Wrought Iron Art
Create garden intimacy with the perfect bench
By Norman Winter
It can be the focal point to your backyard, a garden accent or just an accessory, but the garden bench is seeing a revival in landscapes across the country. In one of my favorite areas here at the Columbus Botanical Garden, visitors have the opportunity to sit on benches surrounded by confederate jasmine not only for relaxing but also for an exhilarating olfactory experience.
In the personal garden however, most dream of creating that private little retreat or corner of paradise in the landscape where you can sit, relax and visit with the natural surroundings and the garden bench is a key aspect.
The choices of materials for today’s benches allow you to choose what is just right for you aesthetically and economically. Mention bench and the first thought that comes to mind is teak wood. Teak, mahogany and cedar are all weather resistant and can be kept stained or allowed to naturally age. The price differential is huge and now after years of watching I must say the teak bench is simply unbeatable. The wood bench is heavy and not easily tossed around by wind.
The heaviest is concrete, and this bench has been around a long time. It is moved to a new location only with great difficulty, so choose your site carefully. What is new however is the availability of large stones arranged and stacked, to create extraordinary designs. Though stone may not be native to your region, the benches nonetheless look harmonious with nature.
Wrought iron benches are still popular, heavier than wood and can come in varying degrees of ornateness. The iron is coated and weather resistant although at some period the coating will be damaged or broken allowing rust to develop and requiring repair.
You mention aluminum and children of the 50′s may first think of shiny silver looking benches. But today the colors and textures have allowed manufacturers to create benches, chairs and tables that are really works of art. They are still lightweight which is easy for the owner to move but unfortunately most are easily tossed in storms.
Plastic is the least expensive and becomes faded and brittle with age. On the other hand, for a temporary use like party or teenager’s gathering the plastic can allow you to get the seating job done without breaking the pocketbook.
I love benches, especially those I can’t see from the back porch or deck. What I mean by this is that the backyard has become like the house with three or four rooms. As you walk the landscape you notice a path that leads you to a cozy area surrounded by wax myrtles and shade loving annuals like impatiens. Here I can unwind after a stressful day.
I love benches in the middle of cottage gardens where I am surrounded by colorful perennials, butterflies, hummingbirds and bees..
Without benches the landscape can seem to be only a place of work with little enjoyment. A well-placed garden bench however makes the landscape an extension of the indoor home.
Oxford Homestead Begins Regular Hours Sunday
The Oxford Historical Society plans to open the 1755 saltbox’s doors to the public on the first and third Sunday of each month.
Current exhibitions include antique maps of Oxford dating to the 1850’s, a “first look” at the museum’s holdings including antique wrought and cast iron from the S. P. Sanford home, photos of local barns and a collection of milk bottles and caps from local dairies.
Tours of the restored house and a brief overview of its history will be given throughout the afternoon.
Originally located on Christian Street and built by Revolutionary War soldier Joseph Twitchell for his children, the home stayed in that family for several generations. It was purchased by Philip and Elizabeth Rowland in the early 1900’s and was part of their farm for 3 generations.
By 2004, the house was slated for demolition to make way for an over 55 community. The Oxford Historical Society moved the building in 2006 and has worked ever since to renovate it as Oxford’s first museum.
TV programme to feature Dorset blacksmith’s work
Simon Grant-Jones is a contributor in the BBC4 programme ‘The Blacksmith’s Tale’ and a piece of ironwork that he made recently will feature in the film.
The Kingston Maurward College blacksmith and forgework tutor said: “When the BBC first called me, they just wanted information.
“They had no idea I was making this wrought iron screen.
“It was made for Kingston Maurward Gardens as a commission and is to reflect the period of Kingston Maurward House, around 1720.
“It just so happens that this fitted perfectly with the programme that the BBC was making on wrought iron.
“Traditional techniques are used throughout and everything is contemporary to the early 18th Century style of working.
“My inspiration for blacksmithing is a man named Robert Bakewell, who was working around 300 years ago.
“One day the producer called me again and said they would be reviewing a Bakewell piece in Derby, would I like to go?
“So we went to Derby and I reviewed the piece and hopefully that will be shown during the programme.
“The crew also came to another event at Finch Foundry, a water-powered forge in Devon, and that should be featured too.” The screen took around 450 hours of work during two years to complete.
