The Mystery Corner Cupboard

November 25, 2014

Somewhere in the Philadelphia area, near the close of the Revolutionary War, in the heady early days of the United States of America, a cabinetmaker was commissioned to make a Mahogany corner cupboard in the style of Thomas Chippendale.

He was a master of the Chippendale style with its various distinguishing elements. The piece he produced not only looked to be in that style – it conveyed the very spirit of the ideal. It was an exceptional piece.

After its bloom years “in the latest style” it passed out of fashion, but continued serving with its well proportioned grace and obvious quality.

The passage of time in candle and kerosene lit homes, with wood and coal heat, tends to make things darker and dingier. To new generations unaware of family stories, even the finest heirloom can be dismissed as “creepy and old”. This fine piece was no exception. Eventually it moved from formal dining room to a migrant laborer’s cabin.

At some point in its history, there was a house fire in which the corner cupboard suffered serious heat damage to its finish, which only compounded its poor appearance.

Meeting a mystery piece – just how old is it?

In the Spring of 2010, I received a call regarding some furniture needing restoration, including an old corner cupboard. I went to take a look.  When I first saw the corner cupboard, it was in the farthest corner of the basement, propped up on a piece of pressure-treated 4×4.  My first impression was that it was a poor reproduction from the 1850’s – not very impressive.  But there were surprises in store.