The Cross House

Little Chairs on Little Wheels. THE HUNT

Previously, I have written about my hunt for little chairs on little wheels.

Pretty much every such chair I find pre-dates the 1894 Cross House. While the house may well have been originally furnished with pieces already owned by Susan and Harrison Cross I am inclined to think that because the house was architecturally sophisticated (it was not just a Queen Anne-style house but was a Queen Anne Free Classic!), and abounded with up-to-the-minute technology, the furnishings of at least the main floor rooms were likely new and fashionable.

So, I am not interested in little chairs with little wheel from the 1860s or 1870s or 1880s but rather from the early 1890s. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 had a huge influence on architecture and design and likely influenced the architect of the Cross House, Charles Squires, and its owners.

Also, there will be few antiques in the house when all is finished and I wanted these select pieces to complement the 1894 house. This is important to me.

NOTE: I am on a learning curve and am hardly an expert on the subject of late-19th-centiry furnishings! So, reader beware!

 

Recently I purchased a pair of these. While pre-dating the house, I think, and totally contradicting my words above, the pair was $85! I thought they would do until the ideal pair showed up.

 

I see this style chair all the time, and these pre-date the house. I think.

 

Same here. Such chairs were being produced in the 1890s and even a decade later, but were, I think, no longer fashionable when the Cross House was built.

 

These are the only chairs I have come across which ARE dated 1894. Can you see the significant difference in the design? In 1894 these chairs would have been startlingly modern looking. And THIS is what I am looking for.

 

This is a single chair I just came across. It jumped out at me as looking early 1890s, and Bo has confirmed my sense. Thanks, Bo. I love this chair! Do you see how different it looks from the chairs in the first three images?

 

While the Cross House looks, to us in 2017, as being a typically elaborate Victorian-era house, it would not have been seen as such when new. The house would have looked quite modern to people in 1894. And this chair well complements the house, I think.

 

I have made an offer on the chair, and it is about two hours drive away.

So, please stand by!

Oh…

 

…these have nothing to do with the Cross House or this post, but I an insane for the set! I think they sold for a couple hundred grand!

 

 

 

 

 

33 Responses to Little Chairs on Little Wheels. THE HUNT

  1. I really like that chair! I think it does complement the architecture of the house well, and the curves echo those on the house and cornices.

    The curly appliques on the earlier set echo those on your cornices very closely. It would be cool if you do find a set someday.

    • Seth, in looking at extant ornamental details in the Cross House house, is onto something here.

      You may not conceive of them so, Ross, but in my mind, you already have eight pieces of furniture original to your house: your fireplace mantles. As they were intended by the designer of your house to harmonize with the furnishings in the rooms in which they appear, they essentially provide for you a pattern book of the type of decorative motifs one would expect to see on comparable, catalog sourced furniture of the period. If you find furniture that resembles your mantles, then you have a period match.

      Your mantles speak to the eclecticism still prevalent in Queen Anne style houses of the early 1890’s in their unacademic mix of historical source material begun in preceding decades. The numerous applied foliate carvings, somewhat watered down from more high style Richardsonian examples, relate to the Romanesque ornamentation on the Tobey chairs you admire. The numerous slender turned spindles, the “stick and ball” motif, the shallow carved linear scrolls, the fabric bows with undulating ribbons, are all popular and oft repeated Aesthetic Movement devices found repeatedly in furniture from the preceding decade still being employed here in endless combination in mantle form and available by catalog in 1894. There is classicsm too, Adam style ornament, fluted pilasters, Ionic column capitals, but marrying it up with the other motifs makes it the free-wheeling classicism of the Aesthetic Period. Your house has examples of newly emerged technology but stylistically, it is very much a product of ideas developed a short time before. The term “Free Classic” in discussion of Queen Anne houses was coined in the 1870s by Henry Holly to denote this imaginative Anglo-American mix of Richard Norman Shaw’s work with American colonial motifs. “Modern Colonial” was another term used at the time.

      The Beaux-Arts classicism that the Chicago Exposition would celebrate was far more academic and would greatly help marginalize any lingering influence of the Romanesque Revival and the larger Aesthetic Movement. Queen Anne houses like yours didn’t disappear overnight but domestic designs at the forefront of taste after the Exposition would be in a stricter, less inventive Colonial Revival mode that preferred to copy 18th century domestic prototypes wholesale rather than borrow and reimagine motifs from that period. Furniture for those houses followed suit and many firms that had been making the kind of Art Furniture your mantles relate to switched gears and began making faithful replicas of Georgian and Federal forms. Predictably the mantles in these houses look nothing like yours. Looking at the catalogs of furniture makers from Grand Rapids in this period helps illustrate how these complicated evolutions in the waxing and waning of styles took place.

