The Inspiration of the Gallery
Celebrating the life an Art dealer!
Philip loved perfection in art and music. Truly beautiful performances and paintings often brought tears to his eyes.
“Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life."
The songs chosen for this service are his favorites and the lessons of faith that Philip and Harriet learned as they walked in faith in the 35 ½ years of their married lives.
Philip graduated from High School and enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1958. He served in France and in his spare time fulfilled his dream by learning how to fly. The instructor did not speak English and Philip did not speak French, but he knew the principles of aviation and always said that he knew when he was being cussed out! He soloed in a “Baby Jodell” with a Volkswagen engine…this in spite of his lifelong fear of heights!
After his discharge in July of 1961, Philip lived and worked in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Redwood City. In the early 1970’s he was the night chemist for Ideal Cement and helped mix the San Mateo Bridge! Eventually he moved to Palo Alto and then Menlo Park and worked for 20 years as a security guard for Stanford University at the Stanford Linear Accelerator. He was twice given the coveted “Beam Tree” which is the result of a particle being shot 2 miles at nearly the speed of sound and hitting a Lucite block. The first one he gave to his boss because she wanted it and he was presented another one after he moved to Utah in 1991.
In the early 1970’s Philip began to express his artistic soul by collecting Tiffany glass and American Art Pottery. Then he saw the watercolor paintings of Menlo Park artist Rachel Dowd Bentley displayed at the local meat market and determined to meet her. Philip found a small spry 70+ year old woman who had by then done 120 paintings one room school houses in northern California and Nevada and gained an international reputation for her paintings of homes, barns and historic buildings in those areas. He admired her work very much and began to buy whatever paintings he could afford after he paid his rent and expenses. By 1980, Philip owned over 100 of her paintings. Rachel said he was her most ardent admirer. He was also her most severe critic and only bought the best of her work in his opinion.
On his days off, Philip would haunt antique stores and flea markets in search of art treasures. On one such outing late in the afternoon on the last Sunday of January in 1980, he found himself standing in front of a booth at the monthly Valco Village Antique Show in Cupertino, California. The dealer had a small etching of the Chicago shoreline and Philip considered buying it to hang in his bathroom. He debated for about 25 minutes with the young lady and finally after much conversation he purchased it for a few dollars less than she was asking. The end of April, he found himself in front of the same dealer and after much toe scraping and hemming and hawing he asked Harriet out for dinner after the antique show was over. She agreed to meet him at a Chinese restaurant in Menlo Park.
10 days and 3 dates later they were engaged and married by her father, Rev. Harry Washburn in his gazebo in his back yard in Pacifica, California on July 5th, 1980. Harriet’s mother Winnie made a bouquet of flowers from her marvelous garden and cooked a wonderful meal for a small wedding party. Their reception was held in August at Stern Grove, in San Francisco when Philip’s mother and other relatives could come from back east.
Philip then joined Harriet in the antique business that she had been doing since 1974. They eventually were selling at three outdoor antique shows every month and enjoyed going garage sailing every weekend to build up their inventory. In 1982, Philip came home one day and confessed that he had a disease. Harriet cautiously inquired as to the nature of it and he said that he had been offered a collection of toy trains and if he bought them it would be opening Pandora’s box and he would not be able to close it….Harriet considered and told him that if he agreed to pay back the amount spent by the sale of the trains, he could buy whatever he wanted to…this began a whole new aspect of their lives. Philip went on to purchase a number of collections of toy trains and spent $8000 two times! Always with the assurance that he would pay their savings account back for that amount and he did. Eventually he became known as “Mr. American Flyer” and could quote any line of information in the official book on parts and production for both American Flyer and Lionel trains.
In 1986, Harriet had the AAA design their vacation through Zion National Park, Utah in October on their way to Taos, New Mexico. Harriet’s family had missed driving through Zion in 1956 on a trip to California from Idaho where they lived in Idaho Falls at the time and she felt a great loss for not going there.
After seeing Utah rocks for the first time as an artist at the bottom of the Virgin River in Hurricane, Harriet was also delighted to drive on Highway 12 and see Bryce Canyon again. About 30 miles after that however, just after Henriville, the van they were driving started to have a high shrill pitched whine which did not stop! They arrived in Escalante late in the day and the next morning found a mechanic at Midnight Auto just west of town. Wally Woolsey greased the speedometer cable for $2!!! When she asked the service station attendant about the clouds on the upper elevations ahead Glen Wilson told Harriet that the pass over Boulder Mountain would be clear as it was the first day of hunting season. Then with some emotion he said that the scenery was amazing! However, 10 miles on, at the “Head of the Rocks,” the rain started to come down with such force that Harriet understood erosion for the first time! The rest of the trip was cold and snowy and generally miserable.
