Published: April 16, 2019
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
DANIELSON, CONN. – Country antiques hunters and gatherers lined up here eagerly in advance of the 9 am early buying opening for Country Antiques in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, a 55-dealer fair that had its 28th annual spring edition at the H.H. Ellis Technical High School on March 30.
Jan Praytor, the show’s founder and manager, had arrived much earlier, around sunrise, to make sure this well-oiled exemplar of teamwork and commerce was ready for its close-up. She has plenty of help, about 25 or more students who assist dealers with load-in, arranging tables and half walls within three main areas in the modernist school building. The show is the school’s biggest fundraiser for the Ellis Tech Parent Faculty Organization (PFO). Funds raised are used to offset costs of incentives, enrichment activities, sports uniforms, field trips, senior awards and activities, and participation in state and national competitions.
People come here to shop and they are not just local – from Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and beyond, they come looking for primitive New England furniture and accessories and country fare. There is plenty of stoneware, redware, early glass, iron, primitive lighting, hooked rugs, samplers, quilts, baskets, trade signs and game boards. At the head of the queue for the 9 am early buying preview were well-known faces – New Jersey’s Terri and Steve Tushingham, collector Scott Cook and restoration materials supplier Rudy Rzeznikiewicz from nearby Brooklyn, Conn. Traffic was heavy in the morning hours and continued steady throughout the day.
“This year, attendance was the best ever with upwards of 700 customers,” Praytor reported after the show. “And the customers are serious. They come early and stay late, often taking a break to enjoy our famous grilled chicken salads and sandwiches, delicious soups and homemade desserts. It’s a true labor of love by our entire Ellis Tech community. And it takes the whole school community, plus the great dealers, customers and local businesses to pull it off.”
Praytor started the show 28 years ago with as she said, “big dreams, donated materials and a ton of hard work.” The venue has gone through many changes over the years. It started in the gym and cafeteria of an older, rather run-down school building. “Then, as we approached the long anticipated renovation, we were given access to a huge aircraft hangar for a few years, which was awesome,” said Praytor. “Finally in 2014 we were able to use the lovely, bright, fully renovated facility we have today.”
Praytor manages an army of volunteer helpers. “Everyone contributes in some way,” she explained. “Our carpentry, electrical and plumbing department students construct the booths. Staff, parents and students donate ingredients and their time to paint booths, prepare and serve the lunch, sell tickets and direct traffic. The student volunteers who act as porters get rave reviews every year as the most skillful, courteous, friendly and careful porters around.”
All this volunteer help makes it easy for the dealers, according to Paul and Karen Wendhiser from Ellington, Conn. “Load-in and pack-out went well,” said the couple. “The porters are excellent. We used them for the first time for load out, and they were so friendly, careful, polite and eager to work. What a great group of students!”
“We had a good show, it’s always fun and affordable,” said Kris Casucci, co-owner with husband Paul of Walker Homestead in Brookfield, Mass. “Our most notable sale was a late Eighteenth Century Manhattan, N.Y., stoneware jug with cobalt slip highlighted, incised drape-and-tassel pattern and marked ‘Corlears Hook’ from the Commeraw pottery. We also sold a wonderful, ‘right-as-rain’ 35-inch hutch table in original surface.” Casucci added that the Danielson show is always a favorite, close to home and a bit like “Old Home Week.”
Cassuci and fellow promoter Christina Hummel move farther afield to Berlin, Ohio, and fans of early country antiques and primitive goods follow them to the Simple Goods show, conducted on April 27 this year at Heritage Community Center amid rural Amish settings.
