Historical Artists | Visual Arts

Florence Truelson – Found

In our November 2011 edition of 15 Bytes Tom Alder took a look at the mystery of Florence Truelson, an eccentric Utah artist of the first half of the twentieth century. As Tom reported, the builder of a unique house on the west side of town – known as the House of the Seven Gables, and a tourist attraction – went missing twice. The last time was fatal, when she went missing from the State Hospital in Provo and her body was found months later by hikers.

The first time reported was in 1944, when she was feared missing after not picking up her assistance checks for two months. Police were forced to break into her ramshackle house – which had no front door – to look for her. They found a number of her fine works of art, but no trace of the artist.

We kept digging and have been able to at least solve this 1944 mystery. The same day the newspaper reported the search for the artist, Truelson was found safe in Los Angeles by the local police. On April 3, the Deseret News reported that Truelson was in an apartment in L.A. (it was possibly that of an uncle or cousins, who lived in the area) Reached by phone she said she, “often took vacations to California,” sometimes to paint. Meanwhile, police were posted outside her Salt Lake City home, as it was reported that some of the curious had tried to enter the building.

The house remained an object of interest. A year later, in August of 1945, three boys (16, 15, and 14) were arrested for breaking into the home. They broke through a seven-foot board fence surrounding what was described as a “rapidly disintegrating building” and stole two violins, a guitar and oil paintings.

Concerns that Truelson had gone missing and was in trouble were warranted, not only because of her eccentric behavior, but because of past experience. An instance in 1927 may indicate that the mental health issues that would ultimately confine her to the state hospital were a long-running problem. In the late summer of that year, when she was only 26, she was reported missing by her family and a detachment of the 3rd infantry, out of Fort Douglas, went looking for her. They found her at 3 0’clock in the afternoon, lying exhausted behind some bushes, her faithful St. Bernard looking over her. She wouldn’t let any of the soldier come near her until her father was called for and arrived.

And here are a few links for images:

Photograph of the Florence Truelson murals at the Mayflower Cafe.
A work from 1924 titled “The Kiss”

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5 replies »

  1. What a sad and intriguing tale, engagingly written. Thanks again, Tom Alder, and for the further digging to Shawn Rossiter, I believe.

  2. I am writing my story and one of the chapters is about Flossy and the house of seven gables. Me and my brothers and sisters lived next door to Florence Truelson. i was seven when all this took place and i remember it a little differently than this story but thanks for filling in the blanks. Florence actually lived on part of our property and she would come to us for her mail. i never heard about the break in nor the violins or guitar. one of the stories that circulated was that she was jilted and went crazy. She actually bathed in the canal that ran between us and her rickety old house. She feed the trees candy bars and the kids would eat them leading her to believe that the trees had eaten the bars. She wore men’s clothing and tons of makeup. She hated anyone coming near her place. She would shoot or throw rocks. She was not normal. She left one day in a cab and we never heard from her again. The picture in the Deseret news had to be taken from our back yard. Thanks for the info. I would love to hear more if anyone knows more. miskty@hotmail.com

  3. More from me, katie a neighbor or Florence Truelson’s. just a few things that i knew to be a little different from another story I read about her.I never heard it refered to as the house of the 7 crooked Gablels? It was known in our neighborhood as The House of Seven Gables where the crazy lady lived.She lived at approximately 1958 West 1st. South. Some of the neighbor kids helped her build. She did have a wagon and went up and down the street to the store with her wagon and came back by way of the trees that she feed candy bars and milk. She thought the trees ate the bars but it was just us kids picking up after her.i never saw her in black and white clothing. She wore bright long clothing when she wasn’t dressed in men’s clothing. She wore mens shoes as I remember. am still looking to put all the pieces to this story together. I remember in about 59. i was about 22 years old. The University of Utah came for information to our house. Someone was doing a thesis of some kind. We gave information from our viewpoint.
    Thanks again for filling in some of the blanks. katie

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