The Land Around Us – Appleton Museum

Article and Photos by Louise Caccamise


This month we travel to Ocala in nearby Marion County where the Appleton Museum is located. Designed by Tampa architect Dwight Holmes, the building was based on a sketch made by Arthur Appleton. Construction began in 1984 when the City of Ocala donated 44 acres of land on East Silver Springs Boulevard. In 1987, the building opened to the public, winning the American Institute of Architects Florida Award for Excellence.

In this beautiful setting, Arthur and Martha Appleton have shared their art collection that includes more than 18,000 objects. The permanent collection contains eight different areas; they are Florida Artists, Equine, European, Pre-Columbian, Asian, African, Modern and Contemporary, and Maritime. Each is carefully selected and displayed.

In 1996, a 22,000-square-foot Edith-Marie Appleton Wing was added. In this area, special exhibits are displayed that complement the Appleton’s permanent collection and educate visitors about new art forms. Here also are classrooms, offices and storage space.

Arthur Appleton was born October 14, 1915, in Evanston, Illinois. His parents were concert pianist and singer Lillian Wihk, and Swedish industrialist Arthur Appleton. He developed his love of art from his mother who was a collector of fine art. The family traveled and Arthur bought his own first piece of art at age 17 after having entered Dartmouth College at age 16. He graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration. During World War II, he served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Senior Grade. After his military service, he joined Appleton Electric Company in Chicago, which had been started by his father in 1903, as the need for electrification progressed. He became president in 1947 and remained there until 1982 when the company was sold. He contributed many inventions to the electronics field, acquiring more than 160 patents!

Arthur had many diverse business interests, among them, the Appleton Oil Company in Oklahoma and real estate developments in Illinois and California. He was a prominent figure in the thoroughbred horse world with his 960-acre Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, serving as his headquarters. He received numerous thoroughbred awards.

He married Tulsa, Oklahoma native, Martha O’Driscoll in 1947. She was a former Hollywood movie star, but gave up her career when she married. Arthur and Martha were the parents of four children.

Arthur Appleton’s sister, Edith-Marie, was a co-founder of the Appleton Museum by personally funding the Edith-Marie Appleton Wing at the museum. She was a graduate of Smith College and earned a nursing degree. She worked in the advertising department of the Appleton Electric Company.

Arthur Appleton died at his home at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala on January 15, 2008, at the age of 92. He was survived by his four children, 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Martha Appleton died in 1998 and Edith-Marie in 1999. Their art collection continues to bring pleasure to all who visit Appleton Museum.