Geiger’s artwork brings life to Clay County’s rich history

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 5/15/19

PENNEY FARMS – Without even knowing it, Clay County citizens have likely seen Elsbeth Geiger’s art.

Right now, a stroll through the old courthouse, the Clay County courthouse, the Middleburg …

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Geiger’s artwork brings life to Clay County’s rich history

Posted

PENNEY FARMS – Without even knowing it, Clay County citizens have likely seen Elsbeth Geiger’s art.

Right now, a stroll through the old courthouse, the Clay County courthouse, the Middleburg Museum and the North Florida Military Museum would include more than once instance of Geiger’s Clay County-themed art. That’s because for nearly 20 years, 91-year-old Geiger has been documenting Clay County’s most well-known sights and best-kept secrets in the form of acrylic paintings. How she got started doing these paintings though is likely not what one might guess.

“I was asked by the old archivist here to paint a background for something he was working on,” Geiger said. “He was going to do the ferry boat and he asked if I would make the water and the trees, the dock and the old boathouse, and that’s what I did.”

Since that day, Geiger has found herself constantly involved with local Clay County historical efforts. She’s volunteered her time at local museums, the old Clay County jailhouse, the Clay County Archives, the Clay County Agricultural Fair Early Florida Village and more. She’s currently at work creating several presentations for the history of where she lives, Penney Farms, for the Celebrate Clay County History Festival taking place this Saturday.

Her poster boards and framed pieces of history include snippets of newspapers mentioning J.C. Penney, the Wizard of Oz munchkin that called Penney Farms home and more. For her, documenting Clay County’s history gives her meaning.

“I guess I could say it’s given my life, especially these later years, purpose,” Geiger said. “History lives on.”

At the Clay County Courthouse located in Green Cove Springs, Geiger has multiple pieces of her art on display just inside the main entrance including paintings of Keystone Inn, the Magnolia Hotel, the Rideout Ferry and other pieces of Clay County history. With many pictures of these historical landmarks no longer in existence, like the Magnolia Hotel, being in black and white, Geiger’s paintings give new life in the form of a colorful lens to this piece of the county’s history. That’s why she does what she does.

“It’s easy to look over Clay County’s history or even Clay County,” Geiger said. “You might not know it, but Clay County has such a rich history steeped in generations and generations. I’m just fascinated by it and it makes me happy to keep this history alive with my paintings.”

Geiger has a degree in psychology and at one point in her life, taught second grade before working with her husband in his architectural hardware distribution company, so how she arrived to be known as a historical painter is still fascinating and exciting for her. According to Geiger, though, art is something her entire family is good at. Her daughter-in-law paints. Her son used to teach Fine Arts at the University of Virginia. Her grandson recently graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and of course, Geiger herself has a talent for painting.

“There must be something in our genes,” she said.

While Geiger doesn’t paint much anymore due to how busy she is creating history presentations and poster boards for things like the Celebrate Clay County History Festival, she looks back fondly on her time painting Clay County’s history.

“My art is all around the county in places and I’m so happy for that,” Geiger said. “Those are homes for the things I’ve done, and they’ll live long past me.”

Some of Geiger’s favorite paintings can be seen at the Clay County Courthouse until May 24.

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