Monday, March 5, 2012

White Rock Lake Weekly: Potters helps luminous Texas landmark shine brighter

After nearly 80 years, Richard Potter of Potter Art Metal Studios will restore the historic ornamental light fixtures his grandfather created for Woodrow Wilson High School when it first opened in the late 1920s. Potter's grandfather originally created 40 unique pieces out of bronze, copper and brass – a project valued at approximately $4,000. Today, the cost of refinishing and rebuilding the antique light fixtures is approximately $101,500. 

A significant job lies ahead for this White Rock Lake area resident as Potter works to restore all 40 pieces that date back to the 20s. Of these 40 historic fixtures, he will have to recreate seven of them completely because they have been broken or stolen. It will take three highly skilled ironworkers a total of 160 hours to rebuild just one lantern from scratch, and the entire project is expected to take six months.

For four generations spanning 90 years, the Potter family has been the inspiration of the finest metal artisans in the Southwest. Today, Richard Potter carries on the legacy left to him by his grandfather, who opened the business in 1920 when his lantern-making hobby outgrew his backyard and led him to design many recognizable iron and bronze designs throughout the city. Potter has continued the family tradition at Potter Art Metal Studios, designing and building hand-wrought artistic metal products in iron, bronze, brass and aluminum, using techniques and processes that many consider to be “lost arts.” In fact, his three 20-something triplets now have a hand in the business, learning the craft of their great-grandfather. These traditional methods allow the fabrication of one-of-a-kind, beautiful and authentic representations of styles gone past, like those historic fixtures that adorn Woodrow.

Potter is known for having a big heart for Dallas history. On more than one occasion he has donated his services to fix the ironwork and lighting around the city, all in an effort to help retain the city’s beautiful architecture and charm. In addition to the restoration for Woodrow, Potter’s team is completing a similar project for J. L. Long Middle School, however there currently is no budget for restoring some pieces in the auditorium. It is estimated that $50,000 needs to be raised, or the historic fixtures will be replaced with basic functional lighting and a piece of East Dallas history will be lost forever. Potter currently is involved in getting a formal fund set up to collect contributions, which would save the fixtures. 

For now it’s “lights out” at Woodrow, but soon Richard will turn the lights back on, re-igniting Woodrow’s legacy as a luminous Texas landmark that holds a place in the hearts of many Woodrow alum as well as the East Dallas community. Only time will tell if J. L. Long’s historic fixtures will be restored.

by Shelby Menczer
1st week of March 2012
Read more: White Rock Lake Weekly - Potters helps luminous Texas landmark shine brighter