Work to find Tallcorn Hotel murals continues

Work continues at the Tallcorn Towers Apartment building to discover if Grant Wood or other artists painted murals which may have been covered up years ago.

CommonBond Communities of Saint Paul, Minn., which own the 85-year-old structure once known as the Tallcorn Hotel, 134 E. Main St., are currently working in the former dining room where the murals may or may not be.

CommonBond purchased the building in 2012 from B.O. and Barb Bryngelson of Marshalltown, and in December began an extensive remodeling from 64 efficiencies to 49 one-and-two bedroom apartments.

Wood was commissioned to decorate the ball room and restaurant known as the Iowa Corn Room by Eppley Hotels, the building’s owner, according to Times-Republican archives from the 1920s.

Efforts to determine if murals exist is a delicate, deliberate and systematic process.

That is because CommonBond is following strict state and federal historical requirements in their search, according to Bob Mueller, CommonBond’s on-site construction supervisor

“We are currently engaged with a specialist to fully explore, document and assess the viability for recovery of murals,”

Mueller said. He said that work to determine if murals exist is ongoing, and they hope to make a determination in the near future.

Remodeling in the room by a variety of building owners is protracting the effort.

“It appears a wall was constructed over the original wall plane that contained the murals.” said Jeff Nelson of CommonBond. “It’s not known at this time whether it was constructed over, attached directly to the original wall, or if the original wall had been removed at an earlier date.”

And if murals are discovered there is no guarantee they will have been painted by Wood.

He did paint murals at other hotels – including an Eppley Hotel in Sioux City.

The Bryngelsons, who owned the building for approximately 42 years, had no record of Wood working in the property.

Marshalltown historians Dorothy Apgar, Jay Carollo and Barb Scafferi never found evidence of Wood’s work either.

Additionally, the Historical Society of Marshall County has no record of Wood working at the Tallcorn.

However, the Nov. 30, 1927 Hotel Monthly reported Edward Briton and Edgar Miller, both of Chicago, decorated a Tallcorn private dining room.

B.O. said he recalled seeing murals painted by unknown artists in a hallway near the dining room, but believes they were covered up years ago by a previous owner.

Sunny Bryant, of Albion, confirmed his statement.

She worked in the building’s former Bow and Arrow Coffee Shop in the late 1950s and recalled seeing murals of cornstalks near the eatery.