By Christin Ayers

FREMONT (KPIX 5) — A painting hidden under a sheet for years inside a historic East Bay home has turned out to be a treasure worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Mindy Johnson loves a good mystery. “I like puzzles and mysteries, so it was right up my alley,” she told KPIX 5.

It’s one of the reasons why she works as a docent at Fremont’s historic Patterson House, the former home of a prominent family, turned museum.

In January, Johnson and her colleagues stumbled on something rare. “Lifting up the sheet, here was this portrait of this very lovely woman and who is she?” she recalled.

It was as workers at Patterson House were packing away their annual Christmas decorations that they found the painting, in the last place they would have expected.

“It is the classic story. You know, treasure found in the attic,” said Christie Dentry, Patterson House manager.

No one knows how long the painting was sitting in the attic, an elegant 1920s era lady reclining in a chair, hands folded over a white dress, painted by a man named John Koch.

“Go home later, do a Google search and find out he was quite a well-known painter beginning in the mid-30s,” Johnson said.

The painter, they would later discover was of a friend of the Patterson family, Misty May Morgan. It would take a trip to the PBS show “Antiques Roadshow” to find out this may very well be the earliest painting by Koch that experts know of, a very, very valuable painting.

Dentry said, “I remember sitting on my patio and having Mindy call me and picking up the phone. And she said ‘Are you sitting down?’ And I said, ‘No, should I be?’” And she dropped the number, $45 to $50,000.”

It’s a discovery that has Johnson wondering what other secrets Patterson House holds.

“Every time we go up in the attic, it’s like what do you suppose we can find or what might we up here hidden?” Johnson said.

Patterson House belongs to the City of Fremont and now so does the painting. It will be refurbished and put on display for special events there.

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