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The Winnetka Summer Antiques Show

Danielle Arnet | June 7th, 2013

The small seating area by an exit was a nice idea. Items from The Century Shop, Louisville, Kentucky, included a pair of Black Forest carved panels, circa 1850, priced at $1850, and a Gothic Revival pier mirror, 63" high, with original ­gilding, for $6000.

Whitehall Antiques, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, brought the circa 1835 mahogany linen press with original brass hardware. It stands almost 7' high and was $7500.

The circa 1825 mahogany Regency hunt table at foreground opens to 89". It’s $12,500 from Roger Winter of Solebury, Pennsylvania. The late 19th-century Dutch flower market painting at center above is $975,000. The set of seven Regency armchairs is $5800. The George I circa 1720 double dome mirror with original glass is $3800. A $7200 Rose Medallion punch bowl, almost 19" across, is flanked by Nanking platters at $1450 (left) and $1650 (right).

Halsey Munson of Decatur, Illinois, told us that his $2775 period child’s upholstered armchair is one of the rarest forms of early children’s furniture. Dating from 1790-1810, the small seat retains its muslin undercover and portions of the original 18th-century crewel cover. The 19th-century dovetailed Pennsylvania pine blanket box is $685. Topping it are an early New England miniature blanket chest with original red paint for $2450, an artist’s lock box for $750, and an 1830’s New England tabletop box for $525. The early 19th-century portrait of a boy is $8500.

Zane Moss of New York City brought a veritable forest of Black Forest items. Beneath an impressive 19th-century eagle that was $9750 are a wall-hanging dog head ($1125), a 19th-century carved boar pipe rack ($1950), a rare 19th-century tobacco jar with carved ibex and bird ($6750), a round picture frame with bear ($2450), and a large carved bear ($3500).

Manager Andrew Rowan of G. Sergeant Antiques, Woodbury, Connecticut, admitted that the George III-style eight-light chandelier is “not usual” for the shop. Measuring 35" high x 39" wide, it was tagged $19,000. The 30" high George III giltwood mirror with two-light girandoles at right is $35,000. Note the sports banners hanging above the booth walls.

Winnetka, Illinois

Before we move to details of this year’s Winnetka Summer Antiques Show, a little background is in order.

This is the tale of a posh North Shore suburb and two shows. Situated about 16 miles north of downtown Chicago, Winnetka, Illinois, long has been known as one of the area’s most affluent suburbs.

Each spring for 40 years, it had been home to the annual Winnetka Antiques Show. Planned and manned entirely by volunteer members of the Woman’s Board of the Winnetka Community House, the show was a benefit for the institution.

The event with 50-some upscale dealers worked because of community involvement. Deep-pocketed resident patrons and extensive community business support helped. The event was a team effort.

In 2006, we wrote here that 300 volunteers staffed almost 30 committees. Still more volunteers ran a fall Modernism show: same place, different focus.

But times changed. Volunteerism dropped off. Internal politics happened, and factions arose. The spring show lagged.

Dealers who had spent years building a core of local customers wanted a Winnetka show to continue. So the North Shore Antiques Dealers Association (NSADA) was formed in 2010, and that June, the organization launched the first Winnetka Summer Antiques Show, held in the village ice arena. We wrote at that time that a set of bylaws formulated before the show stipulated that it was to be run by dealers and that only 40% of sellers could be NSADA members.

For NSADA’s first show, the 17,000-plus-square-foot space was divided into paper-covered pegboard booths. On-site flowers came from a local nursery, and dealers decorated with floral arrangements bought at cost.

From that modest start the summer show successfully grew, except for last year when the state of the economy hurt the event. Buyers kept their wallets close, and worse, fewer attended.

We’re happy to report that this year the show, held June 7 through 9, was a rousing success. We saw more filled bags and furniture being carried out than we’ve seen in years. Happy times.

Not to be elitist, but may we say that for various reasons, the show attracted a more prestigious grade of seller? Among the 50 dealers, about ten were new this year. Included were several we’d seen at the Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair and other big shows.

Nula Thanhauser, known to collectors of antique and signature purses and accessories, came as a first-time seller because overhead was “not as high.” Pronouncing it “a convivial show,” Thanhauser added that she sold well, and that if invited again, she will return.

Andrew Rowan, manager for Connecticut seller Gary Sergeant Antiques, was a return seller. It made sense for the business to be there. Rowan manned the booth while Sergeant handled local deliveries of goods sold during the Merchandise Mart Fair in April.

Elizabeth Lindquist of Whitehall Antiques, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, commented on the variety of sellers from throughout the country. A first-time seller at the show, Whitehall sold a small-scale Sheraton sideboard tagged $6500 and a set of Regency mahogany bed steps marked $2400.

“For us,” she said, “furniture was of stronger interest than we’ve seen in a while.” Even brown furniture sold, but it had to be interesting.

On that thread, Whitehall sold a set of side tables made of Edwardian marching drums on custom stands.

NSADA’s president, Judith Andersen, also observed that attendees looked for interesting items. “We had a lot of our regular buyers, but more young people as well,” she added. Whitehall’s Lindquist called it “a lovely show,” and we heard many positive comments on how beautiful the show looked. Clearly, the committee had done its homework, and dealers stepped up their presentation. But more than pretty contributed to this year’s success.

“We offer free parking and one-floor shopping,” said Andersen. Observing many buyers new to the show, she added that quite a few seemed new to antiques. And they liked what they saw.

Attendees also liked that the show benefited Lambs Farm, a well-regarded non-profit Chicago area facility and organization that serves people with developmental disabilities. A Lambs Farm booth manned by volunteers selling treats made at the farm was very popular.

“Dealers are mixing and matching,” continued Andersen. Remember those Edwardian drum side tables from Whitehall? “People love combining antiques with what they have, and dealers are learning what to bring.”

Inviting several new sellers with 20th-century goods was smart; contemporary and “different” goods sold well.

The show is a huge effort. We’ve already covered the barn-like size of the facility. After ice was drained a week before the show, the show committee had to bring in air conditioning and carpeting, have electricity installed, build booth walls, hire security, and deal with other headaches.

Because the floor was due to refreeze on Monday, sellers had to be out on Sunday evening after the show closed at 4 p.m.

It all happened without a glitch. “We’ve had enormous cooperation from the ice arena,” said Andersen.

Longtime Winnetka dealer and committee member Heather Higgins remarked, “I saw more people this year that I have not seen at the show before. I also saw many I remember from the Community House show. It was a bit of a different crowd. The word has gotten out about this show.”

And so the wheel turns. A new show rises and learns to adapt to the changing buyer. Next for Winnetka? Our money is on more appeal to urban (Chicago) and less classic tastes.

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Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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