Friday, January 23, 2015

Grandmother's Rocking Chair

After my parent's passed away and we had to clear out their house, we found in the basement an old platform rocking chair. It had come from my grandmother's estate, hauled from Wisconsin to Oregon.  While my folks likely planned to get it redone, they never did so.  It was in total and complete disrepair.  The fabric was torn, the grass-looking stuffing was disintegrated and it was covered with dirt and even bird poop.  It also had visible rat gnawing on both arms which did not surprise me as my loving, but eccentric, grandmother did not believe in killing any living thing, including rats and mice.
My brother said he didn't want to haul it back to New Hampshire.  I already thought I had enough stuff, but  I was too sentimental to throw it away.  We figured we would take it to the dump, but I kept setting it aside.  When the very last day came, I still couldn't bear to throw it away and stored it for a couple of months in the garage of my very loving and tolerant aunt's home.  After several months we finally drove down to Portland and packed it in the van. I couldn't believe that I was taking it home, but also couldn't quite bring myself to toss it either.  [Sentimentality can not only be costly, but it also takes up a lot of space.  Ask me sometime about the piano we shipped 200 miles and which then required taking the doors and door frame off both the garage entry and the laundry room in order to get it in the rec room.  I do not play the piano, although my folks bought this piano (used) so that I could take lessons when I was 7 or so.   Yes, that is a milk can in that photo.]] 
But back to the chair.  So one day I realized it was time to fish or cut bait so to speak; we needed to either get it fixed and reupholstered or play taps and send it to its final resting place.  I went on line and discovered -- Design Craft Upholstery, a local company that specializes in reupholstering furniture of all eras. I called them and made an appointment to bring the remains of the chair over.  So I dragged the visible skeleton and diseased hanging tissue of the chair over to get it diagnosed.
Amazingly enough, for the right amount of green ($), I was told it could be restored to its former glory. So we chose new upholstery, made a down payment and committed ourselves to bigger bucks.  We left it there to be torn apart,  refinished (wood portions) and then rebuilt using the original springs and as much of the original structure as possible.  The company subs out the refinishing.
We took the chair in on August 15th with an estimated return of three months.  That estimate would be sometime around Thanksgiving.  Two weeks later my husband fell off his ladder while working and his income disappeared for the same time period.  So we were not at all unhappy to wait  to get our "your chair is finished" call on January 15, 2015.  So it was five months but well worth the wait!  Allan and Shelly and their company did a great job!
What a change!  Wouldn't grandma and/or great-grandma be surprised!  The rebuilt chair is stuffed with flax and hogs hair as it was when new.  We appreciate that the chair is as authentic as it can be!.
Close up of the fabric.
Gnaw marks are gone!
Platform springs
Wooden wheels.
Chair rocks very well and is quite comfortable.  Reading on the internet, it appears that platform rockers were invented around 1880 because they wouldn't "move" around on wooden floors while rocking.  We don't know if this originally belonged to Grandma Susan, Great Grandma Ella Jane or maybe even Great Grand Aunt Nellie (Richardson) Thompson.  If only this chair could talk, we could find out so much! A loving link to Spring Brook Farm.
Received comment:  A cousin's wife wrote " [Cousin who lived for some time with my Grandmother] said the gnaw marks were from squirrels.  Aunt Susan saved bags of hickory nuts on the second floor so the squirrels got in to get the nuts. These squirrels kept most of the rats and mice away. He remembers the chair but not its history."


Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard said...

What a wonderful restoration job, and how special to have something that has been in the family for ages!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

AMAZING restoration!! WOW...

Unknown said...

That was just a delightful story. I, too, have had two barrel back chairs (my husband's parents) recovered twice in the 20 years we have owned them. Could have bought new ones cheaper, but I love them.