Joseph McBride on saving Orson Welles’s “Rosebud”: His real life hometown, The Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois
Joseph McBride needs no introduction to readers of Wellesnet as one of the leading international scholars on the life and work of Orson Welles. He has written three excellent books about Orson Welles, along with articles too numerous to mention.
Today, as Ray Kelly has pointed out on the Message board, Grace Hall, the last remaining building at the Todd School, in Woodstock, Illinois, where Orson Welles studied, wrote, and essentially formulated his whole future life and career, under the direction of headmaster Roger Hill, is now on the verge of being destroyed. In mid-September the city council of Woodstock, Illinois will take up the matter of whether or not to allow the demolition of Grace Hall, the dormitory where Welles lived and work to proceed.
Here's what Joseph McBride has to say about the matter:
Todd School in Woodstock was the place where Orson Welles's artistic personality was formed. Under the brilliant guidance of Roger Hill, his surrogate father, Welles learned the theater and radio and painting and publishing and many other forms of art and erudition.
Preserving what remains of this wonderful school is important not only to Welles's history but also to the history of innovative education in America. It is a treasure that stands as the monument to a great man, Roger Hill. To lose any part of it that still exists to demolition, especially the hall where Orson Welles lived and worked, would be a tragedy. We have lost too much of our heritage; please don't let us lose another historic place, and especially one that helps make Woodstock special.
Readers who think Grace Hall should be saved are urged to contact The Mayor and City Council Members of the city of Woodstock by e-mail and voice their opinions, before they meet on Sept 16th to render their final verdict on this important matter.
The Woodstock plan commission has already met and decided in a 6 to 0 vote to oppose the destruction of the splendor and magnificence of the Ambersons Mansion... opps, I meant to say Grace Hall. Unfortunately, their vote was only an advisory opinion.
Woodstock is a beautiful piece of small town Americana. In the summer of 1934, Welles staged his first professional Shakepeare play there, HAMLET, in which he played the part of King Claudius. The playwright and Orson Welles's friend Thornton Wilder (Our Town) was also in residence in Woodstock that summer. With it's historic Opera House and Town Square Woodstock was also the model for Welles's own version of Our Town, Harper, Conn, in Welles's movie The Stranger.
The beautiful Opera House in Woodstock where Orson Welles staged his first repertory season in 1934 still stands. If you think you might ever visit Woodstock, please be sure to indicate that if you write, as the town does a lively tourist business and obviously would attract an international reputation if it’s connection to the life and work of Orson Welles became more well-known. It certainly would be the place to establish an AMERICAN Orson Welles museum, if one was ever to be funded or established. To my mind, it's absolutely shocking that in Europe tributes to Welles abound, and his memory as a great artist is cherished. Meanwhile, in America it appears like we are about to tear down the place he thought of as his "home."
Here are the e-mail addresses of the Mayor and City Council members:
His honor The Mayor: Dr. Brian Sager:
Woodstock City Council Members:
Richard D. Ahrens: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Dillon: email@example.com
Maureen Larson: firstname.lastname@example.org
R B Thompson: email@example.com
Michael A. Turner: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ralph A. Webster: email@example.com