Mr Grant-Jones was named Show Champion with the piece at the North Somerset Show last week.
He said: “This was the first of ten shows which will take place this year. At each show, the champion receives ten points and the reserve gets four. The points are added up over the whole series of shows and whoever has the most points will be named National Champion.
“I was National Champion in 2010 and I’ve been Reserve Champion twice. I’ve got off to a good start and it would be really nice to win again.”
The screen will be used as a show piece until September, when it will be permanently installed in the formal gardens at the college.
The programme is the third in the ‘Metalworks!’ series and will be shown tomorrow on BBC4 at 9pm.
Antique Garden Furniture Show & Sale Show Celebrates 20th Year
By R. Scudder Smith
It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the Antique Garden Furniture Show & Sale bowed into the New York Botanical Garden, formerly known as the Bronx Botanical Garden. Here is an event that has kept its focus and, under the direction of show manager Catherine Sweeney-Singer, improved with age and shied away from some of the questionable objects that have worked their way into other shows as vintage garden elements. A vetting crew, with limited time keeps an eye on the objects being shown and makes corrections to age dates when necessary.
This year several of the regulars dropped from the show, but four new faces joined the remaining 26 exhibitors and put on a fine display. Catherine altered the floor plan slightly, giving some of the dealers more space, and the final look came off pleasing to the eye. And it was obvious that the dealers brought their best, from a great variety of planters and urns to statues in all manner of materials.
And while the inventories varied from booth to booth, so did the success of the show, with some of the exhibitors experiencing the “best show ever at the garden,” to those who are looking forward to a better time next year. The show is generally staged the last weekend in April, so 2013 dates will be preview on Thursday, April 25, and running over the following three days. This year the show opened to a very well-attended preview on Thursday, April 26, and continued for the next three days. Buying at the preview was not as strong as in years past, but things picked up in the days following, with some excellent sales on Sunday.
A pair of cast stone frogs, circa 1920-1930, fashioned as fountains, acted as greeters from the corner of the booth of Howard and Linda Stein of Solebury, Penn. At the other end of the booth a large three-dimensional sign, tin letters, spelled out “SEEDS”, and the center of the booth was dominated by a large flower sorting table from a shop in Galveston, Texas, gray painted with a 2-inch lip around the top, circa 1946.
Flower frogs, in all shapes, forms and material, numbering more than 100, filled a half-dozen shelves in the booth of Bob and Debbie Withington, York, Maine. Turtles, fish, birds, swans, ducks, frogs, starfish and ceramic shells were among the forms offered. The booth was designed in two parts, with a 14-foot wrought iron fence and swinging gate separating the two, but not obstructing the view of the entire booth. The fence, circa 1930, was French origin and decorated with brass leaves. An impressive statue, “The Tempest” by Milton Hebald, circa 1955, was cast in bronze and from the Sharon, Conn., estate of George T. Delacorte Jr of Dell Publishing.
Bruce Emond of Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., never ceases to come up with some show-stopping objects. This year great interest was paid to a 69 inches high and 63 inches in diameter thick pottery jar that was on the grounds of Vinland (Twombly House), next to Ochre Court. It is reputed to have been recovered from a 30-foot deep excavation at St Paul’s Church in Rome and presented to Catherine L. Wolfe of Vinland in Newport on June 22, 1884. It is of the age of St Paul himself, 2,000 years. It attracted attention from just about everyone at the show, including Martha Stewart, but sold very early at the preview to a New York City resident who is taking it to his home in Washington, Conn.
Other objects in the booth included a large child and swan fountain, probably Fiske, in zinc that came from a Newport estate. Dating from the Seventeenth Century was an Italian marble fountain or water niche, Rosso Verona, measuring about 6 feet tall.
Red Horse Antiques of Bridgewater, Vt., brought an early porch table in the original paint, English, circa 1775, with a five-board top and breadboard ends, along with a pair of garden stands, circa 1920, round with flared tops and in wrought iron.
A pair of large cast stone lions, French origin, early Twentieth Century, with a wonderful weathered patina, rested at the front of the booth of Schorr & Dobinsky, East Hampton, N.Y., flanking a three-tier round fountain set in a large basin. Across the back wall of the booth was a set of five cast iron planters, or urns, on footed stands with dragon handles.
