It took William H. Hutton four years to create a house-sized collage of cheap paintings, sculptures and other oddities. It took just three days for it to come down.
Hundreds of people lined up early last Friday to get mementos from the faade of the late poet's once-dazzling home at 124 E. Espanola St., north of downtown.
Wasson High School drama students Josh Wilson, 17, and Jared Walden, 16, took time off from class to claim the golden-hued masks of comedy and tragedy that oversaw what Hutton called his "Theatre of Mankind."
"It's sad to see it go," Wilson said. "We came because this is the last chance to see it."
Hutton died at 78 on June 21 of a heart aneurism, which he suffered while hanging an item on his house. The collection began with a 25-cent wooden decoy duck and became a complex and colorful representation of literary allusions and myths that Hutton took pride in explaining to passersby.
Down came the picture of a snow owl, the painting of a calm country town, the drawing of a boy kissing a doe-eyed girl and the print of sophisticated ladies gossiping over tea.
"The symbolism of it is beautiful," said Will Stoller-Lee, a neighbor who occasionally chatted with Hutton.
He complimented Stuart Scott, Hutton's nephew and only known living kin, on the decision to give the items away for free on a first-come, first-served basis from Friday through Sunday.
Inside the house, Rebecca Nohe, an estate seller, sold 5,000 books on subjects from literature to astronomy, as well as magic tricks, polished silver and some 200 suits and ties. Also sold was a Relax-A-Cizer, an electronic muscle relaxer consisting of pink knobs, wires and pads in a metal box that Hutton purchased in 1959.
It all was worth $25,000 to $35,000, Nohe estimated.
Perhaps the most valuable items were contained in a large, weathered trunk: an assortment of Hutton's unpublished short stories, poems and other works, including a 452-page novel dated 1966 and titled Equator.
None of those were for sale. Instead, Scott gave them to Hutton's closest known friend, Roberta Coulter, who lives a few blocks away. Coulter said she'd like to see some of the works published, but added that for now, "I'm probably just going to read through the lot of it."
Scott, who lives in Arlington, Va., had posters of the house made as mementos, and sold them for $10 each.
"He did what he could to preserve his uncle's memory," Nohe said of Scott.
-- Michael de Yoanna