has turned collecting into an art form
Nita S. West
MADISON, Ind. (April 2000) Visiting Opal Hines at her Third Street
residence in Madison, Ind., is a little like stepping into H. G. Well's
time machine. Nearly every aspect of Madison's past can be found on
a bookshelf, in a china cupboard, hanging on a wall or tucked away somewhere,
just waiting to be discovered.
by Phaedra Jones
resident Opal Hines
has a unique collection of art,
china, books, clothing and dolls.
A Jefferson County native and Madison resident since 1945,
Hines has collected art, china, books, clothing, dolls and anything
memorable for most of her near 82 years. The result is a sort of living
Surrounded by books in the "Keeping Room" of her home, Hines
talks about when her family, which included 12 children, first settled
in what is now Jefferson County in 1811. They were forced to move to
Port William (now Carrollton, Ky.,) because of the frequency of Indian
uprisings but returned when the problem diminished.
She recalls being told stories about the local Native Americans when
she was a child. "I wish I had listened better and asked more questions.
Sometimes people forget the Indians were around here first," she
One of the many books she treasures is an account of the summer of 1827,
including a history of Tecumseh. "Lots of histories have been written
about him, but not in 1827," she said.
Other books span from the early 1830s through present day novels. Of
one presently popular novel, she chuckles, "I took a pencil and
marked out all the four-letter words. When anyone wanted to read it,
I told them, 'If I missed any, you go ahead and mark them out, too!'
Her extensive collection of autographed books includes several biographies,
many of them political figures. A copy of "Marvella," written
by Marvella Bayh (completed by Mary Lynn Kotz, after Bayh's death) and
signed by Birch Bayh is a favorite of Hines.
"Birch Bayh stopped in to see me the last time he was in town,
even though we're on opposite political sides," she says, laughing.
Hines loves to have visitors, and it's difficult to say just who might
drop by at any time. Doris Perry, from Fort Wayne, Ind., has been coming
to Madison for nine years. She and her husband have a house here now,
but prior to that, she was an overnight guest of Hines.
"She knew I was an avid reader, and the first night I spent in
the house, everything was laid out in the bedroom for that purpose."
She goes on to describe, a bed tray, a lap robe and one thing that puzzled
her a closet full of clothing, some of it vintage. Perry recalls
asking Hines about it the next morning.
"Oh," exclaimed Hines, "you were supposed to try those
on! Play dress up, that's what they're there for!"
"She's a Madison treasure," said Perry, who has been helping
Hines catalogue her book collection during her visits.
Another frequent visitor to the Hines home is Bill Burchill, who points
out a truly unique bit of Madison history in Hines possession: A large
glass-encased display of intricately sculpted birds, the work of George
Gray Bernard, was once owned by Drusilla Cravens, daughter of J.F.D.
Lanier, and former neighbor to the Hines family.
"One of Opal's daughters found it in the attic while playing at
the Cravens home," Burchill said, describing how Hines came to
own it. "She admired it, and said she'd like to have it some day."
As with many of Hines visitors, Burchill is anxious to add information
to points of interest in the home and about its owner. "Everyone
looks after her. We were all so glad an article was going to be written
Most serious art collectors in Madison own paintings by the late William
Snyder, but perhaps none are so unique as two hanging in the Hines home.
A full-length, near life-size portrait of Juliet fairly dominates one
wall of the living room. Breathtaking, would not be an exaggerated description.
In the Keeping Room, another Snyder hangs above a fireplace decorated
with tiles by artist McKinley Childs. This Snyder is an oversized still
life, featuring an array of produce, appointments and fresh meat, a
style typical of the period. The most unusual feature, however, is a
blue envelope in the lower right corner. Painted to look torn open at
the top, complete with stamp and postmark, it is addressed to the artist
Other smaller Snyders are also displayed, but they pale in impact when
compared to these two pieces.
With the original structure built in 1837 and the addition in 1850,
the Hines house is steeped in as much history as Madison, or its contents.
Two mantles and a chandelier that hung in what is now the 606 Building
on Main Street were brought from France in 1765. Another mantle in the
hallway dates to the early 1800s. Hines even has the 1827 wedding dress
of Mrs. Fry, the house's original owner.
Along with collecting and being responsible for restoring more than
one house in the Madison area, Hines worked at the Madison State Hospital
for 21 years and also took in boarders.
"Lots of boys," she recalls. "They all called me Mom.
They were from everywhere England, Scotland, Africa, Norway,
all over the world. I still hear from a lot them.
"Everything's a memory," Hines says. "That's what makes
it so special."
And it is indeed the memories that make Hines so special.
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