- Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 05:00
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This past Saturday my friend, Susan Christopher, stopped by our antiques shop to show us a chair she was taking to the Wawaset Commemoration in King George on Sunday. It belongs to a friend of hers, from whom she got it on loan for the ceremony.
It is a typical late-nineteenth-century oak captain’s chair, and appears to have the original hand-caned seat. I examined it very closely, and could find no evidence that the caning ever had been replaced. The finish of the wood is original, and the chair is in pristine condition.
The chair resembles other steamboat furniture I have seen over the years, most of which has descended through families associated with the trade and transportation of the steamboat era. The owner assumes that this piece might have floated ashore, or been used by a survivor as a life raft.
Susan’s visit with the chair impressed me that the King George event had generated such interest so far down in the Neck. If this commemoration becomes an annual event, it could become a major focus of tourist and native interest alike. The greatest boon of all could come if the hull of the ship could be raised and put on display in the County.
Personally, I had the privilege to work on the gunboat “Philadelphia” before it went on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution on The Mall in Washington. It is the only surviving ship from the Revolutionary War, and was on the bottom of Lake Champlain for over a century and a half. One of the curators told me that when pulled to the surface, the hole could have been filled and she would have been able to float. Ironically, much of the damage done to the “Philadelphia” happened from an electrical fire while it was awaiting going on display at the museum.
Perhaps Sunday’s event will prove to be the beginning of a significant new phase in historic preservation in the Northern Neck.