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Herter Brothers Aesthetic movement mantel commissioned for Happy House, the Darius Ogden Mills residence in California, which sold for $120,000 ($152,000 including premium) at John Moran.

Rediscovered Herter Brothers mantel commands $152K at Moran

MONROVIA, CA — A rediscovered Herter Brothers mantel commissioned for Happy House, the Darius Ogden Mills residence in California, exceeded its expectations at John Moran. Estimated at $6,000-$8,000, it hammered for $120,000 ($152,000 including premium) on the second day of the April 9-10 sale titled Traditional Collector.

Although later converted into a sideboard with the addition of two locking cabinet doors and three shelves, period black-and-white photographs confirm this as the parcel-gilt, inlaid, and ebonized cherrywood mantel and fire surround from a first-floor bedroom of Happy House in Millbrae, near San Francisco. It is stamped twice with the words ‘Herter Bros.’, and it has a Happy House inventory mark in pencil on the back.

Darius Ogden Mills (1825-1910) was a prominent Gilded Age figure. Born into privilege, he ventured west in the gold rush years and invested in railroads, mining, and banking. For a while, he was known as California’s wealthiest citizen. It was on his estate near San Francisco that he built Happy House, a marvel of Italianate architecture designed by Diaper & Seltzer that was completed in 1871.

From floor to ceiling, the interiors of the house were entirely decorated by the Herter Brothers. Their initial endeavors embraced the Renaissance Revival style, but around 1880 it was redesigned in the prevailing Aesthetic taste. The two Anglo-Japanese bedroom suites supplied by Herter share the same lush and dense floral marquetry to those commissioned for the bedroom of the Vanderbilt residence on Fifth Avenue in New York. This mantel is thought to have been from the bedroom used by Mills’ wife Jane Templeton Cunningham. Despite its later additions, it was in overall good condition and could be returned to its former glory with relative ease.