Published: March 1, 2017
CONWAY, MASS. — Most everyone in the antiques trade knows Jan and John Maggs, dealers in early English furniture, paintings, period jewelry and decorative arts. They are fixtures in antiques shows up and down the Eastern seaboard and operate a robust online marketplace for the merchandise. Now, just as the Western Massachusetts landscape in the towns of Goshen and Conway have been altered following a category one tornado that touched down with a vengeance on February 25, the Maggses’ livelihood has also been changed — but, thankfully, their lives were spared.
The tornado touched down in several places in Conway (population 1,900). Winds were clocked at 80-110 miles per hour. Although no one was injured and there was no loss of life, thousands of trees were downed, roads were blocked and the Conway Congregational Church and more than six residences were severely damaged. Since then, town, county and state agencies and individuals have worked around the clock to check on residents, open roads, assess damage and start the clean-up process.
Describing an “an unbelievable sound,” John Maggs described the events that occurred in the span of 3-5 minutes at about 7:20 on Saturday, leaving the couple’s 300-year-old barn and showroom, where most of their inventory was stored, a flattened pile of rubble.
“We had just come home from a trip to Boston and on the way had been contacted by a California customer who had seen some pretty expensive things of ours online.” He recalled that he and Jan were about to go out to the barn and check on those items, but – providentially — decided to go into the house first and get something to eat and drink first. “It saved our lives,” said John, still shaking his head at the thought of it.
“The tornado lasted all of about five minutes, maybe not even that much. At one point, I tried to open the door and the force of the winds pulled the door out of my hands.”
John said that other than the deafening sound of the tornado, there was no warning.
The house and the outbuildings connecting it to the barn were untouched. The barn was an iconic building, once the town center of Pumpkin Hollow when it was erected in the 1860s. Five stories, or about 40 feet high, it had been painstakingly restored by the Maggses themselves when they purchased the derelict farm in 1985.
Four days after the twister, the Maggses are still picking through the debris, which contains remnants of their merchandise, including the most vulnerable of all, their inventory of the Magazines Antiques. “It’s amazing to find an oak refectory table demolished and right next to it an untouched Canton vase,” said John. A steady stream of neighbors, dealers and a trusted local contractor have been helping the couple move what can be salvaged in pickup trucks to a nearby barn that would otherwise be vacant until haying season.
Still assessing the damage when contacted, John told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that he and Jan are incredibly touched by the outpouring of help and support from neighbors and friends.
An online GoFundMe campaign, “Conway Mass Tornado” has been set up to respond to the outpouring of people asking how they can help those impacted by the tornado. Conway’s Firemen’s Auxiliary is managing the fund with input from town officials. At press time, the campaign had raised a little over $12,000.
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