A Highly Personalized Collection – In Two Ways
By Richard H. Jenrette
Another distinguishing feature of CAHPT’s collection, namely that it is very “personal” – not just to me but to the previous owners of the houses. The houses and their contents obviously are very personal since they have been “home” to me for many years. But a strange thing happened along the way – the longer I lived in the houses, the more I became aware of the families who had preceded me, either in building or owning the houses. Many of the original furnishings, including family portraits, porcelain, silverware, etc. began to show up almost miraculously. Once the process of seemingly returning the house to the original owners started, I happily joined the search. While the houses were home to me, I never felt that I was anything more than a custodian – as it turns out for nearly 45 years. I believe these houses have become far more interesting, not only to me but to visitors, because so many of the original furnishings have returned to their home. The houses tell a fascinating tale of changing life in America over hundreds of years.
As a result, most of my acquisitions in recent years have not been “one more Gilbert Stuart portrait or Phyfe table” but focused primarily on acquiring items that were original or related to the houses. There are still many more family items “out there” and my hope is that by turning the houses into museums, open to the public, we will have opportunities to recover even more of the original furnishings. Fortunately, these original furnishings have turned out to be handsome, just like the houses.