The fine old blue paint of a cupboard in the dining room resonates with the Canton china on its shelves. A beautifully formed Pennsylvania bucket bench, in original paint, holds some of the couple’s prized baskets.

Thirty years ago a Pennsylvania couple purchased a plot of land in the rolling countryside of Bucks County. Their plans were to build a home emulating an early Pennsylvania house. Their mind was swayed, however, after a visit to Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The husband walked into the “Stencil House,” an early “saltbox,” and had an epiphany, deciding on the spot that he wanted instead a New England-style home, despite their living in Pennsylvania. Their saltbox was custom built for the couple, incorporating eighteenth-century techniques with modern technology. To add elements of authenticity, the couple spent many months acquiring historic components from resources they knew in Connecticut, which their builder integrated into the structure. Twenty-six eighteenth-century white pine doors are used throughout the house, made with board and batten construction with leather washers on the hinges. The 16 to 22-inch wide floorboards and ceiling beams are historic. Old, paper-thin glass was used in making the new windows; a Connecticut craftsman provided frames necessary to achieve the period look. The five fireplaces feeding into the generous center chimney have been outfitted with period firebacks and sets of period tools. The paint used throughout the house has a historic appearance and was made with a secret formula created by the artisan. In homage to the Shelburne Museum, the front hall is painted with stencils replicating, minus the eagles, those applied sometime between 1820 and 1830 to the 1804 Stencil House.

The Connecticut salt box faces south; at its back are the contours of the land. The chimney box, which leads to five fireplaces, is built with replica eighteenth-century bricks. The early period hardware and original architectural elements used throughout the house purchased from I.G. Wiese and Harold Cole of Woodbury, Connecticut.
Throughout the house the doors were made with board and batten construction. Exterior doors were given two thicknesses of board, for warmth and security. The doors’ iron hinges were fastened with rosehead nails using leather washers.
The flamboyant forged iron handle on the front door echoes the trailing leaves and vines in the couple’s gardens. The iron ring knocker is a far more utilitarian creation.
The front door, dating between 1690 and 1740, was purchased from legendary antiques dealer Roger Bacon. The door has several opposing layers joined by rosehead nails in a diamond pattern, highly sought by collectors.
A seating arrangement around the dining room fireplace features a rare diminutive settle that was made around 1710 to 1720 and a Rhode Island Windsor chair. The rack above the fireplace is filled with choice pieces of the couple’s extensive blue and white Canton collection. The rack itself was found with heavy old paint, which when removed, revealed the original bright bittersweet-colored paint.

The saltbox holds the couple’s carefully gathered collections: his, hers and theirs. Both people are highly knowledgeable about the other’s areas of interest. The wife admits that she does not focus on objects she cannot identify immediately. The husband, on the other hand, responds to the challenge of research: he prefers to make a purchase first and research it later. Each method assumes a very good eye. Both buy only what they like. Of their myriad collections the husband says, “We bought from all over. We had to furnish a house!” The impressive result creates a harmonious whole.

Every room in the house bespeaks an affection for the objects within. Early lighting fixtures, electrified so as not to cause damage, are used in the main rooms. In the well used dining room, Pennsylvania and New York Windsor chairs provide seating at a chair-table. A small (36 inches tall) pine settle dating from between 1710 and 1720 is untouched. A cupboard in old blue paint holds choice Canton including covered tureens, a reticulated bowl, and an exceptional reticulated platter decorated with three roses. The Canton plates and platters are also stored on a rack above the fireplace. An English herb drying rack suspends herbs from the couple’s own bountiful gardens.

A blue painted six-board chest is surmounted by a nineteenth-­century squirrel cage, purchased from the Splendid Peasant; it retains its original salmon colored paint. The husband is drawn to the folk inspiration of these cages; this is one of their finer examples. A small hanging cupboard houses a collection of miniature sweetgrass baskets.
Philadelphia Windsor chairs flank a sawbuck table, which doubles as a fine server in the dining room. The tureen is a favorite from the couple’s collection of Canton.

An eighteenth-century keeping room, adjacent to a modern kitchen, is the heart of the house. Its large fireplace was made with bricks removed from a 1728 Connecticut house undergoing demolition. The surrounding paneling and molding came from a house in Killington, Connecticut. (Following historical veracity, paneling inside the house is horizontal on interior walls and vertical on the exterior ones.) It’s an inviting room with a tavern table accompanied by two fanback Windsor side chairs positioned before the fireplace.

An eighteenth century New England four-drawer chest purchased from David Schorsch retains its original red wash. A pair of pewter candlesticks, hourglass, and small buttocks basket are placed on the chest. On the wall hangs a sampler. On the opposite side is an American country pictorial purchased from Bill Samaha; the silhouettes are of unknown sitters. An eighteenth century candlestand, purchased from the late Ruth Ellis, retains its original red wash.
The large walk-in fireplace was built based on examples found in period Connecticut homes. All of the ceiling joists in the living room and the dining room were rescued from the same Connecticut eighteenth-century house. The fireplace is equipped with eighteenth-century iron ware; tole and iron elements decorate the mantel. A two-tiered wall basket was purchased from the late Roger Bacon. It was in his personal collection. Beside the joined stool is an early high back Windsor armchair, from Philadelphia or Lancaster, Pennsylvania, circa 1760-68, which features “sawed” arms and ram’s-horn arm grips. The “Queen Anne” medial stretcher terminates with typical Lancaster swelled ends; its other features are more typical of Philadelphia Windsors.
Over an eighteenth-century ladder back chair hang three Scottish samplers. Beside the chair is a carved English blanket chest. The blue painted cupboard in the foreground houses their modern electronics.
The fireplace in the keeping room was made with bricks removed from a 1728 Connecticut house. A rare, early blanket crane, holding a period coverlet, hangs above the fireplace. The only related example the couple had ever seen was offered by the late Pat Guthman in 1993. The adjacent curved back early nineteenth-century pine settle was found in a shop along Route 7 in Connecticut. Some examples from the wife’s large collection of baskets can be seen in a red painted cupboard purchased from Kelter-Malce.
An English Quaker sampler worked in 1802 by Sarah Swinborn at the Ackworth School is one of five by daughters of the same family. It was worked with medallions and lettering, birds on branches, doves in pairs, and tulips and other flowers.

