Published: September 17, 2019
Review and Photos by Greg Smith, W.A. Demers, Madelia Hickman Ring and Tom O’Hara
BRIMFIELD, MASS. – For one week three times each year, this town of approximately 4,000 residents swells with the influx of thousands of shoppers attending the largest outdoor antiques show in New England. Brimfield Week takes over for six days in May, July and September. Collectively, Brimfield marked its 60th year this year, having got its start in 1959 under the pioneer show-wrangling by Gordon Reid, who sought to expand his Auction Acres business with a handful of like-minded dealers.
Brimfield markets with early morning openings may have been somewhat affected by an outbreak of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health deemed “critical” in Brimfield and several other Massachusetts towns just before the Labor Day weekend. Health officials had recommended that outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when the mosquitos that transmit the virus are most active, be suspended, hampering early morning trading activity but not deterring Brimfield’s devoted crowds who simply showed up en masse a little later in the day.
As shoppers and exhibitors formed in a departing caravan along Route 20 for the final time in this season, they no doubt mentally were marking mid-May 2020 on their calendar. On these pages, we review the wonderful mélange of people and items that populated the fields of the September edition.
Rehobeth, Del., dealer/artist Adam Henderson was featuring some of his original sculptures on top of his normal inventory of modern design. “I have been doing modern for so many years,” Henderson said, “and I would always see things, aspects of designs, and I would say, ‘Why don’t they do this or that?’ I painted all my life and one day the light bulb went on with sculpture. I like this more. Sculpture really opens the doors of what you can do outside of two-dimensional painting.” Henderson’s works speak to balance, incorporating carved and painted wood, bent wire, enameled metal and twine in some cases.
Bill Kelly, Limington, Maine, was accompanied by his friend River, a Catahoula Leopard dog. An exhibitor had a dog only a few spots up from Kelly and the two were trading sporadic barks early on Tuesday morning before the show opened. Kelly featured a nice selection of Americana, including painted boxes and chests of all sizes, baskets, daguerreotypes and paintings.
An impressive collection of large painted bowls was on offer from Derik Pulito, Kensington, Conn. The dealer also featured a stenciled general store paper bag holder in original paint and dating to 1860-70 from the Hudson Valley. Right behind was a double pocket poplar wallbox in old blue paint with cutout sides, 18 inches high.
Yorktown Heights, N.Y., dealer John Gould was “blowing out” antique frames, as he said he was reducing his inventory. “We’ve been selling them quite a bit since the markdowns,” he said. Gould also featured a painted steel sculpture by American artist David Hayes as well as an antique running horse weathervane.
It was Danny Davis’ last show at Brimfield this year after exhibiting for many years. The Florida dealer is retiring and had reduced prices on much of his inventory. At the front of his booth was a full-body skeleton of a Vietnamese potbelly pig, along with brass neoclassical sconces, skulls made of various materials and apothecary jars.
Falmouth, Mass., dealer Oliver Garland featured a unique burlwood carved head, thought to depict an African American, with shell eyes, inset teeth and the natural burl forming afro-textured hair on top. The artist used a void in the burlwood in the cheek of the figure to give the image of the skull beneath.
Dealer Matt Greig, Milton, Del., was showing off his bottle collection, which included an English seal bottle for All Saints Common Room, circa 1800; a clear ribbed flask from the same date; and a GI-121 Columbia Eagle flask, circa 1840, from the American Mid-Atlantic.
The family of late antiques dealer Justin Cobb, who ran Captain’s Quarters, Amherst, Mass., is carrying on the name of the business and will continue to do shows, including this one each year. Among scrimshaw and sailor macramé works, the dealership featured a nice painting on baleen bone work featuring the schooner Cameo signed Hope Gorham Clark and dated 1916.
It was a quiet traipse through Midway on Tuesday following the show’s opening. Many of the dealers had mixed inventory – the field a combination of Oriental rugs and vintage kitchen collectibles to fine art and Native American material – but all are loyal to the location of the field and the constant stream of folks who meander through.
