Published: August 3, 2010
Gardens thrive on a good rain storm. Antiques dealers, set up in tents, do not. So for the second year in a row, the gardens came in first at Antiques in the Gardens, the annual show sponsored by the Maine Antiques Dealers Association. The dealers returning for this year’s show, staged on the grounds and in partnership with the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, well remember the 2009 drenching the show took, with small rivers of water running through the booths and down the aisles.
For the 2010 show, with many new faces among the 25 exhibitors, the garden’s staff had raised the gravel site for the three tents and provided some run-off ditches. For the most part, it worked. However, you will never convince Bob and Debbie Withington of that. “This is the toughest show I have ever done,” Bob Withington said as he folded up his canvas rug to take it back to his booth from the parking lot where it was drying after being hosed down to remove a coating of mud. That was Thursday around noon, with the preview party only five hours away.
The storm that hit Boothbay and the immediate area late Wednesday afternoon, July 21, brought torrents of rain and lightning strikes. Several roads washed out, water was coming up from storm drains, some trees were toppled, and many of the boats in the harbor needed to be bailed out in the morning. A good number of dealers braved the storm and arrived at Robinson’s, a popular and favorite seafood restaurant, well soaked. Yet the thought of what might be happening to the antiques under tent at the show site did not in any way dampen their appetites for the fresh oysters, clams and lobsters on the menu.
Charles “Butch” Berdan said, “There is nothing we can do, we will just hope for the best in the morning.” At the next table, Don Heller was suggesting an inspection trip out to the gardens before dinner, but he never made it as plates of oysters kept his attention. Kim Washam, the hardworking show manager, agreed that a storm of such strength just had to run its course and she, too, turned her attention to the raw bar.
Early Thursday morning Kim was back at the gardens, finding the mud and water in the Withington booth and the paper peeling off the walls in a few of the other booths. “We really lucked out, considering what could have happened,” she said. The booth walls had been set up and papered by Stacy, and there were extra rolls of the paper in his locked truck. A pair of bolt cutters solved that problem, and soon all was back in order.
By the time the show previewed on Thursday evening, July 22, there was little evidence of the storm. The puddles had dried, Bob Withington had his usual attractive and interesting booth in order, Ed Weissman had brought his “cleaned up” Oriental rug back into his booth, dealers had shed their once-damp clothing for dry outfits, and Keeper Nolan, Hilary and Paulette’s longtime canine pet, was resting comfortably in her padded wagon.
Leigh Keno joined the opening festivities and served as honorary chair for the show. His evening was spent doing a TV interview, talking business with dealers and friends, and, when time allowed, his Antiques Roadshow manners led him into a few of the booths to give objects a closer look.
Preview patrons arrived promptly at 5 pm, and kept coming for the next couple of hours, to shop the show and to partake of the variety of food and drink offered by 24 area restaurants and wineries. Without question, the food was a grand attraction and hosts were kept busy making lobster rolls, serving chowder, slicing cheeses, providing sweet treats and pouring various wines and vodka. The dealers rivaled the food merchants, however, providing handsome displays of antiques to please most any taste.
Jewett-Berdan returned to the show with a nice selection of painted objects, including a fireboard from a New York estate, circa 1830, showing a large air balloon in the center, surrounded by countless animals, birds and human figures. A set of six Corey, Portland, Maine, side chairs had the original paint and were decorated with a rare theorem basket design, circa 1845. A Pennsylvania dry sink, circa 1850, was in apple green paint.
Dealers from just down the road in Wiscasset, Nancy Prince and James Lefurgy, had a comfortable set of bamboo furniture consisting of two armchairs, table and lamp. A wonderful hat rack, capable of holding about three dozen hats, completed the picture.
Heller-Washam of Portland, Maine, and Woodbury, Conn., had a large booth filled with furniture and at the front offered an apothecary counter with painted glass panels on the front and sides, and a heavy marble top. “If it does not sell here, I am never taking it out again. It is too heavy and difficult to move,” Don Heller said. Two fishing fly collections were mounted in grain-painted frames, circa 1910-‱935, and a pair of sitka sweeps stood against the end wall. “They are the best ones I have ever seen, almost too good to use,” Don said.
