This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A winsome, glorious goddess is once again welcoming visitors to Salt Lake City's McCune mansion after being lost for more than 90 years.
The woman is the centerpiece of an intricate leaded art-glass window, part of the mansion's original 1901 decor. The window was last documented in the mansion in 1917, before mysteriously disappearing only to surface at an art auction in April.
"Wouldn't it be great if that woman could tell us where she's been the last 90 years," said Philip McCarthey, whose family now owns the historic mansion.
Business tycoon Alfred McCune built the mansion for his wife, Elizabeth, and filled it with sculptures, paintings and other art. The McCunes moved to Los Angeles in 1920, leaving the home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the expectation that the church president would make it his home. Around that time, the glass window went missing.
Legend has it that LDS president Heber J. Grant thought the house was too fancy to be called home, and so the church converted it to a music school and later offices. Later, the McCartheys purchased the mansion, restored it and converted it into a reception center.
In April, the McCartheys received a tip that the window was up for auction in Los Angeles. Until that point, the family hadn't realized the window was even missing, Philip McCarthey said.
"Somehow, they wanted it to be back where it belonged," McCarthey said. "It was just meant to be."
The family paid $14,000 for the window at auction, and the property's general manager, Shawn Fletcher, drove it home in a U-Haul truck. The auction house had offered to ship it, Fletcher said, but he was worried about damage. He spent three hours wrapping it in bubble wrap and cardboard, and the glass arrived in Salt Lake City for restoration.
"We've got other glass in here, and you can see it fits in with the other pieces," Fletcher said.
The window now faces the front of the mansion, welcoming guests with open arms. She stands on a globe, with a crown of sunlight like the Statue of Liberty illuminating her hand-painted features. Fletcher and McCarthey are unsure who she represents, which adds to the air of mystery.
"McCune had five daughters. Is it one of them? Did she take the window?" McCarthey said.
Could the McCunes have taken the window with them? Or did LDS Church officials think the woman's bared breast was unsuitable for a church-owned building?
The window raises several questions, which McCarthey and Fletcher hope can be answered by people who have seen the window through the last 90 years. Until they learn more, the window will continue to add an air of mystery in the historic home.
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Mystery of old key
The McCune mansion has another mystery that manager Shawn Fletcher is hoping someone can help him solve. Fletcher recently received an antique key, along with an anonymous note saying the sender stole the key from the McCune ballroom when studying dance at the mansion in the 1940s. Fletcher hopes the note's author will contact him and share their memories of the mansion. He promises to keep the person's name confidential. Call 801-531-8866 if you have information.