The Once was Lost, Now is Found Chair

Yesterday, I came across this small, antique chair at the local recycling center. Some one had discarded it alongside one of the large dumpsters, and it was lying there in the snow, with a veil of light rain descending upon it. There really was nothing wrong with it, except for a slight tear and some straw missing from one corner of the seat:

Antique chair discarded in the snow and rain

Perhaps there’s something odd about the way I’m internally wired, but this sort of thing pisses me off beyond any possibility of redemption. Maybe it’s frustration at the thought that some one else just couldn’t see any value in this object. Or maybe the fact that they made no attempt to give it to someone who did. But nonetheless, I picked the chair up, brushed it off, and brought it home.

I’ve rescued a number of antique chairs over the years (a total of five or six, I think): One pristine Windsor that was sitting on the roadside with other discards; several bow-backs with slight splits in their arm rests that were repaired easily enough with wood glue and clamps, etc. You get the picture. Think of all the embodied energy that would’ve been wasted forever had they found their way to a land fill. Surely, my wood turning buddies (like John Nicholas) would be appalled by seeing examples of their handiwork wasted!

The rescued chair found its spot in the parlor chamber of the Mansfield House, right next to the fireplace hearth. Hey, it’s even the right color! I’ll clean the chair more thoroughly, but regarding its damage, I’ll probably just leave that as is; it’s part of the chair’s history — part of its charm:

Rescued antique chair by fireplace hearth

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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11 Responses to The Once was Lost, Now is Found Chair

  1. Will says:

    Haven’t been by in awhile…

    Funny that a found chair helps me find my way. It looks appropriate and at home in the Mansfield House, and seems to have found its way to where it belongs.

  2. Great find, John! I, too, have been known for my “dumpster diving”! Though, the dumpster in our 4-year old condo building in the hip Midtown area of Atlanta doesn’t turn up as quite as many antiques as Apple TVs and XBox 360s, we’ve furnished a good portion of our place with tossed aside treasures! It’s a win-win!

    I agree that leaving it as is quite charming, though I’ve learned from my wife and her family full of antique collectors that repairs are also a part of a pieces history., too If it’s a chair, and can’t be used as one, is it really a chair? Just a thought.

    I say fix it, and use that beauty!

    • John Poole says:

      Hi Chris,

      Yes, dumpster diving can yield a lot of interesting things. I know guys who built complex systems from the discarded electronics they salvaged!

      Also, I generally do agree with your wife and your wife’s family that there’s nothing wrong with fixing an antique, and adding your own contribution to its historical record, as long as you do a good job of it. Same goes for re-finishing antiques, as well.

      Anyway, I’ll consider fixing the straw seat in time, but right now, much bigger fish to fry here, as you’ll soon see in the next few forthcoming blog posts!


  3. Angel says:

    OMG, John. I think I’ve found one of this chair’s mates here in Oregon! I found mine for $1.50 at a yard sale, and it had been painted sea foam green (I’m assuming by an insane bridesmade). Mine too is sitting, waiting for me to get to it…can’t wait for spring!

    • John Poole says:


      Clearly our chairs both came from the same collection, and one of them decided to head out east, or head out west, at some point. Post a twitpic of yours when you get a chance! The one thing I have to say about mine is that it’s definitely a child’s chair — I’d break mine if I attempted to actually sit on it!

      ~ John

  4. Cassie says:

    Good for you! I too have been a “rescuer” and have passed the gene on to both my offspring. When “flipping houses” was in vogue here in Phoenix my son and his spouse redid several kitchens and bathrooms with found items. Anything from perfectly presentable cabinets to claw-foot tubs and kitchen sinks! Unbelievable what some folks toss out as uncontained trash. Where our daughter lives in Seattle they never throw away. They just set it on the sidewalk and it disappears very quickly! You’d love their apartment building. An Anhault and the first in Seattle to have an underground parking garage. Be well. (Sorry for the windy post!)

    • Cassie says:

      Oops. I meant to say Anhalt apartment.

      • John Poole says:

        Hi Cousin Cassie,

        The fact that we both possess the rescuer gene is just one more bit of evidence that we’re related! I’d never heard of Fred Anhalt before, but Googled it and found a Wikipedia page about Anhalt buildings in Seattle. They’re gorgeous! So thanks for teaching me something new. And as for “windy”, no! You’re comment is not windy at all. In fact, the sort of engaged commentary I prefer. But then again, we’re family, and that’s to be expected!

        Hope all is well by you and Patrick and the doggies….

        ~ Cousin John

  5. Just doing research and came across your picture… Crazy but I have a set of these that I retrieved from a homestead attic in the Wet Mountains of Colorado… From what I know this chair is pre 1900 and my two probably came out from the east with the homesteaders which makes them pre 1880. The seat is hickory bark which is an historic eastern/southern chair making tradition.

    check it out:

    • John Poole says:

      Dear Floyd & Finch:

      Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your own story of a similar pair of chairs. I’m especially glad you managed to find this page and post a comment on a day when my internet service provider was barely staying online; I hope your visit here went smoothly!

      Anyway, I know very little about the provenance of this particular style of chair. I believe they’re sometimes referred to as “ladder backs”, but that’s about all I really know of them. Not sure what the seat on mine was made from (maybe bark), but it’s quite thin, broken , and heavily painted.

      It does, however, look remarkably similar to the pair in your photo. So at least I have some better notion of its possible, approximate period of construction. It’s bits of information like this from readers with similar experiences that have helped me solve many a mystery. So, thanks again for your words. Also enjoyed perusing your blog and website, and have bookmarked it.

      Have a great weekend!

      ~ John

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