A faithful husband, loving father, and hard worker at Meadow Brook, Alfred Gaston Wilson was born on March 31, 1883. To learn about this brilliant man, one simply has to step inside his study where Alfred carved out stories of his life in caricature to share with all who enter.
Whether gathered in the room playing cards or listening to a radio show, the children – Danny, Frances, Richard, and Barbara – would listen to Alfred recount stories of his life using the carved English Burl Oak frieze as a guiding story book.
The timeline begins with the scene of a flood when Alfred was an infant with his family in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in the Ohio River Valley. Down the east wall, Alfred shares moments from his childhood including chores on the family farm, running a paper route, various recreational fun, and falling off a steamboat into the Ohio River.
Above the Study’s doorway Alfred has comical depictions of his college professors which hints at Alfred’s propensity for jokes. Alfred was an attendee of Beloit College where he was an excellent student, a singer in the choir and played sports like football.
Along the North wall are scenes from the lumber industry. Alfred worked at a number of lumber companies before starting the Wilson Lumber Company with his brother Donald. These panels depict images of the lumbering process and various tools needed for the job. One panel shows Alfred’s work in the aviation building program during WWII, testing wooden plane parts.
A favorite panel of Alfred’s Study is right above the fireplace, showing of Alfred and Matilda’s wedding day. Alfred pokes fun at his and Matilda’s height difference as the illustration shows him (a very tall man) bending over to marry her (a petite woman). Standing behind their mother are mini Danny and Francis Dodge.
Smaller panels around the study depict the city seals of places Alfred lived in his lifetime, school crests, and symbols relating to Alfred’s membership with the Freemasons society. The panels in this room show Alfred Wilson as a hard-working, family man with a great sense of humor. Happy 139th Birthday Mr. Wilson!
For the full story, be sure to visit Meadow Brook Hall on a Guided House Tour. Tour details and tickets are available at meadowbrookhall.org/tours.
For more stories of the people and places behind the estate, visit the History at The Hall storytelling series.