Earlier today, I was strolling through the house making notes for the site’s interpretation and as I did so, I thought back to the very first time I set foot inside Villa Finale: I was in awe at the size of the collection. While many objects caught my eye back then, I see things differently now that I know more about Walter Mathis, the man behind it all.
Knowing more about Mr. Mathis’s life, his likes and dislikes, brings everything to life inside Villa Finale. A mirror becomes a rescued treasure discovered in war-ravaged France, an admiration that began in youth and carried into adulthood is represented in Napoleon memorabilia, and a set of silver is a treasured family heirloom. Picture if you will looking at a snapshot of a stranger: is it not more meaningful when you know who the person is? So it is when you look at the Mathis collection.
I’m very grateful to Lorie Rombro, the Collections Project Manager at Villa Finale who spent time with Mr. Mathis, and who has been kind enough to take time out of her busy day to share her experiences with me. Hearing such personal experiences has helped keep me on the right track as I work towards interpreting this most unique site. What has become very clear is this: to many, Villa Finale may seem like a house full of “stuff” but to Walter Mathis, it was home.