So often people ask "What do you know about the history of this piece?" This Highchair is over the top with provenance and yes, romance. We'll chat about the specifics of the chair later, but first let me tell you about its background, at least back to the 1920's.
Stillington Hall, in Gloucester, Massachusetts was built by Lt. Col. Buswell in 1926. Both Leslie and his wife, Mary were professional actors who built and furnished the Hall which even contained a fully equipped theater where they entertained in grand style with guests that included Helen Hayes and Lionel Barrymore as well as Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. It was a heady era . . . the stuff the "Great Gatsby's" were made of. While their lifestyle was lavish, they chose to furnish the Hall in a minimalistic manner in keeping with their idea of what a Tudor Home would contain . . . less is more. Windsor chairs, a walk in fireplace and an emphasis on quality and simplicity.
Peter, their only child remembers this highchair with fondness as it had always stood in the entry of the grand hall at the main door. After his parents deaths he moved from the Hall to a guest cottage on the property and sold off many items he had lived with all his life. This high chair was one of them. Stillington Hall was the subject of an article in an early issue of Town and Country Magazine (May 15th, 1930). After Peter died in 1996, the Hall was sold at auction, restored and featured in Architectural Digest in September of 2000.
There is considerable information on Stillington Hall and the Buswell Family on the Internet, including the fact that the home was thought to be haunted and was investigated by the Cape Ann Paranormal Society at the request of the then caretaker in 2008. Ghostbusters, if you will. The family wintered in Florida but spent the summers in Gloucester. Local residents remember Peter walking about town with a black cape and a large bird on his shoulder. An eccentric and colorful family to say the least.
The Chair . . .
The double incised bow with full rounded arch receives seven tapered spindles and the sawed rectangular-scrolled incised arms that are supported by the three section bamboo turned posts. The shaped saddle seat is raised on tall bamboo turned legs with tapered feet and is joined by turned H-plan stretcher. The surface is possibly original; green paint now highly oxidized and nearly black. Typical of these highchairs, this chair may have experienced a tumble early in is functional period. The chair was mended for continued use by subsequent generations. When one examines the chair at arms length, the "in-use" mends are not immediately evident.
The very tight kerfed and pinned splice in the bow, just above the proper left arm appears to be ancient; the entire bow shares a consistent dark surface and rich patina. The proper left arm terminus at bow has a slightly different shape and is a tad lower than the other arm. There is a small lamination at edge of seat that is pinned; note the shrinkage as evidenced by protruding pins; note consistency of color. It is possible that the bow was mended by retrofitting beneath the arm; pinning, shaping and scratch molding it. It is also possible that the bow was made that way; in two pieces. We are comfortable that the chair was mended while in use and that the narrow seat splice may be original...nonetheless, the chair remains a terrific object of integrity, character and personality.
Height: 35 inches; Seat Height: 21.75 inches: Width: 11 inches; Depth: 11 inches.
Questions? Ask the Ferret!