Famous Painting of The Carolina Inn by Pulitzer Prize Winning UNC Alum Jeff MacNelly, Found at Yard Sale, to be Unveiled January 16
Son of artist to be present
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (January 13, 2009) - A long-lost painting of the historic Carolina Inn on the University of North Carolina campus, by the late artist and renowned three-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist and alumnus Jeff MacNelly, has recently returned to the University and will be unveiled to the public at the Inn at 10 am on Friday, January 16, 2009.
The historical associations and unusual journey of the nearly 40-year-old painting weave a tale like one right out of the popular PBS series, "Antiques Roadshow." In 1968, a major addition and renovation project began on the Carolina Inn (built in 1924) that added a new wing of guest rooms, a new ballroom and cafeteria, and moved the lobby and front entrance from Cameron Avenue to Pittsboro Street, where they remain today.
In late 1969 or early 1970, as construction was nearing completion, a young former UNC student, Jeff MacNelly, was commissioned to paint a view of the new facade and entrance. MacNelly, then editorial cartoonist for the Chapel Hill Weekly, attended UNC from 1965 to 1969, leaving a few credits short of graduation. He had made a name for himself as a cartoonist on the Daily Tar Heel, and was well known in the community. He created an oil-on-canvas painting in an attractive impressionistic style, which soon became an iconic image of the Carolina Inn, featured on brochures and restaurant menu covers throughout the 1970s and well into the 1980s.
MacNelly went on to be the editorial cartoonist at the Richmond News Leader and later the Chicago Tribune. In 1977 he created the popular syndicated cartoon strip "Shoe," the principal character of which was based on one of MacNelly's UNC journalism professors Jim Shumaker. MacNelly received numerous honors and accolades during his career, including three Pulitzer Prizes and two Rueben Awards, the highest award given in the field of editorial cartoons. He lived for many years in Flint Hill, Va., and died in 2000 at age 52, after a battle with cancer.
The 28 by 18 inch painting disappeared sometime in the 1970s, and its location was unknown until a few months ago. It was purchased at a yard sale in High Point, N.C., in the early 1990s, likely for a few dollars. The person who purchased it recognized the signature, and contacted MacNelly, who sent a hand-written letter authenticating it. The 1992 letter, on MacNelly's personal stationary with "Shoe" characters down one side of the page, has also been acquired with the painting. The owner, who now lives in Massachusetts, contacted the Inn in 2008 and discussions began to acquire the painting.
"We've been looking for this painting for a decade," said Dr. Kenneth Zogry, the Inn's historian. "It is one of the two best known images of the Inn, and is a very important historical addition to the Inn's collection."
By coincidence, in 2008 the firm of 3North in Richmond, Va., was retained to oversee an updating of The Carolina Inn guest rooms and public spaces. The project manager will be Danny MacNelly, son of Jeff MacNelly, who will be present for the unveiling. The Inn's rich history and its historical architectural elements and furnishings will be the keynotes of the upcoming work, so the reemergence and acquisition of the MacNelly painting at this time is a welcome happenstance.
About The Carolina Inn
Recognized as one of America's "cultural resources worthy of preservation," The Carolina Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with elite status as a AAA Four Diamond Award Hotel and Mobil Four Star Award-Winning Dining at the Carolina Crossroads Restaurant. From the day it opened in 1924, the 184-room Inn has played an important role in the life of the University of North Carolina and the Chapel Hill community. As one of only four hotels in North Carolina built before 1925 to remain in continuous operation, it has long been one of the most popular sites in North Carolina for special events, weddings, business meetings, and academic conferences with over 13,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space. In addition to having a rich cultural history, The Carolina Inn is architecturally significant, blending elements of antebellum Southern plantation houses with Georgian and neoclassical features often found in the Northeast. The original front of the building was modeled after the Potomac River front of Mt. Vernon. The Carolina Inn is one of more than 30 independent, upscale and luxury hotels, resorts and golf clubs in the United States managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts, the fourth largest independent hospitality management company in the country. www.carolinainn.com