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Mansfield Bascom, cofounder of Wharton Esherick Museum, has died at 96

Mr. Bascom devoted half a century to preserving Esherick's built legacy.

Mansfield Bascom
Mansfield BascomRead moreWharton Esherick Museum

Mansfield Bascom, 96, cofounder of the Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern, died Monday, Oct. 26, of natural causes at his home — a converted workshop designed by Louis Kahn and Wharton Esherick on the grounds of the museum, according to Paul Eisenhauer, executor of his estate and a former executive director and curator at the museum.

Mr. Bascom, universally known as Bob, was trained as an architect and engineer, but for the past half century he devoted himself to the museum, which he founded with his wife, Ruth Esherick, daughter of the famed sculptor and icon of the Studio Crafts Movement. She died in 2015.

Mr. Bascom first met the artist in 1960 and fell in love with his work, which stretched from wood carving to furniture design, sculpture, and architecture. In fact, Wharton Esherick spent 40 years building and designing his studio and other structures in an eclectic mixture of styles.

Following Esherick’s death in 1970, Mr. Bascom and his wife embarked on the project that would consume the rest of their lives: making the Esherick studio and other structures on wooded Horse Shoe Trail into a museum open to the public.

The museum opened in 1972. Within a year, the studio was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1993, the museum was designated a National Historic Landmark for Architecture.

Mr. Bascom was first director of the museum and then curator before retiring in 2007. Ruth Esherick Bascom served as president until 1990.

“Bob was fiercely protective of the museum and never stopped thinking about its future,” Julie Siglin, executive director, wrote on the museum’s website. “He didn’t bother with plans for the coming year, he planned for the next 100 years. Even our last conversation in his final days started with his thoughts on a museum facilities project.”

Mr. Bascom was born and raised in Bronxville, N.Y., and attended New York University School of Architecture. When the school closed, he switched to structural engineering. He subsequently received graduate degrees in both architecture and structural engineering from Yale University.

Mr. Bascom first worked in commercial construction in New York City, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. After a first marriage ended in divorce, he married Ruth Esherick in 1962. Within a decade they moved to Paoli and began their life’s effort of stewarding her father’s built legacy. In 2010, following retirement, Mr. Bascom published a biography of Esherick, Wharton Esherick: The Journey of a Creative Mind.

He is survived by a daughter, Halsey Tear of Kerrville, Texas.