In the summer of 1987, Philip watched the Billy Graham crusade on TV and asked Christ to be his Lord and Savior. Harriet had asked Christ into her heart in 1982 and so began their walk of faith together.
In May of 1988, they returned to Escalante to see the scenery they missed. They parked at the Petrified Forest campground again in their van. The wind was blowing so hard that night that Harriet could not sleep, finally in desperation she cried out “Lord, why can’t I go back to sleep?” And He said, “I want you to live here.” In the morning, she told Philip and he said, “OK.”
This was a tremendous leap of faith for Philip and Harriet. Philip was 47 at that time and they did not own a home. They saved what money they could and prayed for direction and guidance. Eventually, Philip although very conflicted, began to sell his precious train collection and eventually used that money to buy their first piece of land outside of town by the airport 2 miles outside of Escalante, Utah.
On September 17th, 1991, they Philip and Harriet arrived to begin their new life on the 28 ½ acres in a used double wide they had brought up from Mesquite. Stepping out in faith they having left jobs, and family and friends and began a new life like Abraham not knowing what they would do for a living or why they were there, and they were 125 miles from a stoplight in 3 directions!
By mid 1992, it became clear that their meager savings were dwindling to the point that they needed to have some source of income. After considering the three properties then available for sale on Main Street, Philip and Harriet purchased the old Forest Service Office at 326 West Main on January 28th, 1993 and opened Serenidad Gallery. Philip had always dreamed of featuring Rachel Bentley’s watercolors, and Harriet quickly reminded him that they would starve unless they sold other things. So they went back into the antique business and even sold off their own collections that they had brought with them in order to stock the gallery when they opened in March that year with just a few rooms of merchandise. They moved a single wide behind the gallery and sold the place outside of town to a doctor from Denver for a vacation home.
Eventually, Lynn Griffin, Escalante cowboy artist, brought in some of his paintings for sale and over time Philip bought and sold over 35 of Lynn’s works. Valerie Orlemann was also a featured artist for several years. Eventually rocks such as petrified wood and petrified dinosaur dung became the mainstay of their every day sales! Photography of the scenery was also a big part of the tourists’ interest and first Kipp Green and later Laurent Martres were featured.
Both Harriet and Philip were lovers of handmade rugs and early on they realized that dealing in Navajo rugs was going to be too expensive for them so they were delighted to connect with the Escalante Rug Company which imported fine hand spun, dyed and woven wool rugs made by the Zapotec people south of Mexico City. Over the years they enjoyed picking out the “best of the best” and offering them for sale and taking a few home with them as well.
In 1996 the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was created and business in the gallery got even busier.
In 1999, Philip felt led to buy back the acreage outside of town, and instead of renting it to a friend as planned they ended up making it Serenidad Retreat and ran it as a nightly rental. For the next 6 seasons, people from around the country and the world enjoyed the views of the Escalante area from the 700 sq ft redwood deck that Philip had carefully crafted. Then in 2005 with both now receiving social security, Philip and Harriet sold their beloved property for a second time.
Through the years Philip and Harriet enjoyed the gift of meeting the traveling public and had a philosophy of “Being the house by the side of the road to be a friend to man.” They had a hobby of “Grabbing people off the street and feeding them.” And even helped a number of people make the decision to move to Escalante with candid answers and advice.
In the summer of 2007, Philip finally discovered the home of his dreams and with the money from the retreat; they purchased the 1948 brick home built by Leo Wilson. They decided to remodel it into the Arts and Crafts style that they both loved. Jacob Croft came to their aid and created a wonderful new craftsman environment. After 27 months of very hard work, Harriet finally had a kitchen and the upstairs was completed. They moved in just in time for Thanksgiving dinner with Winnie and her brother, John and his wife from Fresno.
They continued to remodel their home downstairs over the coming years and eventually Winnie Washburn, Harriet’s mother came to live with them in March of 2013.
In the summer of 2016, the gallery received a real upgrade when the bronze sculptures of Marion Lenore Young were brought by Harriet’s cousin from their aunt in Ashland, Oregon. Marion is Winnie’s youngest sister and a very accomplished artist and sculpture, and while none of the work was sold, all who saw them were impressed by the quality of her work.
In November of 2015, Philip learned that he had inoperable lung cancer and he and Harriet came home from the doctor’s office in St. George and proceeded to close the Fine Art and Antique business that they had nurtured together for 23 years. Philip was at peace with his diagnosis, he was fulfilled in his dream of having an art gallery and of bringing Rachel’s work to the world. His love of art and handmade items that were produced with real talent and craftsmanship permeated all he did.
Philip and Harriet came to Escalante in obedience to the Lord’s call and always felt the Lord’s hand under their feet every step of the way.
Philip’s last words were: “Love is all there is.”