Visiting the Maynard Dixon cabin is like walking into a Maynard Dixon painting.
For the last seven years of his life, Maynard and his wife, muralist Edith Hamlin, summered and painted in the log-and-stone cabin they built in Mount Carmel, Utah, immersed in the Western landscape he so loved. He asked to be buried on a high bluff above their cabin.
“Edith said burying him there was the best tribute she could give him, because people could come there and see all the things he loved to paint,” remembers Susan Bingham, who has lovingly restored the cabin with her husband, Paul.
Born in California in 1875, Maynard became infatuated with the Western landscape on a trip to Arizona and New Mexico Territories in 1900 and spent the next 46 years producing what many consider some of the greatest paintings of the West. His winter home was in Tucson, Arizona Territory, where today’s Maynard Dixon Museum contains original oils, watercolors, drawings and poetry.
The Binghams long hankered to own the Utah cabin, even though they’d only seen it when peeking over a fence. They were art dealers who focused on Maynard’s work, and they also knew Edith, so they made an open-ended offer to then-owner California watercolorist Milford Zornes: “If you ever sell, give us a call.”
The call came in 1998, while Paul, ironically, was selling a Maynard painting.
“When we got up here and took a good look, we saw it needed a lot of work,” Susan says of the cabin.
But thankfully, besides updating the kitchen and adding a back garage, Zornes hadn’t made many changes. To the Binghams’ delight, the home came with some original furniture and Dixon artifacts—Maynard’s “main chair,” the Dixons’ bed, bunkhouse furniture and dining table—along with Maynard’s easel, books and things he and Edith had picked up over the years, including an Indian blanket.
The Binghams decided to clean, stabilize and repair the historical features of the house so they could share it with the public. They formed the Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts and turned the home into a “living history museum,” opening it for public tours and artist retreats and workshops. Since 2014, they’ve sponsored the “Maynard Dixon Country Camp Out” for artists to show their work and give art demonstrations.
In 2001, the cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also won a Preservation Utah (formerly Utah Heritage Foundation) restoration award. “This place spoke to Maynard Dixon. And for most people who come, it speaks to them too,” Susan says.
As Maynard himself once said, “If doubtful of your work, return to nature and renew your vision.”
Jana Bommersbach has earned recognition as Arizona’s Journalist of the Year and won an Emmy and two Lifetime Achievement Awards. She cowrote the Emmy-winning Outrageous Arizona and has written two true crime books, a children’s book and the historical novel Cattle Kate.