Amid the dozens of paintings, animal tapestries and ceramic statues that cover the entire faade of William H. Hutton's house is the center of his dispute with Colorado Springs housing inspectors.
It's the key to his odd, art-covered house.
It's not a house key. It's a wooden, notched thing on his porch that's hard to locate among the Indian elephant sculpture, the clay Neanderthal skull, the stuffed puma with a crown on its head, and scores of large and small thrift-shop bounty. The key symbolizes 77-year-old Hutton's efforts to unlock the imagination that slumbers in those who pass by 124 E. Espanola St. -- a home that Hutton dubs "In the Theatre of Mankind."
"It opens up the cosmological eye to creativity," he said.
Whether or not the key can do that, the whole package is so cumbersome that firefighters and police officers wouldn't be able to gain entry to Hutton's home in an emergency, said Karon DiPentino, a city housing code inspector.
"I believe asking him to remove some of these items is not unreasonable," DiPentino said.
A single, purposeful work
Last week, DiPentino sent Hutton a letter giving him until Monday, Oct. 25, to clean up his porch to meet the housing code's satisfaction. If he doesn't, the city is prepared to send another notice warning Hutton that contractors will be hired to move items from the porch at his expense.
The bulk of items that adorn the front of his home can stay because they are attached to the house with twine or wire and don't block the door, DiPentino said.
The city also asked Hutton to ensure the numbers on the house were clearly visible from the street.
Hutton, however, feels that the city is treading on his freedom of expression. All the objects on the house constitute a single, purposeful work of art that has grown steadily over the last four years -- beginning with a 25-cent wooden decoy duck that he bought at a yard sale. It's wrong, Hutton maintains, for the city to ask for any of it to be moved -- whether attached to the house or not.
"I don't think they're such dummies that they can't find the front door," Hutton said of the city's claims.
While Hutton acknowledges that some people view the house as a colossal junk collection, he says everything from a picture of a flock of geese to the statue of Davy Crockett expresses mythological universals -- or timeless stories that speak to the human condition.
For instance, on the front face of the house a poster of a mountaineer ascending a peak represents man's ability to reach great heights. A nearby print of the Titanic symbolizes mankind plunging to physical and emotional depths.
"I can't believe this; it's so intriguing," said Cheryl Kinnaird, who recently strolled by Hutton's home. "He's an eccentric man, obviously, but sometimes I think the world needs more people like that."
Burning 1 million words
The silver-haired, never-married Hutton, who often dresses in a pinstriped suit and gold-sequined vest and displays his Korean War medal on his chest, was born in India to Christian missionaries. As a young man, he was a rising literary star who wrote at night and worked days at The Boeing Company as a parts dispatcher.
His short story, "Real Life," was part of a 1950 compilation of poetry and prose that included works by Gore Vidal, Henry Miller and Tennessee Williams.
But in 1960, Hutton's life changed. He had what he describes as "nervous breakdown." Shortly after, he burned 1 million of the words he'd authored.
Hutton, who moved to Colorado Springs shortly after his breakdown, continues to write and is happy to hand out photocopies of his typewritten prose. Some are difficult to read, made up largely of made-up words like "vasttolativahl" and "reflectomentive." The words, combining bits of English and other languages, are attempts at explaining the "universal dialectic" that is represented on his home, Hutton says.
Address is obvious
Hutton's Theater of Mankind has attracted curious stares and comments but no complaints until last month. After receiving an anonymous complaint via telephone, city housing inspectors cited Huttton with demands to clear his front porch.
Hutton isn't eager to fight the city. He cites his First Amendment right to free expression, as well as existing laws that protect artwork from being harmed; however it is unclear whether any of those laws apply. In any case, he notes, he can't really afford legal help.
Ideally, Hutton hopes city inspectors will be impressed with his efforts so far. His address is now clearly visible -- in large black numerals on the home. (They sit between the theatrical masks of comedy and tragedy, which Hutton put up while hanging the numbers.)
The old numerals are covered over with artifacts and are unreadable.
Even without the numbers, Hutton laughed that his home is easy to find, being such a stark contrast to the Victorians that dot the quiet neighborhood north of downtown.