Fantastic Friday: Hotel LaRose Mystery Solved

A  month ago, I wrote a story here on Many Branches, One Tree about a mystery pencil sketch I had found of the Hotel LaRose in Santa Rosa, California.  The 9″ x 12″ sheet of white paper was protected by a thin sheet of onion paper and apparently had kept residence inside a century-old church hymnal that my cousin, Suzanne (Olson) Wieland, had given me earlier this year.


Hotel LaRose, Santa Rosa, California.
Ruth Robertson; pencil sketch, undated.
Once I determined that the hotel was in Santa Rosa, California and not Conneaut, Ohio, home of the original owner of the hymnal, my great-grand aunt Agnes Gaffney, I began to doubt that there was a connection between her and Ruth Robertson, the artist who signed the sketch.
I was unable to determine whether Ms. Robertson lived locally in Northern California or was still alive.  At one point, some of the staff of the Hotel LaRose tried to help me determine the age of the photograph, based on photos of their renovations through the years.  We guessed that the sketch, which depicted a number of window awnings, could have been made during or after a 1985 renovation in which awnings were added to the   historic hotel.


I mused that either the hotel had special meaning for Suzanne’s parents, the late Jane (McCormick) and Eldon “Ole” Olson (who had retired to Santa Rosa), or that Jane had received it as a gift and placed it in the hymnal for safekeeping.   Our curiosities piqued, my husband and I planned to drive north to Santa Rosa this summer to try to solve our questions.
The mystery of the Hotel LaRose sketch even caught the fancy of my regular readers, who have made it the third most popular post on this blog.
Well, folks, the mystery has been solved.
Suzanne contacted me yesterday by e-mail after reading the post.  “Ruth Robertson is my dad’s last surviving sister – cousin C’s mother, from Minnesota,” she wrote.  “She sketched the hotel when she visited once. There is no relation between the drawing and my grandmother (Benita McGinnis McCormick) or the hymnal…That illustration was in (there) to protect and flatten it.”  She had forgotten to remove the sketch when she gave me the hymnal.
It was delightful to receive this news.  I am thrilled to have answers and especially to know that Ruth Robertson, though not related to me, is my cousin’s paternal aunt – and that she is still alive.  I’m so grateful to Suzanne for solving the nagging questions about this lovely drawing and am happy to return it to her, so its rightful owner can treasure it.

Sometimes, the answer can be in our own backyard.

To read the original post about the Hotel LaRose sketch, please click here.


Copyright ©  2013  Linda Huesca Tully

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