Dealer Bob Ross of Ross Bros, Florence, Mass., was in his usual tent at the foot of the road. The dealer featured a John Rushton paddling canoe, circa 1900, with a nice crackle finish and star decorations at the stern and bow on both sides.
Also in that tent was David Erickson of Erickson’s Antique Stoves, Inc, Littleton, Mass., who featured a Palace gas parlor stove with mica viewing windows on three sides. The example was circa 1905 and had an automatic thermometer on the back.
Behind in the field was John Lincourt, Warwick, R.I., who featured collectible vintage bottles and glasses, vintage Bakelite utensils, old beer and soda cans with good color, advertising and branded pieces, vintage cameras, toys and more.
Mumtaz Khan of Hindu Kush International Inc, featured a wonderful selection of rugs for all tastes, including new, vintage and antique examples. A Heriz with a bright blue border was on top of his stack and a number of people stopped to ask about it while this reporter stood outside the tent.
In spot 56 was Gingerz Oddz, run by Phil and Marissa. Among their selection of Black Forest clocks, advertising, fine art and exhibition posters was a two-tiered display of American stoneware, ranging from butter churns to crocks, jugs, jars and bottles.
New England Motel
New England Motel field manager, John Doldoorian, noticed the EEE-virus outbreak had some impact on his field, which opens at 6 am daily. “When I drove in on Tuesday, the crowds were very thin but by 10 am the streets were buzzing. The crowds were excellent, the attendance phenomenal and the weekend crowds rivaled what we usually see in May. It was a great show, I want to thank all of my dealers, we look forward to seeing them every show.”
First-time dealers, Village Uncommon, hail from Istanbul, Turkey, but with a presence in Portland, Maine, and had a colorful booth stocked with Oriental rugs that were popular with buyers. Ami and Murat Umal said they had a great show and would be back in the spring.
Prominently at the front of New England Motel is Abbieland Antiques, from Round Top, Texas. Danny Tytenicz, who has been doing Brimfield for 26 years, was joined by show novitiate Scott Wilson from Wylie, Texas. “This is the best buying Brimfield in a long time,” said Tytenicz, who says he buys “the crazy and unusual stuff.” He showed off a set of S&A Haddad flatware set with bird-form handles made from buffalo horn, coral, onyx, turquoise, silver and gold.
Vintage Bakelite, beads and accessories, as well as Fiestaware, was in vibrant plentiful display with Yrena Edwards, who owns Art from the Attic, Arlington, Mass. More Bakelite jewelry could be found in an aisle over at the booth of D. Brett Benson, Inc, of West Palm Beach, Fla. Manning the booth for Benson was Kevin Quidley, who said he has been doing Brimfield since 2011. The booth specialized in vintage custom jewelry, dating broadly from 1900 to the mid 1980s with an emphasis on pieces from the 1930s-70s.
For those seeking a large piece of raw wood or a block of stone to support a mailbox or other post support need look no further than a booth with a sign reading, simply, “Big Old Wood ‘n More” in one corner and Cider & Stone of Sutton, Mass., directly across the back aisle.
Have a flatware set that is missing a few pieces? Maria Stanton of Long Beach, N.Y., had endless flat boxes of numerous patterns.
This reporter crossed paths with some happy, longtime readers of Antiques and The Arts Weekly. Once such reader was Mike Richards, Worcester, Mass., who said his dad started reading this paper more than 30 years ago. When asked how the show had been for him, Richards said his big sale was some Midcentury Modern furniture on opening day.
It is possible that Lone Ranger Antiques, Hollywood, Fla., is one of the few dealers at Brimfield specializing in Swedish antiques. Tall painted clocks, case furniture and chairs in muted shades of cream and light blue filled a large tent billowing with colorful rugs.
