Visitors from Decorative Arts Museum Travel to Tri-Cities Area
Local Historians Present Lectures on Region's Furniture & Art
By Angela Wampler | January 18, 2009
Photography by Jeffrey Stoner, Fine Art Photography
From January 5-7, 2009, staff and friends of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) in Winston-Salem, NC, visited various sites in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
MESDA's Winter Study Trip focused on "The Great State of East Tennessee — Furniture, Pottery, Architecture and More."
The group of more than 40 travelers hailed from six Southern states including Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Their first stop was to William King Regional Arts Center in Abingdon, Va. where Betsy White discussed "A Century of Furniture: The Rose Cabinet Shop." The exhibition featured more than two dozen pieces of furniture made by the Rose Family, in addition to the family's history, genealogy, and importance to the region and nation throughout the 19th century. John Erhart Rose (1767-1860) apprenticed in Philadelphia, owned a shop in Abingdon, and worked in Knoxville, Tenn. His sons continued making furniture in the second half of the 19th century in Abingdon, Va. The family's furniture spanned more than a century, creating and modifying styles such as Federal, Empire and Gothic Revival.
The group visited The Carter Mansion in Elizabethton, Tenn. before traveling to Kingsport, Tenn., where they toured the private antique collection of Wayne and Mary Jo Case and their son, John Case, discussed how to tell the difference between pottery from Sullivan County, Tenn., and Washington County, Va. John, who operates Case Antiques Auction in Knoxville, also regaled the visitors with details about a sale on Sept. 27, 2008, during which a recently-discovered "redware" pottery jar by John Alexander Lowe, a 19th century potter in Greene County, Tenn., set a price record for Tennessee pottery.
The next stop was Greeneville, Tenn., where the group saw more private collections and toured sites such as the Nathanael Greene Museum and the Dickson-Williams Mansion.
The final leg of the tour was spent in Knoxville, Tenn., where the group visited several private collections, the East Tennessee Historical Society's collections, and the Ramsey House Museum. They heard a lecture on "The Furniture of East Tennessee" by Namuni Hale Young, the guest curator for the Museum of East Tennessee's first exhibition, "The Art and Furniture of East Tennessee, 1800-1950." She discussed early furniture makers and the features that distinguish East Tennessee furniture from that made elsewhere. The group also heard a presentation entitled "East Tennessee Art and Artists, 1800-1950" by by Steve Cotham, who serves as the head of the McClung Historical Collection, the Knox County historian. He discussed rare pieces from the time when Tennessee was a frontier to itinerant artists who traveled through the region in the early 1800s, early Tennessee-born artists, and more.
John Case from Knoxville, Tenn. discussed the difference between pottery from Sullivan County, Tenn., and Washington County, Va.