Tag Archives: woodcarving

Now online: Hearthstone Historic House Museum

Fireplace at Hearthstone

Fireplace in Hearthstone parlor, with mantel carved by William Van Strattum and tiles painted by Frederika Crane.

Seven catalog entries for objects from Hearthstone Historic House Museum in Appleton are now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. Built on a bluff overlooking the Fox River in 1881, Hearthstone’s primary claim to fame is that it was the first home in the world lit by hydroelectric power.

This Queen Anne-style brick home was designed by William Waters, an architect based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Much of the interior woodwork, including the bird’s-eye maple mantelpiece shown above, was the handiwork of a young Appleton woodworker named William Van Strattum. Other works by Van Strattum at Hearthstone include two marquetry tables and an intricately carved wall pocket, which he is said to have made for his wife LuLu Lansing in 1884.

Crane's signature

Crane's signature on mantel tiles.

Noted Green Bay artist Frederika Crane painted the porcelain tiles that surround the parlor fireplace. The woman illustrated on the tiles is thought to represent Evangeline, the central figure in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem of the same name. Hearthstone also holds several more typical examples of Crane’s work in china painting, most notably a set of twelve dinner plates decorated with birds.

Detail, wall pocket, William Van Stratum

The prominent initials "LL" on this birch and oak wall pocket suggest that William Van Stratum carved the work as a gift for his future wife, LuLu Lansing.

The collections documented at Hearthstone complement two other collections in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database: china painting by Frederika Crane from the Brown County Historical Society in Green Bay and other examples of Appleton’s late 19th century material culture from the History Museum at the Castle.

–Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer


Now Online: Private Collections part 1

Hand-carved figurine used as a cigarette and match holder, David E. Wachter, Milwaukee, 1904.

I have slowly been making my way through a large backlog of artifacts I’ve photographed in the past few months. Since starting a new job at the Outreach Specialist for Wisconsin Heritage Online (more on that in a future post), I’ve had a limited amount of time to devote to the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. But the project continues, and many new entries will be posted online in the coming months!

In addition to objects from historic sites and museums, I have started to document a selection of items held in private collections in Wisconsin. Two groups of objects from private collectors–one built over decades of collecting, the other assembled much more recently–are now online.

The first collection is an eclectic array of furniture and folk art, much of it made by Scandinavian immigrants in Wisconsin, including an inlaid box made in Dunn County and a turned maple bowl probably made in Dane County. One of my favorite works from this collection is a figurine carved and signed by David E. Wachter of Milwaukee (at left). This charming and highly detailed figure of a wolf dressed in Alpine hiking gear is meant to function as a cigarette and match holder–the wolf’s open backpack holds cigarettes and an emery board in a medallion at his feet serves as a match striker.

Cast iron horse head hitching post finial, Charles Silberzahn, West Bend, ca. 1880-1900.

The second private collection consists of cast iron horse-head hitching posts produced by Wisconsin manufacturers including Charles Silberzahn of West Bend, William Bayley of Milwaukee, and the Appleton Novelty Works. A first for the database, the hitching posts are a unique example of the early metals industry in Wisconsin and also offer some impressive visual impact.

Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.