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Antiques Considered - May 26, 2010

A young couple in Lancaster County inherited this late Empire sofa from his family.  It was in poor condition, and they undertook its restoration and re-upholstery.  Tradition holds that it was saved from the family’s Ante Bellum home when a Union Army gunboat went up Dymer Creek firing on the houses.  Today the sofa is in excellent condition, the wood being mahogany and mahogany veneer over pine.
The appearance of the sofa and the family tradition are completely in sync.  This sofa dates from 1840, the end of the Empire Period and the beginning of the Victorian.  By the 1860s the sofa would have been a prized piece of furniture in the family seat, well worthy of saving while the home was under fire.

It is a prime example of its kind.  Obviously, in this instance restoration was the correct course to take.  The lines are quite good, and given the isolation of the Northern Neck in the mid-19th century, I suspect that the piece might have come from a Baltimore cabinetmaker.  I assume that no labels turned up during the restoration.
The sofa is worth $2,000.  Although the family tradition is obviously in line with local history, that aspect of its value is indeterminable without written documentation.  I suggest that the present owners write down all that they know of its history, make two copies, one for the safe deposit box and one for the bottom of the sofa. The document should include the line of descent of all owners from the time of the War Between the States to the present. By so-doing the piece becomes documented for our time, and that precludes the knowledge being lost for future generations.
The couple noted that the restoration was the work of The Renaissance Shop in White Stone, Virginia, yet another testimony to the fine work done there. The before-and-after photographs show the shop’s capabilities, which are awesome. This sofa is a great piece of Northern Neck history.
Happy antiquing!
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. 22570. (P.O. 35). Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to them there or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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