Longtime collector to sell off unique selection of art, antiques, theater memorabilia in Moorhead

Former NDSU Theater director Don Larew pulls out a recording with Agnes Moorhead from his collection of items up for sale in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD — When Don Larew joined the theater department at North Dakota State University in 1969, the prop department was almost nonexistent. Years of bad management and wastefulness left him with few set pieces for shows.

“When I got to NDSU, virtually my whole living room was on stage,” he says with a smile.

His living room, dining room, study and basically his whole house are on display again this weekend as the once-avid collector hosts quite a unique estate sale.

Larew is parting with pieces of theater ephemera, art, quilts, history and antiques in a two-day sale located at 1206 Center Ave., Moorhead.


Don Larew talks about some of his music collection he has put up for sale. David Samson / The Forum

Sale organizer Ingrid Olson of Detailed Home Solutions planned on having the sale in Larew’s south Moorhead home before he moves to Fargo, but a quick turn of the Moorhead house meant scrambling to find a new place. Her hairdresser offered her empty Moorhead storefront and Larew’s possessions were moved in.

“It looked so amazing in his house,” she says. “This will really be a sale for the art people. The vintage people, the antique people.”

Larew says the sale reflects 60 years of collecting for him. While he estimates he’s parting with two-thirds of his home, he adds that it’s the second culling, following a sale when he moved from his large house on historic Eighth Street South in Fargo.

“One finds you can do well with less,” he says with a smile.

Don Larew shows a classic recording featuring Orson Welles. David Samson / The Forum

His collections reflect his undergraduate studies in architecture and interior design as well as his graduate theater studies. He taught in the NDSU theater department for 40 years before retiring in 2009.


Larew’s collection of theatrical interest goes back to Alfred Arvold, who started NDSU’s Little Country Theatre in 1914, as Larew bought pieces from the family estate, including paintings by his Broadway set designing son, Mason.

Don Larew points out some of the theater production posters, including this one featuring an illustration by Steve Stark. David Samson / The Forum

A pile of posters illustrates the history of the school’s theater productions going back to the 1970s, including one for “Beggar’s Opera” designed by local artist Steve Stark. Another promotes a run of “Sweet Charity,” and Larew explains how at the time the school collaborated with Fargo-Moorhead Ballet’s Eddie and Kathy Gasper and how Eddie was famed Broadway director Bob Fosse’s right-hand man on productions of the show.

While he’s already donated hundreds of historic theatrical vinyl records to an archive on the East Coast, he still has hundreds to sell, including recordings by Orson Welles. He pulls out a copy of “Don Juan in Hell,” featuring Charles Boyer, Charles Laughton, Cedrtic Hardwicke and Agnes Moorehead, and explains how the stars brought a touring production to the old Festival Hall in the 1950s.

Some pieces aren’t as historically significant but were still aesthetically pleasing to Larew, who still designs sets, including Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre’s current production of “Noises Off.”

The estate sale of Don Larew will features bits of local theater history as well as a collection of local art and quilts. David Samson / The Forum


He points to a stained glass window he designed for his former Eighth Street home and another bought from local stained glass maker Michael Orchard. Around the corner is a new beveled glass door, something he bought with a project in mind but never got around to using.

A docent at the Plains Art Museum, his interest in the visual arts is on display. Pieces by local artists are scattered throughout the storefront, with a number of prints by James O’Rourke, as well as Donna Chalimonczyk, Barbara Nagle and David Norstad, who he met when the latter was a student at NDSU.

There is also a selection of quilts, some by local artists like Kim Baird.

Coming from three generations of quilters, from his great-grandmother on down to his mother, he took an interest in fabric arts, including a piece by Juliet Hanratty from one of The Spirit Room’s Crow Shows.

A quilt embroidery titled "Crazy Crow" by Juliet Hanratty is one of the items for sale from Don Larew's collection. David Samson / The Forum

None of his family quilts are for sale and only a few heirlooms are available, including a storage trunk from his grandparents and a dresser made by his mother’s cousin.

“It’s nice, but I just don’t have room for it in my new place,” Larew says.


In addition to being a family historian and the NDSU theater archivist, he’s also a history enthusiast and is parting with a small selection of his Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, excitedly noting that the Great Emancipator came from LaRue County, Ky.

Other items were simply appealing when he acquired them. He points to a tea kettle designed by Michael Graves, known locally for his 1978 design of the Fargo-Moorhead Cultural Center Bridge.

“It’s handsome, but I don’t drink tea. What do I need it for?” he asks.

If you go

What: Don Larew living estate sale

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8

Where: 1206 Center Ave., Moorhead

Info: Tickets will be handed out in order of arrival before 9 a.m. Saturday to control crowds. All remaining items are half off on Sunday. After 2 p.m., prices are negotiable;

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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