As you pass along a main street in the border town of Douglas, you see a sign in a window: “The Last Supper.” You assume it’s telling you that this is the last time you will eat in Douglas or maybe that it’s the last time you will want to eat in Douglas. But neither is the case. It refers to the Biblical Last Supper when Christ and the twelve apostles dined together. Behind the window is an array of paintings and sculptures – 2,500 altogether – that depict that last gathering before the next day’s crucifixion and the birth of Christianity. The event is portrayed in astonishing variety by artists, plain and grand, from all over the world.
What is all this doing in dusty, sleepy Douglas? It was a momentary impulse, says collector Eric Braverman: “My gift to Douglas and the border, which get a bad rap.” True enough since so much attention is focused on drugs and immigration. This is a diversion and then some. Get your mind on the eternal. It was also an impulse – an epiphany – that started the collection in the first place. As a youngster, Braverman saw a life-like model of the Last Supper and couldn’t get it out of his mind – for decades as it turned out. Today he gets daily offers to add to his collection. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply.
He’s not religious but there’s nothing unseemly or satirical about any of the works on hand. They are all properly devout in their own special ways. There’s a hint of motivation. Jewish himself, Braverman notes with a touch of pride that the figures in the depictions are Jewish about to abet the astounding creation of Christianity here on display in Douglas.
This is one of two main attractions in the town, a reason to make a perfectly safe trip there. Right across the street is the Gadsden Hotel, which looks as if it belongs In Venice. Within is an Italian marble staircase fit for a king or at least for famed guerrilla fighter Pancho Villa, who is said to have ridden his horse part way up. On either side are soaring marble columns reaching a ceiling of spectacular stained glass depicting desert scenes beyond. No one has to go to Europe to experience Old World Beauty.
What is it doing in Douglas? It was built in 1907 during the copper mining boom that brought wealth, fame and some notoriety to the town. Who says we can’t be as good as the snooty Europeans? The Gadsden Hotel will show them, and indeed it does. A series of managements has been struggling to be worthy of the beautiful building they occupy. Gadsden remains an awkward standout in a town of many empty buildings with little sign of renewal. A former Gadsden owner, Anel Lopez, says that can soon change. Out-of-state investors are showing an interest in the area and buying property. Now Parks and Recreation Manager, she and others are fashioning a tourist route that links Douglas with other nearby towns of western vintage and color that can spark a revival. There will be more to Douglas than even Gadsden and The Last Supper.