Sunday, May 12, 1996

For Carol Wallace, her line of greeting cards is a labor of love
Preserving history in series of sketches
By Erin Einhorn
Inquirer Correspondent

NEW HOPE -- Artists never leave a place. They carry it with them, Carol Wallace said, as she looked out the car window at the passing hills outside. Her father was driving the white Chevrolet Caprice south on River Road, toward Washington Crossing. Wallace was looking for things to draw. "That's the one, there," she said, pointing to a white barn on the side of the road, not far from Bowman's Tower.

The car stopped for those inside to admire the lights and shadows on the stone and brick. "It's only a portion of how big it was," Wallace said. The barn -- which was once part of a 240-acre farm owned by the Beaumont family -- is one of the images from this part of the county depicted in Wallace's new series of greeting cards. The pen-and-ink sketches show the country stores of Lumberville and Washington Crossing, the covered bridges of Plumstead and Tinicum, and such popular spots as the Victorian train station in New Hope. These are some of the images the Connecticut artist said she had carried with her, engraved in the back of her mind, during the three decades since she moved away.

When she left town at 22, Wallace said, she had little appreciation for shadows on barns, or quaint country stores. For a headstrong girl with a travel bug and a yen for adventure, Bucks County's slow country ways offered little more than an excuse to leave, she said. But 25 years later, as an accomplished artist, Wallace has made a nostalgic return to capture the images of her past, as well as the area's rich heritage. "I want to do things in my art to preserve history, to preserve some of the things that mean a lot to me personally."

The scenes on her cards are modern drawings, depicting the way the area looks today. But all of them have a sense of history and display buildings and structures that were standing in centuries past. On this day, earlier this month, the drive around the area retraced the path of the drive last fall when Wallace first came home to focus on the cards. She was looking for anything that captured the flavor and history of the region, she said. Some areas, such as the train station and New Hope's Mechanic Street, she knew about. Others, such as Beaumont barn, she just happened to see as she passed.

"We'd be driving and she would abruptly say, 'Stop!' Whether there's a car behind you or what," said Joseph Brucker, Wallace's father, who lives in New Britain Borough. He and Wallace's mother, Evelyn, accompanied Wallace on her tours of the area. They became amateur art scouts, assistants, and chauffeurs. Wallace said she made the cards as a tribute to them. "This did not hit me until last summer," Wallace said. She had just completed a series of drawings of the country stores of Vermont; the images from that project are now on file in the Smithsonian Institution's research department. "I spoke to 30 owners of country stores, and I saw the excitement in their faces when I said I wanted to make a record of their store. That's when I knew I wanted to do something for my parents about the area that influenced me to do historical art."

The eight cards -- the beginning of a series Wallace predicts could grow to 40 scenes of old homes, one-room schoolhouses, and, of course, more barns -- are on sale for about $2 at gift shops and bookstores
around central Bucks County.

The original pen-and-ink drawings, filled in with a spectrum of watercolors, are at the Michelyn Gallery in New Britain, where Frank Michaels is one of the owners. "The drawings reflect Carol's unique ability to draw a kind of whimsical picture, but the details she includes in them are amazing," Michaels said. "They give you a warm feeling when you look at them. You think, 'I want to see that place,' even if you've seen it before."

Faith Crown, the archivist for New Hope's historical society, said she had put two of the cards into the society's picture file. She appreciated the short narrative on the back of each card that gives the history of the area depicted."In today's world of everything moving so fast," Wallace said, "it's important to keep this history alive. Progress is important, but if I can preserve some of the old-time values that are slipping away, I feel I have been successful."