Fleur, Mount Kisco, N.Y., had the largest cast stone planter in the form of a basket, 36 inches high, 32 inches in diameter, with an old white painted surface. It was of French origin and dated from the early Twentieth Century. A French metal birdcage on table filled a corner of the booth, circa 1840–1850, measuring 84 inches high, 42 inches wide and 24 inches deep.
Frogs seemed to be popular this year, and were in a number of booths, including a 36-inch-tall one with Eleanor and David Billet of New York City. This cement figure, painted white, was American and dated 1950. An American cast stone swan, white painted, circa 1930, measured about 4 feet long and could hold a good number of plants.
An English sundial, circa 1825, of handcarved York stone, with bronze plate on top, stood 5 feet tall at the front of the booth of Finnegan Gallery, Chicago. It rested on an octagonal base and came from the grounds of Biddulph Old Hall in Staffordshire. A large table in the Chinese Chippendale taste featured a base made from Eighteenth Century wrought iron panels, 31 inches high, with a top of slate measuring 35 by 78 inches.
Jeffrey Henkel, Pennington, N.J., offered a bronze sculpture of a rolling horse, mounted on the original limestone base, by Franz Fischner, and a turn-of-the-century cast zinc and iron heron fountain from an Oyster Bay, Long Island, estate. It dated circa 1910.
Salterini, from New York City and maker of early garden furniture, was represented in the booth of Joan Bogart, Oceanside, N.Y., by a dining set, including four chairs and a 48-inch-diameter table, Mount Vernon pattern, and a pair of wrought iron armchairs dating circa 1930. A large pair of cast stone eagles, facing each other, early Twentieth Century, was shown, along with a statue of two cherubs holding grapes, with a dog, from Kenjockety, England. It was shown under a wooden garden arch and dated from the early Twentieth Century.
Francis J. Purcell, Inc, of Philadelphia offered a Nineteenth Century alabaster sculpture in the ancient Greek manner, with four ladies supporting a font, signed by the artist, and a pair of natural-form tree stump bases, 39 inches high and 28 inches in diameter, circa 1890, by J.W. Fiske. A tier cast iron fountain was marked with a patent date of April 11, 1871, with the base stamped C. Hitzeroth, 3124 Market Street, Philadelphia. It measures 72 inches in diameter and 6 feet 8 inches high. Eight pieces of white painted cast iron garden furniture, all in the fern pattern, were shown and marked to sell in three groups, including a pair of chairs and two sets of a pair of chairs and a bench.
A pair of Nineteenth Century lead spread-wing entry eagles, mounted on octagonal bases, 28½ inches high, was in the booth of R.T. Facts Antiques, Kent, Conn., along with a Nineteenth Century fountain of marble, with marble bowl, Italian, circa 1870, showing three cherubs.
A wooden floor showed off well the contents of French Country Living Antiques, Ltd, London/Mougins, France, including a French limestone center piece, circa 1880, measuring 72 inches in diameter. A pair of French Nineteenth Century Versailles orange tree planters, stamped “Roueir,” measured 28 inches high with a 28-by-26-inch base.
Hamptons Antique Galleries, Stamford, Conn., offered a three-shell fountain made from an iron plant stand, Spanish, circa 1920, and a handsome General Electric industrial ship’s light, circa 1940. An Eighteenth Century chair, carved from a single log with old patina, was of Swedish origin.
The lighting is always top-notch in the booth of Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Conn., showing off a blue painted dining table, all metal construction with cast iron base, 67 inches wide, 33½ inches deep and 29 inches high, dating from the late Nineteenth Century, and a pair of self-watering cast iron urns on the original bases, 46 inches high, 32 inches wide and 17-inch-square base. The pair dated circa 1920 and was by the Stewart Iron Works Co., Cincinnati, Ohio. Four fancy watering cans were available, as was a collection of 11 lawn sprinklers, including a large one that was driven by the water passing through.
