My Great-Grandmother’s secretary sits in the front hall of my home. It has had a varied history since it sat in Grandma Weaver’s home on Tireman in Detroit. Grandmother used it as a desk with its pigeon holes and two drawers — one inside and the large one beneath the desk. After Grandmother Weaver died in 1945, the desk went to my grandparents’ attic (her son, Lee’s) where it sat until 1956. Then, my parents borrowed the desk as my father was designing and building a room for my brother and I to share. He was building with the major furnishings built in– dressers inserted in the walls, a 12 foot bookcase to next to the stairs, and two desks. My desk was the first as it was used at the short side of the stairs coming up to the room. He used my great grandmother’s desk as a model for the huge desk he created. Once he was done, my grandparents did not want the desk back so my parents relegated it to their basement. For a while it was ignored, then it was put into service as a shoe polishing station (the brushes fit nicely into the pigeon holes, the cloths in the inside drawer and everything else just inside the desk. My mother liked it because with the lid closed, the mess was out of sight. And it WAS A MESS! I think more liquid shoe dye ended up on the inside of the desk than ever hit all of the shoes that were ever polished.
Then the craze of antiquing furniture hit in the later 1960s and I asked if I could have my way antiquing the desk. I also asked for one of the chairs that had been in my great-grandmother’s dining room. My mother agreed and I antiqued both the desk and chair.
The chair was meant to have a caned seat. My grandmother, Florence, was a self proclaimed expert on how to cane a chair. After all, her father, a furniture maker, had learned the technique at the Ohio State Prison and had taught his children. Grandma, at this point, would jump in and explain that he was not an inmate, he went there during the day and came home at night. It was just where he was able to go to learn a skill needed for his business. Well, I spent every visit to my grandparents’ home one summer bringing my chair and caning materials, being instructed on the CORRECT method of caning a chair seat.
After our parents’ deaths, my brother and I divided up the heirlooms that were in their home. I had the cedar chest and acquired another of the dining room chairs (more about them next week) which needed to be repaired and refinished (see earlier Blog about the cedar chest). So with the cedar chest and the additional chair, we loaded the desk and chair to which I had applied antiquing paint and hauled them off to the furniture refinisher to be restored to their original state. The picture is of the restored desk.
Sorry, Grandma Florence, I did not re-cane the chairs myself, but you would approve of the method used by the refinisher. Smooth seat, no snagging!