Mary Maguire’s contemporary pictures of ships and animals, as well as Southeast Asian figures, have a fresh, bold look and offer antique style with contemporary prices. The Old Lyme, Conn., dealer has been doing Brimfield “for a long time, always at New England Motel.” When asked how the show had been for them, Maguire’s associate, Timmy Dowling said, “It’s been great, very busy.”
“It’s been a fantastic show,” proclaimed Knollwood Antique’s Richard La Vigne. “John Doldoorian and his family have gone out of their way to accommodate the needs of all of us.” A Brimfield veteran since 2012, La Vigne has been doing New England Motel for three years. The Village of Thorndike, Mass., dealer said he had had movers already remove 22 pieces, but had brought in additional pieces to fill in the gaps.
The pavilions are a great place to find more fragile or weather-adverse objects, like porcelains, vintage clothing or Asian works of art. Wenham, Mass., dealer Kathy Tarr of Victorian Rose Antiques had a rainbow of Shelley porcelain and said, “We’ve been lucky, the show has been very good.” On the other side of the pavilion, Layton Smith was busy with his booth, Sweet Memories Antiques, full of furs, Toby jugs and snuff boxes, among many others. Smith said he has 14 locations, from Winter Park, Fla., to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. James Kent, proprietor of Vine of Time Antiques, had an extensive selection of Wedgwood, vaseline glass, Van Briggle, Roseville, millefiori paperweights, salts and snuff boxes. Like many dealers, he was having a good show.
Tiffany, Roseville and Quezel were some of the notable makers represented in the booth of Todd Clements, Clements Antiques of NH. The Sanbornton, N.H., dealer had been exhibiting at Brimfield since the early 1980s but has been showing at New England Motel since 2007.
Inside her show office just before the 9 am opening of the Heart-O-The-Mart antiques show on September 4, Pam Moriarity said she was looking for a good September show, the last for the 2019 season. Nearing the harvest season, the pace of the shows in general is more contemplative, less frenetic than the May season opener. So is it slower? Yes, but buying is steady as shoppers work their way through the field.
A dealer in a good position to gauge the show’s energy is Phillip J. Rondina II, owner of Newport, R.I.-based Artifacts, whose collection of architectural salvage antiques has a prime spot near the field’s entrance. “It was a great show,” said Rondina, “although the crowds did seem a little smaller than in the past fall shows. I had several other dealers mention that also.” Still, Rondina did experience a feeding frenzy over a large trove of rare 1850s-60s New York Fire Brick & Clay Works ornamental brick molds that his firm had retrieved fresh from the original family’s basement in Brooklyn, N.Y. They were sculptural and compelling, and designers snapped them up. “We sold all the brick molds we brought, and I had so many people take pictures of them and wanted to hear the story of how we obtained them. Just about everyone who stopped at my booth remarked how unusual and interesting they were. In fact, I had several interior designers that had bought them come back later in the day to buy more.”
Also snapping up choice antiques on the field was auctioneer Rafael Osona, fresh from his successful $1.4 million Americana, fine art and marine auction in August. With a pair of porters in tow, he was seen at several dealer spaces acquiring merchandise that you might see at his next auction.
Traditional antiques could be found at Antiques Revival of Big Flats, N.Y., Michael Watts deals in vintage lighting, antique furniture and Oriental rugs, and rather than refinishing or restoring, he chooses to preserve pieces so they glow with original patina. That was the case here with a grouping that included a French boulle cabinet, circa 1870s, surmounted with a French rouge marble and parcel-gilt figural sculpture of the god Mercury, flanked on either side by Twentieth Century Chinese export urns.
Thomas Longacre and his wife Beverly, Marlborough, N.H., were offering a trove of antiques they had recently acquired from a home in Keene, N.H., owned by a couple ages 98 and 88. “Look at this wonderful sap bucket!,” said Tom, holding up the wooden container whose condition was as pristine as its size was large. There were several pieces of Nineteenth Century stoneware with stamped lettering from a Keene manufacturer, one mysteriously incised “2 2 2,” perhaps referring to its 2-gallon capacity.
