Published: August 31, 2021
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
MADISON, CONN. – In many respects, the Antiques Fair benefiting the Madison Historical Society (MHS) never looked better when it returned to the shoreline community’s historic green on August 21.
Sure, the impending arrival of Hurricane Henri late in the day frayed nerves and may have prompted some buyers and sellers to sit it out. But it did little to diminish the pleasure this old-fashioned charmer afforded show-starved antiquers eager for serendipitous encounters with objects and exchanges with fellow enthusiasts.
Overseen by Jennifer Simpson, executive director of the Madison Historical Society, with the help of trustees, staff and volunteers, this 49-year-old favorite is a crowd-pleaser with much to offer and an old-fashioned way of offering it.
“People enjoy coming and finding a treasure, something they didn’t know they needed. The experience is just so tactile,” said Simpson, who marshaled field operations from around 5:30 am until the show’s 4 pm close. Many exhibitors were from Connecticut, but others traveled from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. With public safety in mind, organizers reworked this year’s layout, increasing the width of spaces by ten feet at no extra charge to exhibitors, who paid $65 if they registered prior to July 1 and $85 thereafter.
Country antiques, folk art and primitives predominated, supplemented by architectural artifacts, garden furniture and accessories, nautical accents, vintage textiles and collectibles.
“I love Tasha Tudor,” Dianne Freed of New England Seasons, Rehoboth, Mass., said, gesturing to a stack of books by the beloved writer and illustrator associated with the 1970s New England country revival. Freed’s tablescapes mingled vintage Steiff toys, woodenware and other charming smalls.
Active in the National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors and editors of the Connecticut Dairy, Milk Bottle and Cap Directory, Trish and Peter Manfredi of Domestic Cow Antiques in South Glastonbury, Conn., dazzled with all manner of vintage glass milk bottles and creamers from Connecticut dairies—Cordsten of Ellington, Czikowsky of Lyme, Burr of Clinton and Maplewood Farm of Easton, to name a few. Trish, also an authority on hammered aluminum trays from the 1940s and 1950s, offered a selection of the wares, embellished with assorted botanical motifs such as wheat, pine needles and dogwood blossoms.
“This is my first outdoor show in a while. I started on the Madison green years ago,” William Korzick said happily. The New Haven, Conn., dealer specializes in period furniture in tip-top condition. An old “make-do” bench constructed from an antique oak treadle loom was a highlight.
“I love furniture,” echoed Russell Miller of Miller’s Antiques in Westbrook, Conn. The dealer arranged his favorite Windsor and ladderback chairs around an early wide-board pine door repurposed as a table.
Stephen H. Smith, an Eastford, Conn., cabinetmaker whose fine bench-made furniture has been published by Taunton Press, presented antique furniture he restored. The pieces included a Colonial Revival maple tall-post bed, a Sheraton chest of drawers signed John Sinclear and a New England cherry slant-lid desk of circa 1780-1800.
“Nautical sells well here,” shared Laura Jamra of Madison’s Company J Antiques, who placed a carved and painted gull atop a pretty French desk in cream paint with green details.
“I like old English things,” said a dealer doing business as Louise Interiors of Summit, N.J., directing a visitor to a display of caddies, snuff boxes and the full-length watercolor portrait of an English gentleman with his trusty hound. An ink inscription on the picture’s reverse identified the sitter as Hugh Hammersley, an Eton-educated banker and politician, if Google is to be believed.
Dealer Birdy Damasceno of Bird 1759 Antiques arrayed historic Americana of the Colonial era, with an emphasis on artifacts of the Revolutionary and French and Indian Wars. Highlights included Eighteenth Century silver-mounted flintlock pistols, German Westerwald stoneware and historic documents. Damasceno, a member of the Company of Military Historians, lives in a 1740s saltbox tavern published by Early American Life.
MHS devoted space to historical reenactors, who demonstrated traditional craft techniques and sold examples of their work. The innovation was the initiative of board member and show chair Lyle Cubberly and his wife, Barbara. Reenactors themselves, they travel widely and follow the historical reenactment scene. Visitors enjoyed interacting with Christopher Numssen, a reenactor of Seneca heritage who is an expert in the art and history of the Iroquois and other Woodlands people. Set up nearby were Lynne and Buster White, and Mary and Neil Muckenhoupt. Friends, the Whites and Muckenhoupts enjoy attending French and Indian War programs in upstate New York. They especially love the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, a living history museum in Cape Breton, N.S., and Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts.
A food court on the green’s northeast corner was another welcome feature. “It’s a place to rest and have something to eat,” said Simpson, who located the shady retreat near the MHS information booth, which offered books and details on the MHS documentary project Turning the Tide: Madison and Covid-19. Members of the North Congregational Meeting House, which overlooks the green, supplied homemade baked goods.
The Madison Historical Society’s Antiques Fair on the Green is an intimately scaled outdoor show of uncommon charm and friendly ways. “Some dealers have been with us for quite a long time. We appreciate their support and hope they’ll continue coming back,” Simpson said.
For additional information, www.madisonhistory.org or 203-245-4567.
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