Published: November 2, 2021
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Kaminski Auctions
DANVERS, MASS. – Frank Kaminski has conducted single-owner auctions for people like Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Mrs Henry Ford and others over the last few years. Add to that list Anthony Athanas. Perhaps some readers may not be quite as familiar with that name as the others, but they don’t come much better known in Massachusetts. Athanas owned four restaurants in the Boston area and one on Cape Cod. Anthony’s Pier 4 on the Boston waterfront, his flagship restaurant, opened in 1963. To say that Athanas was in the restaurant business is like saying Babe Ruth played baseball or Muhammad Ali was a boxer. His restaurants hosted eight presidents including Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton; nearly every well-known Hollywood celebrity, including Elizabeth Taylor (who asked Athanas to send her 12 of her favorite chairs in the restaurant – which he did) and her various husbands, Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock and countless others.
In addition to the eight presidents, Athanas hosted dozens of other politicians, including governors of Massachusetts, senators, mayors of Boston, Catholic church notables including Boston’s Cardinal Cushing, stars of all of Boston’s professional sports teams, including Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, Larry Byrd and dozens of others. Jimmy Carter had a temporary campaign office in one of the private function rooms. Autographed and inscribed photos filled the walls of the restaurants. It was, unquestionably, the place to see and be seen in Boston. (Although Kaminski will be conducting additional sales of the Athanas collection, the photographs, for now, are being retained by the family, according to Athanas’ son, also named Anthony, who now runs the family business.)
Athanas, who came to the United States from Albania at the age of eight in 1938, opened his first restaurant in Lynn, Mass., with $1,800 saved from working in other restaurants. He was its only employee; taking orders and then cooking the food. It grossed $20,000 in the first year. (A 1981 magazine article noted that in 1972, Pier 4 alone grossed $72,000 on Mother’s Day of that year.) Pier 4 was capable of seating 800 diners, including service aboard the Peter Stuyvesant, a 3,500-passenger retired Hudson River Dayline steamboat that had been in service until 1962. Athanas bought the boat, restored it and docked it alongside the restaurant to be used as a cocktail lounge and for private parties. The riverboat was destroyed by a violent storm in 1978 and could not be salvaged. The land upon which the restaurant stood, on Boston’s waterfront, has since been converted to luxury condominiums.
Kaminski’s two-day sale, October 23-24, included decorative accessories and furnishings from the restaurants, along with items from Athanas’ personal collections. There were ship models and other nautical items, dozens of paintings – both European and American – silverplated serving items used for private parties and special events in the restaurants, signage used in Pier 4, oriental rugs, early European furniture and more. The wine cellars of the restaurants were famous, and the second day of this sale sold more than 70 lots of wine, which brought some of the highest prices of the two-day sale. Several of the items in the auction had strong Hollywood associations, having been used on MGM film sets and purchased by Athanas at the 1970 sale of MGM props.
In general, the highest prices realized during the two-day sale were earned by wines, which collectively grossed about $93,000. The Athanas restaurants were known for their wine cellars and bidders responded positively to the offerings. Most of the offerings were in original cases and all had been stored in climate-controlled storage areas in the various restaurants. Leading the selection, and surprising all, were 13 individually boxed bottles of L Garnier Chartreuse liqueur, which brought $11,400. Legend has it that this liqueur was made by Italy’s Carthusian Monks with a secret recipe more closely guarded than the crown jewels.
A case of 12 bottles of 1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Grand Cru sold for $9,300, and a case of 12 bottles of 1982 Chateau Trotanoy Pomerol earned $6,600. The most expensive single bottle was a 750ml bottle of 1979 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, which earned $1,680. Part of the value of this wine derives from the fact that the clay in the Petrus winery is found in no other wine-producing region in the world. A second bottle sold for $1,560. Three bottles of Hennessy Paradis Cognac, each in individual storage cases, reached $2,400. This cognac was created by Maurice Fillioux in 1979. Three magnums of 1990 Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon Champagne Brut went out for $2,640. Kaminski plans to conduct four more auctions from this wine collection, with some to be included in its Thanksgiving Weekend sale.
Appropriately, the first item sold on day one was the “Anthony’s Pier 4” sign, which had been on the podium that greeted arriving diners. It sold for $720 to a buyer in the room. There were approximately 30 buyers in the room and they were quite active, winning several lots. Bidding was also available on internet platforms and by phone. There were also numerous absentee bids.
Also appropriate to the décor of a seafood restaurant were cased ship models, four of which were included in this sale. A 45-inch model of the two-masted Swift flying an American flag realized $2,520. A ship of that name, based in Ipswich, Mass., served as a privateer during the American Revolution. A later replica of that ship was built as a yacht for James Cagney. Another of the ship models was a 58-inch replica of the Cumberland, a 50-gun frigate built in 1842, active in the Civil War and destined to be the first ship sunk by the Confederate ironside CSS Virginia. It sold for $1,800.
There were numerous marine paintings. An 1894 work depicting the sailing ship Lottie Clarkson in rough seas with a steamer and a lighthouse nearby earned $600. A head-on painting of a fully rigged sailing vessel by L. Holm realized $780. Sold individually were four portraits of historic figures, such as Alexander Hamilton and John Hancock, each of which sold for between $500 and $600.
There were the numerous paintings of historical scenes in Boston, Salem and other towns in the region. A painting showing Salem’s historic first town house and other nearby stone and brick buildings sold for $2,040. Another painting of Salem, this one of the 1668 House of Seven Gables, which still stands, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The House of Seven Gables, brought $600. Both of these paintings, which depicted early scenes, were done later. A painting depicting Salem’s common with a horse-drawn carriage, similar to the two above, earned $1,470.
After the sale, Frank Kaminski said that there were plenty of pleasant surprises. “None of us, including the Athanas wine sommelier, expected the 13 bottles of L Garnier Chartreuse to sell for more than $10,000. And some of the other results were very good. Personally, I liked the Boston fireman’s helmet. It was well-worn, dated to the Nineteenth Century and just had a great look. Some of the furniture brought less than it should have but that’s an auction. Our client was happy, we’ve a lot more of their stuff to sell, so we did our job; that’s a good feeling.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, https://www.kaminskiauctions.com/ or 978-927-2223.
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