Harlan Crow’s Highland Park house is filled with books, manuscripts, and works of art that add up to one of the largest private collections of Americana. But even his house can get rolled.
As a simultaneous celebration of April Fool’s Day and Kathy Crow’s birthday, a group of Park Cities moms toilet-papered the Crow home at 4700 Preston Road on Tuesday night. To hear Harlan tell it, his and Kathy’s 11-year-old daughter was the ringleader of the late-night shenanigans.
“Although we deal with a lot of musty old books, we try to have fun while we’re doing it,” Crow said Wednesday during the Park Cities Historical and Preservation Society’s Distinguished Speaker Luncheon.
Crow spoke at the Dallas Country Club event because his house, and his Americana collection, will be featured on the society’s Historical Home Tour on April 12. Crow said he and Kathy have hosted a number of students and researchers through the years, “so we would love for you guys, our friends and neighbors, to have a chance to be a part of it.”
History buffs who buy tickets that day will certainly get their money’s worth. Crow’s collection includes:
- A 1493 pamphlet based on Christopher Columbus’ hand-written letter to King Ferdinand. Crow said his copy is one of only 16 known to still exist, and it’s the only one in private hands.
- One of four known copies, according to Crow, of Amerigo Vespucci’s Mundus Novus, the first published use of the phrase “New World.”
- William Pierce’s hand-written notes from the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Crow said his collection is particularly strong in politics and government, and he’s working to strengthen it in the areas of literature, science, and commerce.
“The only thing we don’t collect is Hollywood and sports,” he said, “but sports fans will be interested to know that we do have a Honus Wagner card.”
Crow isn’t sure how exactly the collection of more than 10,000 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts began, but he thinks the genesis may have been when President Herbert Hoover visited his childhood home. Crow’s father, Trammell, gave him the president’s business card, and that was the first piece of Americana he held on to.
Many other occupants of the White House are represented in Crow’s art collection, which includes a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale as well as paintings by Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. His sculpture garden is divided into an “uphill zone for the good guys” (Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and, in the near future, Ronald Reagan) and a “downhill zone for the bad guys” (Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong).
Crow said people often ask him why he owns the latter group of statues. He said people of his generation will never forget the Cold War, but he wants to make sure that younger people know about the geopolitical struggle.
“If these statues can be utilized as a tool to remind newer generations of the failure of the bad guys and the triumph of the good guys,” he said, “then it’s a lesson worth having.”