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The Williams’ Beaufatt

As a house museum the Ticonderoga Historical Society is fortunate to a have in its furniture collection a nice selection of period pieces.  A large number being part of the legacy furniture commissioned by Mr. Horace Moses, Ticonderoga’s greatest benefactor, from period replicas original to the Metropolitan Museum Art in New York City.   During the 1930s and 40s many other fine pieces were donated to the Hancock House, including several pieces of antique furniture that were  owned by the Wiley family and enhanced the character of the elegant Rogers Rock Hotel here in Ticonderoga.   And more recently we have added to our list, through donation, the dinning table that once was owned by John and Dorothy Quincy Hancock and used by them at the original Hancock House in Boston.

As I am now working on old records I recently came across a 1943 article written by Jane M. Lape, one of the Hancock House’s earlier Curators, that provides in some detail about a piece of furniture in our collection that came from the Rogers Rock Hotel.  I would like to share that article with you.

The men and women who settled this country and put their effort into the achievement of a gracious yet hardy society, little thought that one day the items which were to them utilitarian would became sought after by individuals and museum curators, who would spend time and money in searching out and acquiring these homely objects of everyday living.

Collectors are as many and as varied as the objects they seek, but the true collector of antiques, the person who inherently loves to possess and care for antique treasures, is the one who can see and appreciate the work, the ingenuity, the craftsmanship and the feeling that went into the fashioning of the objects themselves. In this so-called machine age, furniture, pottery, glass, china and all such objects of everyday living, lose some of their charm when turned out in the vast quantities that factory routine and machines allow. Consequently, the appeal of those hand-fashioned counterparts that served our forefathers is enhanced. All too often we are quick to discard the old for the new but every now and then we discover families or people who have valued their possessions through the years, until they have become rare antiques, still loved, not for their now admitted monetary value but rather for their association and inherent qualities. To these people we owe a tremendous debt, for they have preserved the tangibles of our culture. The purpose of an historical museum is to reach and spread this same appreciation of our heritage.

Looking down on the Rogers’ Rock Hotel and Heart Bay Lake George, NY

Such was the purpose of David Williams, the collector who originally saved the beaufatt or corner cupboard which is now on display in the Headquarters House (Hancock House)  collection.  Mr. Williams owned and operated the Roger’s Rock Hotel near Ticonderoga, which for many years was a Lake George landmark. In his travels throughout the countryside, he observed that many of our antique treasures were being discarded and destroyed. Accordingly, he evolved an ingenious method of collecting antiques. Acquiring a furniture catalogue, he carried it with him on his trips and whenever he discovered an interesting piece, he would offer its owner his choice of a new piece of furniture from the catalogue to replace the old one. Almost invariably he was rewarded with another antique for his collection.

All this furniture was placed in the old hotel and was responsible to a great extent for tis charm. In due time, Mr. Williams sold his property to the Roger’s Rock Club and the hotel was continued under the Club’s management until four years ago, when it was demolished (1942). At the time, a good part of the furniture came to (Hancock House) as the Roger’s Rock Collection.  (Note:  This beaufatt is the only piece of the original Rogers Rock furniture collection that was returned to the Hancock House from  NYSHA when the Ticonderoga Historical Society took over the Hancock House in 1975 and returned the house to Mr. Moses original purpose.)

Such was the source of the beaufatt for that was the term applied to the New England version of the corner cupboard. Standing fully 8’ high, it measures 3’ 8” across the front and was obviously intended as a display cabinet rather that for storage purposes.

The colonial housewife, even as her sister of today, had a bit of the collector’s instinct and usually brought wither from her native land choice items of glass, china, silver, or pewter. These were her pride and joy and displayed accordingly.

These cupboards or beaufatts were sometimes built in as a part of the house instead of being movable pieces of furniture, and very likely this accounts in part for the scarcity of good examples of this particular type of cabinet. The beaufatt usually was constructed in two sections, being divided somewhat below the middle with the lower section closed by paneled doors. The upper part was sometimes closed either with single or double glass doors, but was more often, as in our particular example, left open. In the finer examples, the top of the beaufatt was constructed in the form of an apse and this was often beautifully carved to form a large shell. The shelves, usually three in number, were carefully cut in curves, never extending the full depth of the cabinet but so designed as to show to advantage each object placed upon them.

Common throughout New England during the middle and latter part of the eighteenth century, the beaufatt was both a convenient and decorative bit of furniture which often provided a filler for an otherwise empty space, and offered the lady of the house a place to display her treasures.

Today, where it was survived (and not many examples of this particular cabinet style remain) the beaufatt still fulfills its original purpose but with the added distinction of forming not the background but rather the choice item of the display.

Rogers Rock Hotel Mirror

Gift of Marce and Judy Lavin

We are thankful for the thoughtfulness and generosity of the Laving family for their gift.  The Society had the mirror restored and it has been on display in the Front Parlor.

David Williams

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Wilson

David Williams was born in 1841 in Waterford, Ireland and was the son of John and Susan (Richardson) Williams.  With his parents he came to America in 1850 and they settled in Middletown, NY.  He attended the Middletown Academy and worked with his father in the publishing business.  In 1868 he took over the publishing business from his father  and expanded the trade publications from his  original “The Iron Age” publication  to include – “Metal Worker,” “Carpentry and Building,”  The Metallurgical Review” and many other trade and technical periodicals and books.  He also owned printing plants and the Williams Printing Company.

In 1874 J.Q.A. Treadway (John Quincy Adams) and his brother W. (William) Denton Treadway constructed the Rogers Rock Hotel on the northern shores of Lake George here in Ticonderoga.  In 1903 David Williams purchased the hotel and ran it until he sold it 1925 to the Rogers Rock Club, keeping one quarter interest in the new venture. ( The other owners being: Edmund Wilson, Grace Pullman Perkins and Belle Lobenstein)  The hotel was demolished in the spring of 1942.

Mr. Williams was an active member in the Ticonderoga community and was a director of the Ticonderoga National Bank and a trustee of The Moses Hospital.  He was also one of the charter members of the Ticonderoga Historical Society when it received its New York State Regents charter in 1909.  (The Society was organized in 1897)  He was also very instrumental in securing for the Society Andrew Carnegie‘s financing for its first museum to house the large collection of material and artifacts that it had accumulated while promoting its national awareness to make the old ruins of Fort Ticonderoga and grounds into a national historical site.  When then Ticonderoga Historical Society’s Secretary. Mr. Frederick B. Richards,  was writing to Mr. Carnegie requesting funds for the additional construction to the library building to accommodate the Society’s needs he turned to Mr. Williams, a friend of Mr. Carnegie, to add his endorsement and forward the letter.   Their was a quick and positive response to incorporate a historical space to the library.  (Note:  Refer to our web page article posted February 23, 2014) “Black Watch Library, the beginnings” for additional information.)

Mr. Williams died at his cottage, Crows Nest on the grounds of Rogers Rock on October 29, 1927 and is buried at Sleepy Hallow Cemetery, Westchester County, NY.

A Recommended Read

(Book available in our Gift Shop)

2/3/18 wgd

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