Published: September 25, 2019
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE, N.Y. – Twenty-six dealers settled into the Antiques Show and Sale at The Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, on September 13-14, alighting visitors with the manmade materials of nature that have been crafted in the area for hundreds of years.
Then as it is now, the area remains a hermitage for quiet. Tucked into the sprawling landscape that gently rises and falls in the warm and gentle grace that only the Adirondack Mountains can provide. The valleys give way to hills, like rounded humps on a camel’s back, hardly ever a barren peak or an imposing ridge in sight. The hills have for centuries provided the materials and the inspiration in the hands of man – giving everything for what they would be called upon to become. The birch trees giving way to the birch bark canoes of the Native Americans, the many animals unwillingly providing their furs to keep the denizens warm, their meat to keep the denizens fed, the lit valleys and waterways that have delighted the senses of humanity for all of time.
And here we come to the precipice of Adirondack material, that which explores the wild and the people who attempted to tame it.
There are still a handful of dealers at the show, who have been with it since the beginning. One of them is Lake Placid, N.Y., dealer David Zabriskie, who this year exhibited a notable child’s Westport Chair. “I’ve only ever heard of one other, never seen one,” Zabriskie said, relating that he bought the chair from the front seat of a dealer’s car as he pulled into the show earlier in the day. The Westport Chair, patented by Harry Bunnell but designed by Thomas Lee, is the very first iteration of an Adirondack chair. Bunnell’s chairs are stamped to the back, and this one was no different, with a second coat of teal green paint worn away in areas to reveal a darker green below.
Another is Tom Comstock, who sells from Comstock Books & Antiques in Saranac Lake, N.Y. Comstock made an early sale to the museum of a sketchbook by artist Cassius “Cash” Marcellus Coolidge, known for his famous scenes of dogs playing poker. In 46 pages, the sketchbook logged Coolidge’s adventures as he and friends embarked on a journey through the Adirondacks.
Yet another was Stephen and Beverly White of White & White Antiques, Skaneateles, N.Y., who brought with them a fabulous 1930 Old Town sailing canoe. “It didn’t start out as a sailing canoe,” Stephen said, “but in the 40s the owners sent it back and had it retrofitted by the manufacturer.” The dealer also featured a New York Wilderness and the Adirondacks map by W.W. Ely MD, circa 1876. Among paintings, White featured an oil painting by British-born but New-York-settled artist William Ongley, featuring a camp on Brant Lake, about 45 miles away from the show.
John Provo and Robert Dodelin again set up together under the extended patio to the side of one of the galleries. A rustic table and chair set was one of the many notables in their booth. It included five chairs and a table with birch bark paneling and applied twig moulding, the backs of the chairs painted with various animals and nature scenes. According to Provo, the chairs were made in the 1930s by a Michigan tavern owner, who originally made them for his own establishment. Folks liked them so much that he started to make and sell them to others.
An early sale by Chris English from the Adirondack Store & Gallery, Lake Placid, N.Y., were two similar paintings by artist E. Crane, depicting trout spilling forth from a creel on its side with a stream in the background, the scene set in the Adirondack Mountains. Though the subject was the same, the paintings were made nearly two decades apart in 1886 and 1903.
Vincent Callahan, Scarsdale, N.Y., brought with him a fine collection of metalwork. Among them was a selection by the late Nineteenth Century German American metalsmith Joseph Heinrichs, who retailed his hammered and molded works at luxury stores, including Black, Starr & Frost; Shreve, Crump & Low and Tiffany & Co. According to Callahan, the hammered copper and applied silver works on exhibit were made for the Adirondack and Catskills Mountains market, many of them selling to luxury camps in the areas.
Adirondack ephemera holds a dear place in the hearts of many buyers to the show, judging by the packed booth at Pastime Antiques & Collectibles, Central Square, N.Y., headed by Jeanne Pierce. The dealer featured postcards and photographs from nearly every lake and county within the New York Adirondacks, providing a true-to-life visual of earlier days in the mountains. Their ephemera also included photographs of the early Mountain Houses, which were some of the most opulent vacation destinations in the Northeast in their days.
It was a first time at the show for Plymouth, Mass., dealer Village Braider Antiques. The front of the dealer’s booth featured a full rig of decoys by Seymour Putt Smith, and there was no splitting it up, though some buyers tried. They were in original paint and working condition, and the dealer had got them from a picker who brought them up out of a basement in Massachusetts. The dealer also featured a fabulous tramp art dining set with six chairs and a table, as well as art and stone and cast sculpture.
Judy and James Milne, Kingston, N.Y., featured a collection of Adirondack doll furniture, including miniature twig chairs and benches, hickory chairs, a bentwood rocking chair and more. They had all came from the same collection in Long Island, N.Y. The dealers also featured a pair of geese carved by Stacey Bryanton, circa 1950.
Across the antiques industry, remorseful conversations are commonplace when comparing today’s marketplace with earlier times. This show is no different, and while it’s not the same event it was reported to be 15 years ago, find us five that are. It is still a worthy candidate of support. The niche is small, the dealers are limited, and it seems they, like the material they offer, prefer the wild. Lay a trap and bait it with incentives, get some of the long-lost dealers back – it needs only to look a week earlier at the bustling Rustic Furniture Fair or 15 minutes down the road to the well-attended show on Route 28.
For information, 518-352-7311 or https://www.theadkx.org/exhibitions-events/specialevents/antiques-show-and-sale/.
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