The Wendhisers were set up just inside the entrance to the school’s multipurpose room with highlights that included a mid- to late Nineteenth Century black and white checker board with an unusual flanking slide-top box checkers holder. It was apparently owned by Cyrus C. Weymouth, who wrote his name on the back of the game. Research by the Wendhisers turned up a Cyrus C. Weymouth listed in the 1880 Lewiston, Maine, directory, occupation: laborer. Another recent find by the dealers was a pair of brass andirons made by Barnabas Edmands between 1799 and 1819. The Charleston, Mass., metalsmith was apparently a man of many talents, for after 1819 he devoted the next 30 years or so to making stoneware. The 18-inch-high andirons with cabriole legs and circular shaft topped by steeple finials with acorn tips were featured in this year’s January/February issue of Early American Life. “The Danielson show is known for country Americana, and the customers that come are specifically looking to buy it,” said Karen Wendhiser. “I sold the important brass andirons made by Barnabas Edmands. We also sold a Northeast Native American hand decorated wall pocket basket, several pieces of wrought iron, a New England paint-decorated wall plate rack, ironstone and other American country smalls.”
In the same room, Tommy Thompson of Pembroke, N.H., set up a folky swing stand, small oval stool that supported three weathered finials, a wild birch broom out of New England and a set of four wooden nesting containers, among other items.
Mary Lou and Carl Peterson of Sherman Alden Antiques in East Falmouth, Mass., are large item dealers. They filled a space in the hallway leading to the upper foyer with sizeable items like a step back cupboard, circa 1810-15, with a great skirt and original red surface. Also, from the oldest house in Athens, N.Y., a lighthouse keeper’s home at the three-mile point on the Hudson River, was a large shoe foot hutch table, circa 1700, with matching chip carved detail on the base and battens. “As is typical of large item dealers, it doesn’t take many sales for a successful show. This was no exception,” said Carl afterwards. “Highlight for us was our sale of our historic hutch table to a great couple who plan on using it every day.” The Petersons were also pleased with the early morning sale of the step back cupboard.
Charlie Guinipero, Pantry Box Antiques, anchors a large corner space on the show’s lower foyer level, filling it with all manner of stuffed animals, stoneware, toys and some smaller pieces of furniture. It is also redolent with aromas of rosemary and Russian sage, thanks to the small pots of the herbs that he offers along with his merchandise. The Stafford Springs, Conn., dealer said, “The crowd was amazing. I was busy all day long and even sold a piece after closing. I sold a Charlestown, Mass., double heart jug and a Benton and Stewart ovoid jug from Hartford. I sold an early Steiff teddy bear as well as a jointed early Steiff squirrel to someone who drove three hours from New York.” Guinipero said he sold a lot of smalls – ten small Steiff animals, as well as two shelves and lots of bird and plant books. “Received a phone call at 2:45 from customers that had been to the show asking if I had sold two pieces of furniture. They went home to measure to see if they would fit in their home. I had to deliver them on my way home from the show,” he said.
It was great to see Barbara and Charlie Adams back at the show after missing it last year because of Charlie’s health issues. “That show is a real winner for country furniture and accessories,” said Barbara. “The gate is always very large every year and their loyal followers are there in full force and ready to buy! The gate includes many younger people, which is very encouraging. The school is very cooperative and the porters are just wonderful and many appear to be interested in antiques.”
The show was very good for the South Yarmouth, Mass., dealers. “Among our sales was a country tea table, bucket bench, paintings, a Shaker piece, baskets, a few nautical items and a few early books,” said Barbara.
“For some reason, we seem to be selling a lot of bookends,” North Granby, Conn., dealer Steve German of Mad River Antiques said, gesturing to a small collection that included a pair of Twentieth Century globes, Twentieth Century eagles and more. And Lorraine German was doing brisk business with some of her own handicraft – mini South African pineapples that she finds at Stop & Shop during the months of February and March only. She dries them and then studs them with cloves, making for an aromatic small. “We really enjoyed doing the Danielson show – we’ve been doing it since we started doing shows in 2002 and think it’s one of the best country shows around,” said Lorraine. “There was a steady flow of customers throughout the morning and we sold a variety of things – mostly country-oriented smalls.”
The Germans are encouraging stoneware enthusiasts to attend the May 3 and 4 Stoneware Collectors spring show and sale in Bennington, Vt. The program includes a field trip on Friday through Bennington to see the old pottery sites, some of the kaolin and ocher deposits, and the Norton and Fenton homestead.
For additional information, www.countryantiqueshow.com or 860-774-8511.
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