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Romance in the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens

Posted by Lorea Thomson on Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 at 11:47am.

The history of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is a romantic one.  A wealthy industrialist, Ralph Norton, and head of the Acme Steel Company in Chicago, retired in 1939. He and his wife had acquired quite an art collection over the years.  They decided to move to West Palm Beach, Florida.

Upon moving to South Florida, the Norton’s decided to share their art collection with the community. The Norton Gallery and School of Art was built on their property. The location of gallery and school was linked to the early pioneers. Today that location is known as Pioneer Park, named for the early Lake Worth pioneers that gathered there on occasion.

Mr. Norton contracted to re-design their home and later had a special building designed to house the collection. Upon completion of the new building, The Norton Gallery and School of Art opened its doors to the community February 8, 1941.

Ann Weaver was an American sculptor and writer of children's books. Norton brought on as the first sculpture instructor in 1942. Ann was serious about her craft and made her presence known.  She and Mr. Norton had differing views on art which made for very spirited conversations.  The Norton’s and Ann, developed a friendship. Ann and Mrs. Norton all where from Alabama and had common interests.  Mrs. Norton died in 1947 after battling a lengthy illness. A year later Norton asked Ann to marry him. They began a three-month engagement between New York to Chicago. They became husband and wife in 1948.

A studio was built for Ann on the corner of the property. Being Ralph’s wife enabled the necessary funds and time to dedicate to her work. They were together only five years when Ralph died in 1953. After and because of Ralph’s death, Ann began her “life’s work” with the nine monumental sculptures, beginning with the work in Norwegian Granite in memory of her husband.

Ann was suffering from Leukemia needed to put one more piece in place before she passed. The last piece of her vision of her “life’s work”. While she was still able to stroll in the gardens, she and an associate discussed how she had hoped the gardens would evolve. She was an environmentalist and provided a habitat for her birds and creatures.

Over the last 24 years the Gentlemen of the Garden have raised funds in support of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens as well as other not-for-profit organizations in Palm Beach County. The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens are a collaborative effort of a Board of Trustees, members, donors and volunteers. Today the gardens contain rare palms and native plants as well as the monumental structures. Ann Weaver Norton died February 4, 1982. Her art has been seen by visitors from around the globe for over 25 years.

 

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