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John Lamb, Published June 24 2012

Second of three O'Rourke estate sales set Thursday through Saturday

MOORHEAD – Round two of the James O’Rourke estate sale offers more antiques, fineries, oddities and most interestingly, a glimpse into the creative – albeit cluttered – mind of one of Fargo-Moorhead’s great collectors.

The second stage of the sale starts at 10 a.m. Thursday at O’Rourke’s home at 316 5th St. S., Moorhead.

O’Rourke, who founded and directed the Rourke Art Museum and Gallery, died in the house after a fall in 2011 at the age of 77.

Since last November, Chuck Marx of Marx Estate & Household Sales LLC, has been working to organize, categorize, research and prepare O’Rourke’s vast collection of objects for sale.

Proceeds from the sale go to the Rourke Art Museum and Gallery.

“He collected so many different things,” Marx says, still in wonderment over everything that was packed into the Victorian house. He says he loaded up five Dumpsters with trash before he could even start organizing.

“If you could see this place when we first started,” Marx exclaims. “It looked like a tornado hit it.”

While the first sale, in April, was limited to just a small area in the back of the house, this sale opens up the entire main floor so sale-goers get a better feel for the depth of O’Rourke’s acquisitions. This sale includes many larger furniture items than the first, including a gothic buffet, an oak curio cabinet with curved glass and claw feet, a number of creative chairs, a Victorian velvet love seat and more.

In the dining room, table and chairs are offered, as is a set of dishes with the late artist’s name on them.

Across the dining room in a hutch is an even more impressive collection – a table setting designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo – price tag $325. On a nearby table stands a 19th-century Persian samovar (large tea maker) and cup with a Russian tray.

On the wall hangs a table cloth bought at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago for $20. Now it’s selling for $225.

In the adjacent living room a Charles LeMoine bronze lion ($3,000) looks over stylized furniture Rourke patrons may remember from the Gallery’s Gold Room.

Across the room stands a wood-cased Orthophonic Victrola phonograph ($950). Above it hangs a 1963 O’Rourke abstract painting ($600) Marx’s wife, Deanna, salvaged from the old Townhouse Motel when it was renovated.

There are a few pieces of art left in the house, but most were taken to the museum and cataloged after O’Rourke’s death.

A nearby ornate gold mirror and matching gold table with marble top are the priciest items at this sale, listed at $4,000.

Marx says some of the late museum director’s 1,500 books (still only a fraction of what remains upstairs) will be the lowest priced at $1, though at least one title is listed at more than $900.

In the library hangs a chandelier from a church, decorated with the 12 disciples around it. Marx says that item was one of the really unique finds in his eyes.

O’Rourke himself had an eye for light, with a selection of lamps including a Tiffany-inspired piece. In a walk-through O’Rourke installed a backless cabinet over a window, allowing natural light to illuminate glass vessels. Above, he hung stained glass windows as light fixtures in the ceiling.

“He just never quit thinking how he could improve things,” says John Rowell, the representative of the O’Rourke estate and former president of the museum’s board of directors.

The back room holds a number of stained glass windows, including one big piece from the old Churches United building. The colorful windows range from $100 to $1,000. That back room – the same used in the April auction – again holds the widest array of items, from Indian artifacts, such as a stone knife ($450), to a methodically cataloged box of postcards organized by location, to another box of military decorations including epaulets.“This place is full of treasures,” Rowell explains as Marx shows off more and more interesting items.

Rowell asks Marx if he discovered any monogrammed martini glasses and Marx confirms the find.

“A number of those are mine,” Rowell chimes, recalling how O’Rourke had personalized martini glasses for certain close friends.

Later Rowell gets enthusiastic over a number of other items, and Marx asks if he’ll be buying them.

“I don’t want to end up like Jim with a house full of stuff,” Rowell says.

Marx says the third sale will be held in August and focus on the upstairs, which includes an elaborate roll-top desk and a six-foot buffet still up in the attic. In the basement sits a printing press waiting to be sold.

The August sale will also include a number of architectural items, Marx says.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533