Published: August 6, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Greg Smith, Additional Photos Courtesy Nathan Auctions & Real Estate
MANCHESTER VILLAGE, VT. – There are gardens, and there are gardens. The kind with rough marble masonry divides that separate the landscape into outdoor rooms, manicured rows growing with abstract and exotic flower designs, a reflecting pool with fountains on each end, marble pagodas and armillary spheres placed about, an orchard just off the side and the sun shining approvingly above. An Italianate garden. That was the kind of garden that Eric Nathan of Nathan Auction and Real Estate guided his bidders through on the second day of an onsite sale at Glebelands, the 28-acre estate of Diana Morgan Olcott (1918-2018) found within the heart of Manchester Village. The property features a circa-1900 Colonial 4-bedroom house, multiple outbuildings, two ponds, a waterfall, private trails and enough contents to run through 450 lots before the uncataloged portion even began.
“It’s an oasis, really,” Eric Nathan said before the auction, speaking about the listing he represents, which is now on the market for sale. The property sidles up along a main road in the town’s center, the tree-lined driveway cutting through the woods where it ends at the top of a hill and the home, shielding its very presence.
Diana Olcott was a former president of the Hopewell Garden Club and the Garden Club of Princeton, co-president of the Garden Club of Manchester and a member of the Bennington Garden Club. She was a director of the Garden Club of America and was known to lecture on the topic and to judge competitions.
Her estate represented a lifetime of collecting and inheritance among a bloodline that descended in the Colonial era from three Royal Governors and again found prominence in the age of American industry. Her husband’s family, the Olcotts, were the owners of the famed Hudson River Day Line, which operated from the 1860s through the 1940s. The steamboat company was one of the largest transportation companies in New England at that time, carrying passengers between New York City and Albany, with stops in between.
Even before her husband, Diana Olcott was born with a taste for aesthetics. Her father, professor Sherley Warner Morgan, was the director of the Princeton University School of Architecture. Her grandfather was Lowell Mason Palmer of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Stamford, Conn., the latter his summer estate called “Edgewood” or “Fernwood,” where he had a large botanic garden stretching over 100 acres. It was here, no doubt, which laid the foundation for Olcott’s love of horticulture, and it was here as well where some of the lots in the garden hailed from.
At the turn of the Twentieth Century, with wealth in hand, Olcott’s family was apt to travel to Europe on “grand tours” and to bring back the beautiful objects they found. While American furniture could be found in the house, there was a distinct presence of Continental taste: KPM plaques, dore mantel clocks, Villeroy and Boch porcelain, French brass cheval mirrors and more.
“Stuff like this,” Nathan said. “If you’re paying attention – this is what you’re looking for.”
The first day of the sale was dedicated to the contents of the house, and it was a good day, Nathan said, as the auctioneer reached his estimate early.
Among furniture, a George IV mahogany triple pedestal dining table went out at $3,565. At the same price was an ornate brass French cheval mirror with a two-light candelabra on each side. A tall mahogany carved bedstead with canopy top would go on to bring $4,600. A European hanging wall clock with side finials featuring trumpeting angels focused on the central finial featuring Atlas, a Dutch country scene painted above the face, went out at $546.
Accessories were a hot commodity. A bronze dore mantel clock with a pair of gold washed candelabra went out at $2,300. A Nantucket basket with a whaling scene tablet, circa 1971, by Jose Formoso Reyes sold at $3,450. A handpainted KPM portrait cameo vase, 12½ inches high, went out at $3,335. A pair of four-arm silver candelabras brought $1,600, while a 9½-inch diameter Louis Comfort Tiffany Favrile bowl would sell for $805.
Fine art produced a number of highlights throughout the day, including a $4,485 result for a Jay Hall Connaway (American, 1893-1970) oil on Masonite measuring 18 by 24 inches. The work featured an artist along the edge of a bluff as ocean waves crashed against it, spraying white foam through the air. Right behind at $4,140 was a suggestive Antonio Casanova Y Estorach (Spanish, 1847-1896) oil on canvas painting, 15 by 19½ inches, titled “The Flirtation – Two Monks and a Young Girl,” where the expressions on the monks’ faces told the story. From Italian American artist Luigi Lucioni came a forest landscape, 19 by 15 inches, that brought $3,565.
The second day began with about 50 or so lots from the house before it moved into the garden auction; followed by the sale of two of the estate’s originally owned, vintage cars; and finally the uncataloged portion, which spilled out from the four-bay garage.
The cars included a 1968 Chrysler 300 convertible that was all original and purchased new by Olcott. It had every piece of paper that ever came with it and even a case of 8-tracks to listen to. It sold for $16,100. The family station wagon, a 1989 Oldsmobile “woody” went out at $2,300.
It was a rather perfect day to take a stroll through Olcott’s garden, and certainly cooler than the previous day, which saw heat indexes rise above 100 degrees. Eric Nathan led the pack of bidders, first through the orchard to where the cast iron garden furniture was grouped together under the apple trees. He sold them in sets of five to eight pieces, selling in the $200 to $600 range for the most part.
And then it was through the gates and into the garden, where the first lots to sell were two JW Fiske signed deer, a doe and a buck. The doe sold for $1,035 and the buck for $1,725. Nathan then swung around to a site with an armillary sphere on a marble plinth, $1,725, and a clam shell fountain pool, $230.
The pack, a mix of collectors, friends and family of the Olcotts, locals and dealers seemed to be enjoying themselves. Sun hats were flopping in step, linen shirts were unbuttoned, sunglasses everywhere. The warmth of the sun above didn’t seem to phase the group. Some followed the auctioneer closely, others walked away when their eye caught something interesting.
The crowd moved through the divides to a tri-column marble pedestal with a bronze sundial atop, which showed good age but needed restoration to a crack through one of the columns. Still, the piece went out at $2,415. A six-post rotunda was next, with a conical wrought iron top and tassels that sold for $4,600, the highest price of any lot in the garden. A near-life-size cast statue of a lady with fan that stood watch in the rotunda would bring $1,380.
Smaller lots around the fringe of the property, cast benches, iron elements and marble urns, were found and sold where they were and had always been.
At the bottom of the garden and looking over the reflecting pool was another rotunda with statue inside. The six-column rotunda with a scrolled wrought iron cupola appeared to have some replacements and went for $3,450. The statue inside, a carved stone woman in a pensive pose holding a wreath of flowers and standing on a wreathed column, went out at $1,725.
The last two lots of the garden were perhaps the best pieces there. A stone bench with bronze panel inserts featuring Adam and Eve went out at $2,530. The underbidder, who had purchased a number of works in the garden, lamented that he had spent his limit already. The bench sold to a dealer on the phone. The last lot was a marble sculpture of a small boy on a carved column signed by Nineteenth Century French artist Henri Dasson. A bidder in the pack picked it up for $3,335.
The two-day sale finished well over estimate for Nathan, who related his satisfaction with the results. And while the house is cleared and the floors are swept, Glebelands and its gardens remain available for the right buyer.
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.nathanre.com or 802-362-3194.
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