’t known as a portrait man. He was more or less known as a muralist, so this portrait is a rare item.”
The portrait is also significant because of Fuller’s prominent role in the history of Northwest Arkansas and Eureka Springs in particular, Cross said.
According to Cornerstone Bank’s 37th Annual Calendar, Fuller was an attorney at law, banker and civic leader. He served as the Eureka Springs City Clerk from 1898 to 1902, as a state representative in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1902-1906, as mayor from 1906 to 1910, as prosecuting attorney for Carroll, Benton, Washington and Madison counties from 1910 to1914, as mayor for another two terms from 1920 to 1928 and as a U.S. Congressman in the House of Representatives for five terms from 1929 to 1939. Fuller was on the Ways and Means Committee from 1933 to 1939, it says, where he helped write and promote the Social Security Bill that was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935.
Among Fuller’s local projects, the calendar says, were the establishment of Lake Leatherwood and the bridges there and, before leaving Congress, making sure that the White River Basin was included in the Flood Control Act of 1938, resulting in the lakes of Norfork, Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Beaver. The calendar says Fuller purchased a controlling interest in Bank of Eureka Springs, now Cornerstone Bank, in 1930 and was president until his death on Jan. 8, 1968.
Since 1954, Cross said, the portrait of Fuller hung on the wall over the fireplace at the Basin Park Hotel, which Fuller owned at the time, and remained there until his death. Cross said there is even a picture of Fuller standing by the Basin Park fireplace with this portrait over the mantle on his 90th birthday on Jan. 20, 1966.
After Fuller’s death, Cross said, the hotel went to his two daughters, Ruth Fuller Cross and Dorothy Fuller Matthews. Ruth received a portrait that was painted in Washington, D.C., at the height of Fuller’s congressional career, Cross said, and Dorothy received the Louis Freund portrait. Cross said he and his mother, Ruth, were running the Riverview Resort that the family built in 1953 and ran until 1978.
“My mother had her hands full with reservations and other matters of running a resort on the White River,” he said, “so I bought her out. Since I had owned and operated the Basin Park Coffee Shop since February of 1960, I knew the hotel well and continued to run it until I sold it in May of 1975 to Paul Hansen from Tulsa, Okla.”
Since the Louis Freund portrait belonged to Cross’ aunt, he said it did not go with the hotel. His aunt kept it and took it back to her home in Bethesda, Md. After his aunt passed away, Cross said the portrait went to her daughter, Mary Matthews Moore, who lived in West Virginia. After her death, Cross said the portrait went to her daughter, Jennifer Moore.
“I have wanted that painting for the bank’s museum for years and was recently able to work a deal with Jennifer to return it to its rightful place in Eureka Springs,” he said. “She was happy to do so, as she knew the bank museum and Eureka Springs needed it as well.”
Cross said the portrait is in the same state as it was when it left Eureka Springs.
“I didn’t realize how big the portrait was and how vibrant the colors were in it,” he said. “It is heartwarming to have it back in Eureka Springs. After 42 years, the portrait has come home.”