Among the show’s first-time dealers were Gayle and John Flippin of Hinsdale, Mass. Their collection consisted mainly of vintage Christmas dÃ©cor, beer steins and small items that appeal to special collecting passions. Gayle also sells on the Etsy online marketplace under the name BerkshireShopGirl. “It was our first time selling at Brimfield, and it was quite an experience,” said Gayle afterwards. “We made friends with our sellers, who were all very helpful and welcomed us to their community at Brimfield. We felt like we had found ‘our people,’ The best part was becoming part of the community of people that understand us and our quest to find the next great vintage items and the buyers who were so happy to find that perfect piece! We hope to be back in May and experience the May show.”
Two things happened at noon on Wednesday – the bell was rung at Hertan’s, signaling the opening of the last paid show of the day, and dark clouds began to ominously fill up what until then had been a sunny sky.
When field owner David Lamberto rings the bell to start the selling, this woodsy enclave quickly comes alive with commerce, shoppers wending through the market and dealers lifting up the sides of their tents to reveal merchandise.
Items ranged from a matched set of vintage luggage that Steve and Judy Ball of Horsefeathers Antiques, Shawnee Mission, Kan., had brought, to antique fire helmets, leather buckets and other firefighting items of yore shown by Joe Baczewski, Southington, Conn., himself a fireman for 31 years. The luggage, which could have been made anytime in the 1930s-50s by Wheary Luggage Company, based in Racine, Wisc., had a tag inside that read: “Wheary – The Name to Remember in Luggage.” The firefighting material shown by Baczewski is just the tip of the iceberg of his prodigious personal collection.
Columbus, Ohio, dealer Tom Delach filled a table with items from the Jim Hirsheimer collection, a well-known and respected antiques dealer in design-oriented Americana. Gathered together here was a large Gabriel angel weathervane, a set of early celluloid football player figures, perhaps a children’s premium item, and whimsical mechanical figures. On another table, Delach showed a Maine pictorial Penobscot fishing creel.
“Uncle Ed” Fitzgerald gives new life to abandoned bits of period furniture and architectural salvage. His Worcester, Mass., business is called The Furniture Cobbler, and that is precisely what he does by taking the body, for example, of an antique lift top blanket chest and marrying it to a beefy pair of legs from an old kitchen table to create a shabby chic storage piece for one’s wine collection. He does all of this by hand using old wood, sometimes restoring pieces to their original glory, sometimes creating a wholly new, custom-designed item like one example he had on view – a repurposed American folk art cabinet that was once the housing for an early radio.
At about 5 pm, the skies opened up and delivered torrential misery. Dodging the thunderstorm, though, was Hudson, N.Y., dealer Robin Greeson who calls her business Equator. “I had a great show. I’ve been going to Brimfield for 40 years. So good to see old friends and meet new ones – the best.” Among Greeson’s sales were “many Navajo rugs, and I did well with my old Navajo jewelry and Haitian sequin flags.”
May’s Antique Market
Great weather and no early buying combined this year to create the perfect combination at May’s Antique Market, which was open September 5-7. The crowds lined up along Route 20 were plentiful but cheerful and sprinting across the field when the gate opened at 9 am.
“We had a very good show,” Martha May said, “crowds are staying and buying. Our attendance was comparable to the May show and an upturn for September, historically. Overall, everyone was happy, they were pleased that we had perfect weather. I have to base a lot of it on the weather…we were very, very fortunate.” May confirmed she had a few new dealers and explained that she was seeing a bit more Midcentury Modern material on the field but that the field was still strong in Americana and traditional antiques. When asked if there would be changes for the future, May said they would be reformatting the field before the spring edition to the benefit of all the dealers.
