The next time Tess Spencer, Debbie Hill, and Rita Lane, get together to shop for cabinetry, they don’t expect to have as much fun and excitement as they experienced Wednesday. The trio, Members of the Board of Directors of the Westcott Center for Architecture and Design, represented the Springfield (OH)-based group at the Sheridan & Associates auction on Wednesday, August 13, in Xenia. Up for bid were three cabinet doors that were purportedly removed from Springfield’s Westcott House in the 1940s.
“We are constantly on the lookout for original pieces from the Westcott House and were fortunate enough to learn of the auction in time to prepare appropriately,” said Spencer. Hill added, “We believe these doors fit on a cabinet located on the ground floor of the house.”
The Westcott House, located on Springfield’s historic East High Street was designed in 1906 by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Construction was completed in 1908. It is one of about 260 Wright houses remaining in the world with eleven located in Ohio, and the only one of Wright’s Prairie School designed homes in Ohio
In the 1940s, the third owner of the property initiated a major transformation, converting the house into a multi-family structure. Most of the original furnishings and Wright-designed interior touches were removed as early as the mid-1920s, after the passing of the first owner, Burton Westcott, with no record of their final destinations.
The cabinet doors, believed to be three of the eight original framed leaded glass doors on two built-in base cabinets, were in great condition when originally presented to Sheridan & Associates for consignment. “With the expected evidence of wear, the doors were what one would expect to see in pieces of furniture of that age,” said Auction Manager and lead researcher Bryan Bogan.
“We were contacted by the consignor for whom we have sold a number of items recently,” reported Lead Auctioneer Bart Sheridan. “He shared with us that he had owned the doors since the 1980s when he purchased them near West Liberty, just north of Urbana. Interestingly, the windows had remained in this consignor’s High Street residence within blocks of their original home for nearly thirty years and no one else even knew they were there. We were excited about the prospect that they could be the real thing, but certainly wanted to complete as much research as possible to provide assurance of their provenance.”
Bogan took the lead in the investigation. “We sought photos and as much information as is available from the web and other available resources in order to authenticate the doors. We felt confident, but the buyers’ opinions are what really matters.”
At 10:30 Sheridan called the crowd to attention and introduced the three doors as the next lot for sale. Originally calling for $1,000 for each of the three doors, Sheridan accepted a starting bid of $200 per door and the bidding rapidly rose through the hundreds and above $1,000. “We could find no sales of similar Frank Lloyd Wright original pieces,” Sheridan said. “We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were estimating $1,000 to $1,500 per door.”
With the Westcott representatives gathered to the right of the auction block and a southern Ohio bidder, who wished to remain anonymous, with Bogan on the auction’s phone line, bidding continued up to and beyond the $2,000 mark.
Spencer explained the group’s thoughts. “We have attempted over the years to replicate the original details in the house. When we saw these doors, we recognized them from our familiarity with the reproductions currently in the house. We knew that these were the real deal.”
As the bidding stalled at $2,250 with the phone bidder leading the bidding war, Sheridan paused briefly to remind the crowd of the rarity of finding such a great representation of Wright’s work. He quickly turned back to the bidders and received the Westcott group’s bid of $2,350 per door. Within moments Sheridan declared the doors sold and assured the applauding audience, “They go right back to where they belong.”
Immediately following the purchase Lane and her bidding cohorts were thrilled with their auction win. Spencer shared, “We are taking the cabinet doors home to the house that Burton Westcott built on High Street in Springfield, Ohio.” Lane added, “We are so excited because thousands of people will be able to enjoy these original doors.” The three joined together and shouted, “They’re going home!”
The group’s presence at the auction also bore some unexpected benefits. “Two people came up to us at the auction and shared that they have other items that they believe are from the Westcott House,” Spencer reported. “We are so excited about how this has turned out.”
“We want to express our deepest gratitude to all the donors who stepped up in the matter of days and pledged their support, making it possible for us to participate in this auction,” said Marta Wojcik, the Center’s Executive Director and Curator.
Opened in 2005, The Westcott House museum offers interpretive tours, exhibits featuring emerging artists, design education activities, and special programs for learners of all ages. Today, it attracts thousands of people and it stands as a symbol of excellence and innovative thinking. Its newly established Westcott Center for Architecture and Design was formed to promote creative platemaking strategies through programs on architecture, design, and the history of the built environment. According to Spencer, the Center’s major sources of funds come from private donations and fundraising activities, various grants, tour fees, and the Center’s gift shop.
For further information on the Westcott House and the Westcott Center for Architecture and Design, visit the Center’s site at http://www.westcotthouse.org/. For further information about Sheridan & Associates, including past and upcoming auctions, visit www.SheridanTeam.com.