The wife is fond of baskets, which she has in abundance. Baskets of every variety hang from the beams and fill cupboards: strawberry baskets, clove baskets, and a handsome tricolor flat gathering basket suggest an industrious nature. The wife periodically dampens her baskets to maintain their suppleness. A stack of nine graduated Shaker boxes in various colors stands next to an open cupboard that holds even more baskets, each of which is a notable example of its form.

The house abounds with a balanced range of fine examples of American and English needlework. The first sampler the couple ever bought is a religious work they accquired from Maria Wallace, outside Woodbury, Connecticut. It was followed by others including one by Hannah Townsend of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Dated 1734, it was executed in silk and linen thread and incorporates the initials of her siblings. An 1827 Pennsylvania sampler by a daughter of Mary and John Mathiot, later the mayor of Lancaster, hangs in the dining room. The embroidery is tucked at the top and bottom and is held by pegs within an adjustable wood frame; a rare period survival.

A reverse painting on glass of the United States brig Hornett, is signed by Isiah Whyte of Boston, and dated 1812. Two other known paintings by Whyte are known; a reverse glass painting of the Essex in possession of the Peabody Essex Museum, and an oil painting of the American sloop Frolic, once in the collection of Franklin D. Roosevelt, then secretary of the navy, and now in possession of the F.D.R Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Five prized English Quaker samplers by the three daughters of the Swinborn family were worked at the Ackworth School in England. The couple has a group of five worked by girls of the same family at Ackworth. They include a 1797 sampler by M. A. Swinborn executed with seven needlework patterns. A second example worked by Sarah Swinborn in about 1800 exhibits five patterns in cotton floss that matches the linen ground cloth. A third example by their sister Eliza was worked in 1804. A fourth sampler by S. Swinborn was worked in 1802 and bears the sentiment “SS to SS.” A fifth, unfinished sampler, is similar to the S. Swinborn piece and incorporates the same design elements as the “SS to SS” example. Archival study suggests it could have been worked by a cousin who may have stayed with the family for a time and attended school with the three daughters. The couple found the Swinborn samplers at a shop in England. When the wife wanted only three of the five, the dealer refused to break up the set. When the couple returned to the U.S., the husband called the dealer and bought all five.

A striking red and green Scottish sampler worked in 1824 and bearing the initials “MSF” and “LFO,” belonged to the grandparents of the dealer near Loch Ness from whom it was purchased. A christening pillow in the collection is robust with initials, flowers, and geometric designs similar to those produced at Ackworth.

The early hair work albums, grouped artfully around the house, are among the wife’s favorite collections. A downstairs powder room is filled with them; others adorn upstairs bed chambers. The double wedding in December 1850 of Sarah Ann Detrich and John A. Sellars, and Mary E. Brindel and James H. Montgomery is represented in the bridal couples’ woven and interwoven locks of hair. A hair work wedding album commemorating the 1880 evening wedding of Abbie Drake and L.M. Johnson at Poe’s Corner, Quebec, includes calligraphy notes on the guests.

A rare canted-back cupboard with traces of original paint, houses the couple’s collection of French Jaspé. A nineteenth-century hay rake was a gift from a friend. Baskets hang from the ceiling beams and hooked rug decorates the wall.
In the garden room antique rakes and other tools hang from the walls. A pin prick garden design on paper by the Schwenkfelders, a Pennsylvania German religious group, is also hung here. The dry sink is used as a planter. The room also holds some of the couple’s collection of early Jaspé.
This bedroom, which the couple refers to as the “Hired Man’s Room” is furnished with an early matching low-post bedstead and early trundle bed with original red wash, purchased from Olde Hope Antiques. They are covered with early nineteenth-century woven coverlets. A one-drawer blanket chest retains its old red surface. A ladder, found in the spring house out back, leads up to the attic.
The eighteenth-century four-poster bedstead, covered by an Amish red and green quilt—the wife’s favorite —covers the bed. A lift-top chest with original paint is at the foot of the bed. A piece of hairwork is hung beside the fireplace, above a Windsor chair. A New England tall chest of drawers retains its old surface.

A garden room houses the wife’s collection of early Jaspé French pottery. She points to a fine soap dish, pronouncing it “the best one I have.” A theorem came from the late Connecticut dealer Ruth Ellis. The same room houses, several nineteenth-century squirrel cages, which have a playful folk art quality. One is an 1882 wood and tin piece in pink and green paint, with filigree and architectural elements.

Throughout this house the juxtaposition of the quirky and the rare bespeaks a fine mix of form andaffection. This is a house of comfort where the collecting never ends.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2007 issue of Antiques & Fine Art magazine, a fully digitized version of which is available at AFA is affiliated with