      • Remember when the Ford Taurus was introduced in 1987? Its design was STARTLING and one could not help but turn and STARE whenever a Taurus passed by.

        Today, nobody will notice a 1987 Taurus.

        I think of the Cross House like this. When built it would have seemed quite fresh and even startlingly modern. Today it looks just like a typical Victorian-era house.

        But it is not. The house represented a shift towards a simpler aesthetic that would continue unabated. Its Free Classic elements were advanced for 1894.

        The Cross House, while advanced for its day, was not revolutionary, as was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winslow House, also finished in 1894.

        Also, the mantels in the house have been guiding me in terms of imagining what chairs to select for the house. So, too, with the staircase and interior/exterior columns. This is why I was so excited by the green chair pictured above. It is the first chair I found which seemed to fit with the architecture of the 1894 house.

  2. Love the curved arms. Unlike a lot of little chairs on wheels, that one looks like it might actually be comfortable to sit in. I think a lot of Victorian parlor furniture was designed to keep visits short.

  3. In the past I have seen the chairs you love. They are not particularly common. With money, anything is possible. Do you know a woodworker that could reproduce them? I know you would want a suite of furniture. I know the mohair or silk velvet that would cover them would be very expensive. Maybe a grant from the state of Kansas? I know, you might as well ask the Wizard of Oz for them!

  4. You know I’m all over little chairs with little wheels… and really any furniture with little wheels. So, I’m hoping you win the auction. Fingers crossed over here.

  5. Funny, I just seen a chair just like the pair you bought at the Goodwill outlet in Kansas City. I don’t need anymore chairs and hated to leave a hundred plus year old chair to end up in the landfill as I left but I did 🙁 It had the classic needle point upholstery as well.

  6. That chair is lovely! The art nouveau set above it, though lovely, I suspect are actually AHEAD the cross house. But that one you’re making an offer on looks bang on.

    • I mean style wise. Your house, though very modern, would not have been (as you put it) startlingly modern, as those chairs are. Those chairs are startlingly modern in that they dispensed with traditional Victorian ornamentation, something which the Cross House quite obviously didn’t. I would just like to warn you away from that type of furniture as it would have been quite extreme in the 1890s (the Art Nouveau movement wasn’t really in full swing till after the turn of the century) and Queen Anne Free Classics like your exquisite house, though very modern, were not quite so extreme. You can see from the chair you put an offer on that it clearly echos the style and ornamentation seen on mantles and various other elements in your house.

      • I don’t see the set as being Art Nouveau, but rather more, ah, Richardsonian in appearance.

        The set would have looked quite well in the fabulous Glessner House in Chicago!

        In a previous post I pictured the set and mentioned that they were not quite right for the Cross House, style-wise, although they are period-correct.

        The single chair which I bid on (and now own!) seems perfect for the house.

        • I suppose they are quite Richardsonian!I didnt even see that. YOU GOT THE SINGLE CHAIR!?!?! congrats, It does seem the perfect chair

  7. Your two red parlor chairs on their brass castors come from two different eras of Victorian furniture. One is in the Eastlake style. The other is Renaissance Revival. Lovely pieces, even if they aren’t what you want.

  8. Ross – I can across a Victorian couch that seems to match the aesthetic you seek above. Not sure it is right on, but the similarities in the flourishes and the flowers from the chair you posted from 1894 seemed right. Check out this item on Nextdoor: Antique Victorian Couch — nextdoor.com/for_sale_and_free/4744b507-e6b5-4cde-9050-be41659189d8/?init_source=share

    Just wanted to share!

  9. Ross – I can across a Victorian couch that seems to match the aesthetic you seek above. Not sure it is right on, but the similarities in the flourishes and the flowers from the chair you posted from 1894 seemed right. Check out this item on Nextdoor: Antique Victorian Couch — nextdoor.com/for_sale_and_free/4744b507-e6b5-4cde-9050-be41659189d8/?init_source=share

    At that price, Just wanted to share!

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