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Antiques Considered - October 16, 2013

This sandstone bookend has made a round trip from the Northern Neck to Washington and back. It belongs to a local gentleman who acquired it at an estate sale several years ago.  The brass plaque on the rear states that it was part of the East Front of the United States Capitol from 1793 to 1960.

The Northern Neck connection comes from the original Capitol building having been constructed with Aquia sandstone from Stafford County. In the 1950s then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, wanted to extend the East Front of the Capitol.

The expansion pushed the building out 32 feet, and in the process replaced the sandstone façade with white marble. When the previous front was dismantled, some of the stones were cut into commemorative pieces, such as this one, and the massive columns were re-erected as a sculpture garden at the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington.

Some of the commemorative pieces were given to members of Congress, and others were sold to help defray the cost of the renovation. The sandstone front had been deteriorating, but many groups still objected to the change on the basis that it made the building look like a wedding cake by obliterating the soaring aspect of the great dome.

Determining a value for this single bookend is difficult, as comparables are not available. The piece has more historic value than antique value inasmuch as it is a piece of American history. The plaque contributes to the overall value by placing the piece in its historical context. I suspect in a suitable auction or on the Internet, the price could exceed $100. Collectors of Capitol memorabilia should be eager to have it, and if a second one could be found, the pair would be more than double that amount. This is a grand souvenir of the most important building in America.

Happy Antiquing!

Henry Lane Hull can be reached at Commonwealth Antiques & Appraisals, Inc., P.O. Box 35, Wicomico Church, VA 22579, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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