The lost Japanese treasures of Kidd Springs Park

The famous torii at Miyajima
The famous torii at Miyajima: Photo via Wikimedia Commons

An Oak Cliff artist is shining a light on the Japanese garden at Kidd Springs Park, including irreplaceable ancient treasures presumably lost, destroyed or stolen.

The garden, on the backside of the park’s pond, features a 10-foot-tall, 2-ton granite lantern originally sent from the Japanese Empire to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933. Two 18th-Century stone Buddhas in the park came from the collection of George Turner Marsh of San Francisco, whose collection was the basis for the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park.

We know this because Oak Cliff-based artist Cynthia Mulcahy researched the park’s treasures via oral histories as well as municipal archives in Dallas, San Francisco and New York. She and the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs are planning a musical event to celebrate the garden on Sunday, Oct. 25.

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Mulcahy found that the pieces were collected in the 1920s and ’30s by oil heiress Ethel Buell of Muskogee, Okla. Oak Cliff residents Dr. and Mrs. Jack Edwards, with donations from the city and private citizens, bought the Japanese works of art in 1966 from Buell’s daughter, Betty Buell Bradstreet. The daughter sold them “for an unusually low sum” because she wanted the collection to be kept together.

The Japanese garden at Kidd Springs was dedicated in 1971. Also known to be part of the collection but now missing are an Edo Period temple bell from 1773 and a torii gate and bridge based on those in Miyajima and Nikko, created by Japanese craftsmen for Buell’s garden around 1928.

What happened to them is a mystery, Mulcahy says. They could’ve been stolen, damaged by fire, deteriorated, or possibly, put in storage somewhere and forgotten.

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The free Oct. 25 event, from 5-7 p.m., will include performances from Mariachi Jalisciense and Japanese taiko drumming group Dallas Kiyari Daiko.

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