When the call came, it was in the form of a definitive attribution. “The table was made by HH Richardson and we need to repair it, and then make a duplicate.” It is the oval table in the foreground of this 1897 photo of the library.
Henry Hobson Richardson was the architect who won the design competition resulting in Trinity Church (1872) in Boston, and also many libraries and public buildings. But he also made furniture – the first I was exposed to was a library table (I made a couple of benches for the owner of the table, after it had been de-accessioned from a library years before).
Richardson was corpulent – tipping the scales at over 350 pounds. And his furniture is all made to accommodate his generous frame. Tables with trunk-like legs, chairs so wide that two ordinary people could fit in the seat. And the oval table from the Massachusetts Statehouse Library followed this style. I wasn’t sure that the dates matched well enough, or that the carving was quite right on the legs for one of his pieces, but I was looking forward to the challenge, which was three-fold.
- First, create an exact duplicate of the original elliptical table, in mahogany, with a glass insert for the writing surface and lots of carving on the legs.
- Second, design and build a second, round table that is also in the style, and which had a leather top.
- Third, do all of this in less than 6 weeks. And at the budget that the state could allow (remember, no state government worth its salt wants to spend more money than absolutely necessary, and they were very tight on this budget)
I certainly couldn’t do it alone but Alex (one of the Fort Point Cabinetmakers) and I worked out the timing, and thought that if we got enough help from other North Bennet Street School graduates we could get the project completed. North Bennet was intimately involved with the project, as with many other projects around the state, and we coordinated all the resources needed to make the project happen. It is a good collaboration, since we are all involved with the school. (Look up their workshops, if you are interested in doing this at a higher level.)
And so it started – on October 6th 2014 with the official go-ahead from the state to the North Bennet Street School….. more later, since I have to go design some furniture this morning….
I work as a full-time furniture maker, designing and crafting one-of-a-kind furniture for my clients. If you have an interesting project, I would enjoy hearing about it, and you can do that through my contact page or through the Richard Oedel, Fine Furniture Master website.