Harold Garrison

plate 1. Near-kitschy — but always impressive — murals covered entire walls, an endearing reminder of past generations, past times, even past meals. Here, Garrison’s art features a vast still-life. Oranges, asters, grapes, feathers and a delicately rendered Old World sculpture stand watch over diners.

Riverside Inn: The Eclectic Art of Howard Garrison

by Joshua Heston

For 86 years, the Riverside Inn was an institution for the community of Ozark, Missouri. A sprawling structure along the flowing waters of the Finley River, the Riverside Inn — though part of the National Historic Registeer — was bulldozed in early 2010. Now a barren field, only a spreading magnolia and row of black gum trees remind travelers of this one-of-a-kind inn.

Harold Garrison

plate 2. Riverside Inn entrance.

Harold Garrison

plate 3. Framed by a now-weedy field and colorful hardwoods along the Finley River, this magnolia also may be seen above, embracing the original Inn entrance. The now-closed Riverside Bridge may be seen at right.

Harold Garrison

plate 4. Dim lights and highly polished green and gray linoleum tiles create the setting for twinkling white lights and extraordinary original art. Owner Howard Garrison decorated the Inn with hundreds of original pieces — some in frames, some simply adorning walls and ceilings.

Harold Garrison

plate 5. The main dining room — starched linens, fine crystal, vinyl-covered chairs and a cement-block fireplace erupting in hand-painted watermelons. Mirrors, screens and curtains gave the impression of never-ending rooms.

Harold Garrison

plate 6. Magnolia provided a powerful theme, offset here by the rounded architectural arch of 1920’s construction and riotous curtain reminiscent of the Swinging Sixties. Time spent within the Riverside Inn was a paean to 20th century art. It was easy to believe one had woken up within a sureal kaleidoscope of sorts.

Harold Garrison

plate 7. Dime-store tile compete with Egyptian-style curtains — all that separated the dining room from the kitchen. Close observation reveals water damage in the corner. The Riverside Inn was flooded inumerable times by the nearby Finley.

Harold Garrison

plate 8. A cool still-life of pears gave the room an almost-Russian quality especially when set against a surprisingly simple white plaster wall.

Harold Garrison

plate 9. Likely only Garrison understoon the true meaning of this piece — commentary on segregation? A tall, thin African-American man hands a doll to four white girls while a German shepherd stares through the window.

Harold Garrison

plate 10. A sloping hall separates sections of the Riverside. At left, paneling and stone concealed the original speakeasy.

Harold Garrison

plate 11. Riotous tulips decorate one wall suggesting springtime — innocence. At right, warm harvest colors and twining grapes give a bacchanalian feel. Live orchids reflect above the fireplace.

Harold Garrison

plate 12. The afternoon sun sets through vintage glass one last time.

Harold Garrison

plate 13. Along the north section of the Riverside Inn, several dining halls were arrayed in the continued grape-and-harvest theme, here contrasted with pure whites and stained glass in alternating blue and green.

Harold Garrison

plate 14. Once outside, the sense of kaleidoscope-fantasy dissolved. Weathered paneling and oft-painted cement could not conceal a building sadly in need of repair.

Harold Garrison

plate 15. Rotting wood and peeling paint speak of decades of flood. The Riverside Inn was, ultimately, deemed a liability to the county and destroyed. A piece of Ozark history irrevocably lost — remembered now only in photos.

Harold Garrison

plate 16. The entrance magnolia, alight with a cold afternoon sun of early winter.

Harold Garrison

plate 17. The light of a dying sun signals the end of the Riverside Inn and Howard Garrison’s eclectic art forever.

November 24, 2012

Howard Garrison’ Riverside Inn: State of the Ozarks

Photo credits: J. Heston. Plates 1, 3—17: 11/19/09; Plate 2: 10/21/12 State of the Ozarks © Archive.

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