The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In. This is an edited version of an essay by one of my English 100 students at Fullerton College.
The Great Loss by Nataly Palma
Norton Simon carries a renowned name as he not only created a million dollar business (Hunt Foods), but he also had a keen eye for art. With his grand wealth, he accumulated one of the most impressive private collections in the world. Works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Degas, and other masters grace the walls of his collection's permanent home, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. As one enters the doors, viewers are greeted by a vast collection of Degas' famous ballerina sculptures and Rodin's The Burghers of Calais. It's hard to imagine the collection in any other city, but if not for the short-sightedness of City Council, Fullerton would have been the home of Simon's priceless collection.
Norton Simon's roots were deeply embedded in Fullerton, CA when early on in his life he invested in the Hunt Foods Company and turned it into a successful business based in Fullerton. For many years, Simon (a resident of Fullerton) displayed his multi-million dollar collection in the Hunt offices, placing Rodin sculptures outside on the lawn, and hanging Van Gogh's in the Hunt Branch Library on Commonwealth, which he gifted to the city of Fullerton.
But Simon needed a permanent home for his prized possessions, and the obvious choice was Fullerton. He offered the city a start-up gift of half a million dollars in 1964, asking in return that the city provide the land and security.
But the City Council argued that they could not afford the security guard.
Simon's offered, as a location for the Museum, the Hunt Branch library, which he had already gifted to city. He also planned to purchase several houses on the same street, to make room for the Museum. But the City Council did not approve the project.
After two years of waiting for the City to approve his project, Simon took the hint, and took his collection elsewhere, to Pasadena, though Fullerton had clearly been his first choice.