The drawings included a strikingly detailed portrait of the exterior of the very house in which the hoard was discovered. There was also a series of smaller sketches on what appeared to be an envelope. At the top left, emblazoned in capital letters, was a return address for the Los Angeles-based Western Auto Supply Company.
“The work itself was really on point for the time period and the location,” Mr. Folwell said.
The Castle family moved into the house at the end of 1931, and Castle lived there until he died. It was originally a one-room farm structure, before several additions were made in the ensuing decades.
Ms. Reichert said that the 11 sketches were difficult to date because Castle would often hold onto materials for long periods, but that they were most likely made between 1930 and 1950.
The collection was sent to Castle’s estate, which authenticated it and immediately gave it back to the city as a gift, along with 50 other works. The estate valued the recently discovered drawings at a total of $75,000, and said that all 61 drawings included in the gift were worth $1.1 million.
Although the discovery may have been unexpected for the city, it didn’t surprise Castle’s estate. His pieces have been found all over the property for years, according to Jacqueline Crist, the managing partner of the James Castle Collection and Archive, who added that news of the most recent find was met with a shrug by Castle’s family members.
“Castle hid his work in unusual spaces,” Ms. Crist said. “He would bundle his drawings up on rafters. He’d hide them under foundations of a barn.”
The only question is why. No one is completely sure.
“I guess we’ll never know,” Ms. Crist said. “We can only assume that these were things that were precious to him.”