Furniture Specific: Gem in the rough
Gail wanted to go to the Park because of the Torreya tree, a rare exotic tree that only grows in China, Japan, another foreign country called California and this part of Florida – and in Gail’s garden. I went to see the antebellum furnished house located at the top of the park.
The house was constructed in 1849 at Ocheesee Landing across the river by a plantation owner named Jason Gregory. After the Civil War the plantation folded but the family lived there for some time after. It gradually fell into a state of disrepair and was abandoned in 1935 when it was donated to the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC disassembled the house, supposedly numbering every piece, and transported to its current site where it was reassembled by a different crew. The restoration is immaculate and reasonably true to the period. Today the restored house is open for tours guided by a park ranger.
The park brochure says, “The house is currently furnished with articles from the mid-1850s when the house was occupied by Jason Gregory and his family.” Well, not exactly. The young park ranger who was our tour guide acknowledged she personally knew little about the furnishing and relied on information provided by the park. That information in turn was mostly supplied by the people who generously donated items for the house. But generosity does not equate to historical knowledge and some of the information was OK, some slightly off, some way off and some just plain dead wrong.
What was called Mr. Gregory’s office was certainly in line with a two-piece mahogany and cherry plantation desk on one wall and a hand-planed Federal-era drop-leaf table on another. Upstairs in the living quarters was another story, as you will discover by viewing the pictures and reading the captions.
Overall the Gregory House at Torreya State Park is a magnificent example of one type of 19th-century lifestyle. It is an inspiring treasure and I do not fault the park for its paucity of information. However, the entire experience of visiting a part of Florida’s and the nation’s past could be enhanced tremendously if the furnishings were correctly identified and put into context with the house, its inhabitants and the period of history. I have volunteered to help document and identify the furniture, but I have not heard back from the park.
Send comments, questions and pictures to Fred Taylor at P.O. Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Fred’s website at www.furnituredetective.com. His book How To Be a Furniture Detective is available for $18.95 plus $3 shipping. Send check or money order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, P.O. Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423. Fred and Gail Taylor’s DVD, Identification of Older & Antique Furniture ($17 + $3 S&H) is also available at the same address. For more information call (800) 387-6377, fax 352-563-2916, or email@example.com. All items are also available directly from his website.
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