Treasures in the attic

This molding arangement on the top of a fall front desk is inspired from architecture. The structure above the molding is the attic.

Last summer while filming Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings, our little crew from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks had a unique opportunity to explore the attic in a historic building. Curator Jay Robbins took us up to the fourth floor attic of the Pownalborough Courthouse for a look around. Like many historic museums the attic was chock full of cool stuff. Saddles, ox yokes, paintings, chairs, large things covered with sheets, and a late 18th century fireplace mantle that we actually used in the video to illustrate the classic orders. It didn’t seem at all creepy, more like an adventure.

 Yesterday I braved the snowy roads in Northern Ohio to visit the historic community of Zoar. It’s the site of a German separatist community that spanned most of the 19th century. The village has a number of restored buildings and a large collection of furniture made on site. Again I had the unique opportunity to explore the attic in the Number 1 house, the nerve center of the once thriving settlement. Timber framers eat your heart out, the structure itself was amazing.

Triumphal arch Memorial, Newport News, Note section above cornice, this is the attic story.

Huge beams fitted together with German precision and attention to detail. Again it was chock full of furniture in various states of repair. Old primitive German plank chairs, workbenches, baskets for picking grapes, spinning wheels, and wooden implements for turning the fruits of the soil into garments and food.  The furniture in Zoar spans a range. An early primitive period, followed by a flourish of prosperity and creativity in the mid 19th century.

Fall front desk Zoar Ohio

This fall front desk posed a mystery to me. It stands in contrast to the much of the primitive country furniture that is associated with the output of the Zoar cabinet shops. Lavish book matched walnut veneers cover the entire façade and this curious molding treatment crowning the top. Actually this is inspired by architecture. The space above the molding would be called an attic story if it was on a building. I went away with more questions than answers, but thankful I had the opportunity to explore another treasure filled attic.

George R. Walker

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Woodworker and writer
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