If an award was handed out for the best-looking booth, it would probably now be in the hands of Antique American Wicker, Nashua, N.H. “We wanted to do a complete room setting this time,” James Buttersworth said, “for every so often a client will come in and want the booth just as it appears at the show.” This time the large room setting had two sofas, six armchairs, all in a bright red fabric with green and cream stripes, as well as a large table in the center of the room and all the appropriate lamps, both floor and table, creating the right lighting. Side tables were plentiful for the drinks, and the walls were hung with decorative pieces and just the right paintings. It was a room setting one could easily take home.
Judith and James Milne, New York City, showed a metal willow tree sculpture with three painted cast iron birds in the branches, circa 1920, that just came out of a private collection. A set of six lady musicians in terracotta with the original painted surface, found in a garden in Yunnan, China, were in line on the right side of the booth, and across the front was a 7-foot-long cast iron bench in the Regency style.
Barbara Israel Garden Antiques, Katonah, N.Y., showed a bronze figure of a standing goat playing the pipes, signed A. Spadini (1912–1983), Italian, with the provenance listing the Delacorte family. A cast iron fountain with the figure of a girl with and overturned jar on her knee, plumbed for water, was marked “Durenne Sommevoire,” French, circa 1870. A carved Vicenza stone wellhead, square tapering form, the corners punctuated with large acanthus leaves and the whole surrounded by a wrought iron overthrow, dated circa 1890 and was Italian. It measured 82½ inches tall with a 20-inch-diameter opening.
A large carved marble bench with double lion base, circa 1890, one of two available, was from the Edward A. Schmidt estate Weltvreten in Saint David’s, Penn., and offered by Aileen Minor of Centreville, Md. Helene Marie Schmidt was heir to the Schmidt Brewery in Philadelphia. A pair of dragon sculptures, cast stone with fine detail, resting on cut-corner plinths, measured 14½ inches high, 39 inches long and 11 inches deep, came from a Main Line estate in Philadelphia. An iron garden table with a white Italian Carrara marble top was shown at the front of the booth, the top measuring 26½ by 47½ inches, old salmon painted base, possibly French and dating circa 1920.
A pair of fan-tailed lead pigeons, 12 by 11 inches, circa 1900, was in the front portion of the booth of Kate A. Alex & Co., Warner, N.H., to the right of a cast iron swan base table with marble top. It was also circa 1900. A vanity mirror found in York, Maine, 44 by 71 inches, circa 1890, had a surround painted with a mountain scene including a brook, trees, birds and a rowboat.
So after you have made a complete tour of the show once, and possibly worked your way around a second and third time, selecting objects to enhance your garden, there is also the splendor of the botanical garden to be enjoyed. It’s a great combination, all for the price of one ticket. Mark your calendar.
Wrought With Care: Vanderbilt’s Gates Restored
Restored and recently reinstalled, magnificent wrought-iron gates mark the northern entry to The Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island.
By Jill Connors
On a recent Friday evening, as the sun was casting an orange glow over the ocean waters a few feet away, two tradesmen, working from a cherry picker and their Lodi Welding pickup truck, hoisted a large, intricately crafted piece of wrought iron into place. The piece dangled in mid-air, then settled into place. The men sighed, and then one said with a grin, “We’ve been working on these for two years.” And, at last, the splendid gates are back.
Renaissance-meets-Gilded-Age-industrialist grandeur. Wrought-iron scrolls meet beneath a wrought-iron arch whose swirls of urns and acanthus vines reach their zenith in a crested oval containing the initials CV, rendered with calligraphic aplomb.
The northern gates are one of several sets that guard The Breakers, and all had suffered from years of exposure in the marine environment when, in 2009, The Preservation Society of Newport County — owner of The Breakers — enlisted master metal workers from Lodi Welding of Hackettstown, NJ, to repair and restore the gates. Grants from the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust and the Loebs Family Foundation have supported the project.
All gates bear a similar design. The front entry gates along Ochre Point Avenue were restored first, removed in April 2009 and reinstalled in late 2009. Next, the north entry gates along Shepard Avenue were removed in mid-2010, and have just now been reinstalled. Two final sets marking the property’s northeast and southeast corners along the Oceanside path known as Cliff Walk are currently being restored.
Bringing the gates back to their glory was a demanding task. They had to be dismantled and the wrought-iron pieces sandblasted to remove paint and rust, then every piece was repaired, galvanized in liquid zinc, and re-painted.