PUBLISHED: 10:51 AM on Wednesday, August 3, 2005
History grants to recognize Davis and DeArmond's works

Photo courtesy of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
  Money from the Juneau History Grant will be used to restore six paintings by Frances Davis, which hang in the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Pictured is "Unto Us a Child is Born," painted by Davis in 1910.
Juneau has been home to a number of intriguing people since its inception, and two of the city's more well-known figures, painter Francis Davis and writer Bob DeArmond, will soon have their talents immortalized through the efforts of the latest Juneau History Grant recipients.

The History Grant Committee, which was formed by an endowment from the Juneau Centennial Committee in 1991, accepts applications each year to fund projects that demonstrate historical value to the greater Juneau community, and produce a tangible product that can be shared with the community at large. To date, the committee has awarded a total of 24 grants, equaling more than $17,000.

In mid-June, local resident Anne Castle was awarded $1,000 to assist in the costs of transcribing, indexing, and publishing a spiral-bound book featuring DeArmond's column, Gastineau Bygones. The column, which ran in the Southeast Alaska Empire and later the Juneau Empire between 1978-81, featured tidbits of Juneau's history gleaned by DeArmond from newspaper accounts of events happening between 1887 and 1951.

"I became interested in doing this project after I inherited these columns from a friend," explained Castle, who has lived in Juneau for the past five years. "The columns were written to let people know about what was going on back at the turn of the century; what ships had come in, and what different businesses were doing."

DeArmond, who Castle now says lives in the Pioneers' Home in Sitka, would feature between 10 and 20 items in a column, gathered from the newspapers of the era.

"I'm not sure why he pulled out what he did," said Castle, who does genealogical research for her own family, "but all together, it becomes a history of Juneau."

Castle plans to have the project finished by the end of the year, and the information will also be available as an electronic PDF.

"The grant from the committee enabled me to purchase the software I need to convert the hard copy to a PDF file, and will also help with printing costs," she said.

The second grant awarded this year went to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church for the Francis Davis Painting Restoration Project. For more than nine years, the Church has been working to restore six near-life-sized images of Jesus, which Davis painted during her time in Juneau.

"Francis Davis was originally from England, and had received art training in England, France, Germany and Italy," explained Chapin Heumann, chairman of the committee to restore the paintings. "A recognized artist, she came to the United States for a visit, and ended up getting married and staying in Juneau, where she painted all kinds of subjects."

For years, Davis' painting have been displayed in the Church, where she was also a founding member. Over time, they began to deteriorate, spurring the church to look for sources of funding to cover the cost of restoration, which was estimated at $24,000. Depending on the final cost of the project, the church is currently within $100 and $400 of its goal.

"We were encouraged to apply for the History Grant to help us with shipping costs and shipping insurance," said Heumann. "We applied for $1,000, and received $1,500, which was obviously very nice, and a very big help to us. Though the total for shipping and insurance will exceed this amount, the grant helps with a big part of the expense."

Davis' paintings have now been shipped to the Western Center for the Conservation of Fine Arts (SCCFA) in Denver, Colorado, and it is expected to take about six months for the restoration to be complete.

"I'm sure we'll have some kind of celebration when the paintings are returned," said Heumann, who gives credit to Pamela Finley, Constance Davis and Constance Munro for helping to bring the project to fruition. "We've had a lot of dedicated people working on this for a very long time."

Grant Committee member Renee Guerin said there are a number of factors that influence what projects are chosen to receive a history grant.

"The main thing we look at is what this project means for posterity; what value it adds to the history of Juneau," she said. "It was difficult to choose this year because there were several worthy applicants, but we believe that the projects that did receive the grants will be contributing factors to the history of Juneau and Douglas for generations to come."

"In the case of Francis Davis, she was both a historical personage, and her paintings are part of Juneau's history," she added. "And there is nothing more historical or of more value than Bob DeArmond's take on the city and southeast Alaska. His columns are a part of us."

For more information on the grants or the Juneau History Grant Committee, visit