One of the busiest booths on the field was that of Monkton, Md., dealer Fred T. Parks, who occupies an easily found red tent on the main aisle. Parks, who specializes in late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century decorative arts, has been doing Brimfield for 30 years and May’s for the last 20, saying he thinks May’s is “the most sophisticated field in terms of clientele and dealers. Park said he had a “fantastic” show, selling 63 pieces of 200 he had brought to the show. When asked about specific sales, he said he had sold a pair of Art Deco stands for $450 to a buyer who had been “absolutely delighted,” as well as two Argy-Rousseau Pat Devere pendants. “No matter how long I’ve done Brimfield, I still get giddy butterflies as it gets closer. Like a little kid going to Disney World. I used to do 20 shows a year; I’ve dropped all my shows, but I will never drop Brimfield. I live for Brimfield.”
Kevin Garvey Rita, Garvey Rita Art & Antiques, said of the fields he does – Dealer’s Choice, Heart-O-The-Mart and May’s, that May’s is usually the best field for him. He had several people in his booth looking at a “Dufy”-esque painting that he had bought on the field.
One of the more interesting pieces of furniture on the field was a “captured ball” armchair with Horsefeathers Antiques, Shawnee Mission, Kan. Steve Ball said the chair had been made by BS Sturtevant of Willoughby, Ohio, in 1912.
“Wow” was this reporter’s immediate reaction to a pair of heavily carved Renaissance Revival armchairs with Laurie Bagley of Saco, Maine. The throne-like chairs – one slightly smaller than the other – had come from a Kennebunkport, Maine, estate.
A faithful reader of Antiques and The Arts Weekly was George Jagg. The Holyoke, Mass., dealer had a booth of nice things, including a yellow pedal car priced at $495 and a ship shadowbox picture for which Jagg was asking $6,500.
For colorful advertising signs, one need not look any further than Shaun Higgins of Beverly, Mass. He had spread his signs out on the grass and was busy talking with potential buyers early in the show. May’s is the only field he does.
If you think Brimfield only has a local reach, think again. Mary Jane Jamrogowicz from Enfield, Conn., sold three pedal cars to a buyer from Holland. She has been doing Brimfield for eight years, May’s in May and September, Dealer’s Choice in July.
Brimfield “is different every time but always fun and we always meet nice people,” was how Brian Whittaker, New England Diamond and Jewelry Buyers of Newton, Mass., described the show. Brian, along with Diane Whittaker and Dave Alpert have been doing Brimfield for four years, Dealer’s Choice on Tuesday, May’s and Brimfield Auction Acres on Friday and Saturday. Whittaker said Dealer’s Choice had been “great” this year.
The lure of the barn find is what appeals and drives so many in this business. Perched aboard a 1903 August Kern barber’s chair was Derry, N.H., dealer, Kevin Denaro, who had found the chair in a barn in Worcester, Mass. He explained that the chair, which had all of its original parts, had been dismantled, and he had to search the barn to find all the parts so he could reassemble it.
Radios, cameras, military surplus, musical instruments and Halloween masks were among some of the eclectic offerings with Ron Miller of New Hartford, Conn. Miller was situated near the front of the field, next to Glass & Son Collectibles of Brookfield, Mass., which specializes in collectibles, militaria, toys and advertising. Both were near Sturbridge, Mass., auctioneer David Straight, D.L. Straight Auctioneers, who had a booth of things scheduled for an upcoming sale.
Most booths at Brimfield are tables set on the grass. Finished booths are few and far between, and one of the best examples of that could be found on the main aisle in the booth occupied by Chelsea Hill Antiques of Hampton, Conn. Thomas Nagy pointed out several important items, including two pieces of antiquities and a carved and painted figure of the Madonna with child that he said was about 1,000 years old.
Brimfield Auction Acres
Kathy and Rusty Corriveau are now seasoned professionals on this field, Brimfield Auction Acres, with the completion of their third year and celebration of the 60th anniversary of Brimfield. They are the owners of the original site where it all started under the watchful eyes and guidance of Gordon Reid in 1959. At the September 6 installment, all seemed to be having great fun as the weather was cooperating that day. Such had not been the case on every day during the week, and this field was filled with more exhibitors than it has had in many recent Septembers. Many exhibiting dealers and shoppers said the buildup may have been due to the “Pop-Up Market” the Corriveaus have been conducting on Tuesday, which seems to bring more enthusiasm to their field.
