What’s so special about an old broken rocking chair?
You may be surprised.
This particular rocking chair has a most interesting past and like many of us has spent significant time in the ‘desert’ or perhaps to be more accurate, in the barn.
This story began when we were invited to visit some property a family member purchased. As we walked the beautiful rolling land, woods, pond area and past an old barn severely damaged with age and weather, we passed an old rocking chair. It sat tangled in the tall grass, its wood gray and weathered. The lady said, “I wish I could save that old chair but it’s really in bad shape”. She lifted the arm of the chair revealing the broken rocker and loose slats in the back. A bracket on the side of the seat held a frame-attached on only one side, with four coil cone-shaped springs pointing to the tangled weeds below. The yellow/brown grass clinging to the wood pieces as if to say, “It’s a part of us now.” She didn’t try to tease broken chair loose from its captured state and we moved on.
The next day (unlike professional thieves) my husband and I returned to the property in daylight and removed the chair. We took it to an antique furniture repairman we knew and inquired if it was worth the cost to try to salvage it. He assured us he could repair the broken pieces, replace the rotted rockers and we would be pleased with the finished product It was August and we were excited, we now had our Christmas gift for this couple.
Things don’t always go as planned. Covid reared it ugly head and our furniture repairman battled the illness. He survived but as with many people, the recovery process left him very weak and he was disappointed not to complete his restoration of the chair. Before the illness, he had taken the chair completely apart, replaced the rockers, removed all the previous finish, repairing, fitting and regluing all the parts. He stained it with a Special Walnut stain, but he was unable to complete the coats of poly to seal the wood.
We were very pleased when we picked up the chair although he was disappointed not to finish it to his liking he was quite delighted to share the information he had acquired while working on it. He told us the headrest was Chestnut wood indicating it was made before the Chestnut blight of 1900. Then he went into detail about the interesting characteristics of the chair. It was hand crafted and he explained various details. He told us the chair was made of Oak, Maple and of course Chestnut. He said, “In my experience and the opinion of other restorer’s I consulted I am sure this chair was made before 1880.” We were thrilled, not only was it beautiful, it had a history!
We came home determined to learn all we could about who may have owned the chair based on its age and how where it had been stored.
We learned the original owners of that property came to the area in 1860 and secured 160 acres through a government program. They first built a log cabin, then the barn and later the farmhouse. This same family remained on the property until 1924. There have been several sales of the property since 1924. Our family members purchased it from the man who bought it in 1974 and he said the rocking chair was in the barn when he purchased the property. When the highway was widened the house was removed but through claiming historical data the barn was spared.
So here is a beautiful old rocking chair, lovingly restored and now in a new home. How this chair managed to remain, stored away in this barn for so many years remains a mystery. Maybe over the years, no one wanted to be the person who threw it out, as damaged as it was.
Another interesting fact, remember the Chestnut headrest on the chair; last fall without any of this information about the chair, the man who is the new owner, purchased numerous disease resistant Chestnut tree seedlings, they are in his refrigerator waiting to be planted on the property come Spring. This year the Chestnut trees will come home too.
The chair’s ‘time in the barn or its desert time’ some fifty years we have been unable to account for, but it was not without purpose because it is now in a home where it will be treasured and new memories will be added to its story.
It’s not just a chair, it’s a story!