Iron Renaissance, Pemaquid Harbor, Maine, was one of the returning dealers to the show and had a selection of outdoor furniture and garden pieces. Dating circa 1880 was a wire Victorian planter, three tiers high with arched top. It came from Florentine, N.Y., reached about 6½ feet high, and retained the old white painted surface.
From Sagamore, Mass., Brian Cullity Antiques offered a wooden fish trade sign with tin tail and fins, and among the furniture in the booth was a mahogany desk with ivory knobs, circa 1790, with two doors in the top section and three drawers in the base. It was on turned legs and came from Providence, R.I.
Hilary and Paulette Nolan, Falmouth, Mass., brought a nice selection of furniture and many accessories, including a ferry boat diorama on a colorful backboard with lighthouse and sailboat. It dated circa 1920. Against the back wall was a pair of rustic camp beds, hand carved and retaining the old color, and in great condition.
There was little room to put anything more in the booth when Stephen Corrigan and Douglas Jackman of Rockingham, Vt., got through setting up, but they insisted more would fit if they had brought a larger load. A small hanging shelf from Pennsylvania had nine cubbyholes, each filled with a painted cast iron still bank building, and next to it was a large, mounted hooked rug with a reclining lion, flanked by stems of flowers. A green-painted pipe box, Nineteenth Century, was originally from Deerfield, Mass., and a set of four cast iron finials in old white paint, 2 feet tall, were offered singularly or as a group. “We did OK, and the preview was good for us. More retail sale than usual,” Stephen said.
Paul J. DeCoste, West Newbury, Mass., showed a tavern table with three-board top, breadboard ends, in old worn surface, and in the corner stood an Old Town dinghy, complete with oars. A showcase, filled to capacity, carried an interesting assortment of nautical instruments, measuring devices, scrimshaw, ceramics and any number of other early objects.
Holden Antiques, operating from Naples, Fla., in the winter and Sherman, Conn., in the summer months, offered a Nineteenth Century pine worktable with two dovetailed drawers, scalloped apron, tapered legs and cross stretchers. It retained the original red base and scrubbed top, measured 64 inches long, and was found in Canada but is likely Scandinavian. A secretary desk with two doors closing over a fitted interior, over three drawers in the bottom section, was of mahogany and dated from the early Nineteenth Century. It was from Massachusetts, circa 1815‱820, with banded inlay. A pair of framed portraits on panel were by Salvatore Colacicco and acquired from a New Jersey family, which had owned them for the past 30 years. Each measured 26¾ by 21½ inches sight.
The Adirondack look was provided by Cherry Gallery of Damariscotta, Maine, with a selection of furniture, including an Old Hickory two-seat porch rocker, circa 1938, and for the fireplace one could choose between a pair of tall cast iron owl andirons, or a shorter pair. Both had black painted surfaces and glass eyes.
“I guess I was just lucky, for it was a good show for me and I sold both to both the trade and retail,” Ed Weissman of Portsmouth, N.H. said. “Lots of smalls went out, and three paintings, including a very important one by Harrison Bird Brown,” he said, referring to “White Island Light, Isle of Shoals,” an oil on canvas measuring 11 by 14 inches.
Another painting in the booth was “The Inlet” by Charles Harsani (1905‱973), an oil on canvas, signed lower right, titled and dated 1946 verso and measuring 23 by 30 inches sight. One corner of the booth was filled with a chrome yellow painted tall case clock, New England, possibly Maine, circa 1810‱820, “The only one we have ever seen in this color,” Ed said. It had the original wooden works that were going to be restored for the buyer.
“After all the rain last year I was not planning on coming back, but Kim has done such a wonderful job with this show that I could not refuse,” Bill Schwind of Yarmouth, Maine, said. His sentiments echoed through all three tents and Kim responded, saying, “The dealers have been great, weathered the storm, and many of them are here just because they are my good friends.”
As far as the gate is concerned, “It was not good, numbering about 800 visitors including the preview party,” Kim said. Attendance was very poor on Saturday and “we are seriously rethinking this show,” Kim said. She hinted that possibly a new location, not as far north as Boothbay, might be considered, “But we will be meeting in the near future and try to get things on track for next year.”
Will she take command of the show again next year, making it three years in a row? That remains to be seen.
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