Whatever the reason, there was a good crowd of anxious shoppers at the 8 am starting bell on Friday, and they came running up the hill.
Among the first exhibitor they saw was Frank Conroy with Tables.com. His business is to find old materials, salvage them and remake them into tables with an industrial style. As a popular item today, they sell well.
Advertising from the last 100 years and toys were nearby. Among the biggest pieces were several of those large round Coke signs that used to grace the fronts of diners and neighborhood restaurants for the last century. These were offered by Todd Shamock from nearby Meriden, Conn.
Sue Fogg has been coming to the show for many years from Charlton, N.Y., with a large assortment of household items from the Nineteenth Century. Her antiques are sufficient to complete the accessorizing of an American home of about 1850: transferware dishes, Persian rugs, textiles and a few coverlets and quilts, flatware and silver, small wooden accessories and household tools.
Quilts and coverlets are a principal focus for Patricia Ann Breame of Woodstock, Maine. She also has a collection of small toys and accessories to offer from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.
Neal Blodgett of Higganum [Conn.] House Antiques once said that he believed he had more than 100,000 pieces in his show inventory, and it is unlikely anyone would doubt the count. What is even more interesting, is the diversity of the collection: inkwells; fishing bobbers and reels; weathervanes; painted cast iron door stops by the dozen; fountain pens and much more.
Lisa Titcomb, Woodbury, Conn., was showing her early New England blanket chest in red milk paint. Her booth partner, Glenn Allard, Roxbury, Conn., had an Eighteenth Century hutch with glass top doors in wonderful design.
Show dates for Brimfield’s 2020 season are May 12-17, July 14-19 and September 8-13. For additional information, contact the individual fields’ management or www.brimfield.com/field-maps.
E-Tent Dealers Celebrate The Life Of Nancy Wells
On September 3 at 5 pm, Heart-O-The-Mart dealers who exhibit on the field’s E-Tent gathered to celebrate the life of fellow dealer Nancy Wells Withington, who passed away in Collins, N.Y., August 17 with family at her side. She led a full life while dealing with cancer for decades.
There were both reminiscences and refreshments shared among the 75 or so participants who gathered in and around the E-Tent, where she had faithfully exhibited with many of them for the past 25 years. As part of the remembrance event, sky lanterns, small hot air balloons made out of paper, were released and lofted into the evening air.
Nancy was born March 7, 1951, to the late Roger and Janice Becker Wells. She grew up in Collins, graduating from Gowanda Central High School and received a BA in drama and music from George Washington University. She took pride in earning a law degree from the University of Maine Law School in 2003 despite a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer during her third year.
Nancy first held several writing jobs, including editor of a Washington, DC, tourism magazine and as a Buffalo Evening News reporter. However, the family avocations of antique collecting and book selling that she had participated in as a child soon became her life’s work. She also was a solo dealer for some years before, forming Withington-Wells Antiques, York, Maine, with her then husband Bob Withington. They participated in large regional shows, including the Philadelphia Antiques Show, the Pier Show and Heart of Country. She eventually returned to solo business, especially enjoying the camaraderie of the Brimfield shows. Nancy was especially knowledgeable in the decorative arts and continental antiques. Later in life she ran estate sales and was a capable appraiser.
Nancy is survived by her sister Virginia “Ginger” Wells-Kay and her husband Robert of Belmont, N.H., along with aunts, uncles, cousins and many loving and dedicated friends in the antiques dealer community.
Funeral services were conducted on August 28 in Gowanda, handled by the Schindler Funeral Home and followed by burial in the Maplewood Cemetery, Springville, N.Y.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Wentworth Douglass Foundation Seacoast Cancer Center Wentworth Douglass Hospital, 789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820 or to the New Hampshire SPCA, PO Box 196, 104 Portsmouth Avenue, Stratham, NH 03885.
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