The United States of Arts & Crafts
We don’t know about you but we had the best time catching up on Gus Bostrom’s summer travels with his family when he sent out the e-newsletter each week for his Arts and Crafts antiques business, acstickley.com. But the short blurbs in our inbox each week weren’t enough. We asked Gus to put together their entire itinerary so we could share it here with you at ArtsAndCraftsCollector.com. The result? Well…you can read all the fun for yourself.
2014 was a year without a vacation. I have never taken on more in a short amount of time. I started a non-profit foundation (The Dirk van Erp Foundation), held a major exhibition on Dirk van Erp, wrote the accompanying book, held our first auction, helped start a nationwide furniture delivery company (Steve Auger Shipping) and completely revamped our website, acstickley.com. All of this in addition to running our regular day-to-day business. Needless to say, I barely saw my wife and two kids. But I promised them that if they could be patient, I would take them on a 6 week, cross-country road trip adventure — the next summer.
I have traveled to every one of the lower 48 states previously, but I wanted to share them with my family. I wanted them to experience just how vast our country is; to see the contrasts between the countryside and the cities, to hear the different accents and to experience the change of pace between the high-speed metropolitan areas and the slow-moving countryside.
We traveled in our Sprinter Van, a silver 2012 Mercedes that was designed just as a fancy cargo van. We’ve traveled in this van before on shorter, week-long trips. But to make the van a little more passenger friendly for this cross-country trip, we made a few changes. The front partition is now movable and a bench seat snaps into the rear of the van. We also had windows installed in the back (remember, it was originally built just for cargo!) and some power vents installed in the roof to pull the heat out of the van since we did not have rear air conditioning.
So, we left our home in Alameda, CA (near Berkeley) on Monday, July 6th, headed towards our first stop, Yellowstone. It’s one of the few places in this country that I had never been. I tried to visit in the past, but they don’t allow commercial trucks, so my Penske truck was always turned away at the gate.
We arrived in Yellowstone Wednesday night late and spent two days exploring the geysers and hot springs. Traveling throughout the park, wildlife is everywhere! Herds of buffalo blocked the road for more than an hour. Alyson, our 8 1/2 year old daughter, took some great pictures of them (see top photo).
The Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone was filled with original Limbert furniture, some of which was custom designed for the hotel including the great spindled back chairs with through tenons coming through the crest rail (see second photo).
After Yellowstone, we ventured up to Bozeman, MT, across to Billings then over to Custer, SD and Mt. Rushmore. Alyson did the Junior Ranger program at just about every National Park we went to and earned her Junior Ranger badges.
From there we stopped in the NW corner of Iowa just to add another state to our trip then headed up to the Twin Cities. After a quick visit to Eastwood Gallery in St Paul, we headed to one of the many lakes in Minneapolis and Alyson and I went paddle boarding. We also went to the Mall of America (but don’t tell anyone).
Our next stop was Madison, WI en route to Chicago. Our best meal of the entire trip was a Brazilian Steakhouse in Downer’s Grove called Chama Gaucha. I’m getting hungry just thinking about that place. In Chicago, we visited my friend, John Becker, who repairs violins. His studio is in the Fine Arts Building in Chicago. His studio was also home to two great Arts & Crafts artists: Frank Lloyd Wright & Will Denslow. Becker’s studio #1021 was Wright’s studio from 1908-1910 and next door in Becker’s studio, #1020, was Will Denslow’s in 1901. Denslow was not only a famous Roycrofter but he is more widely known for illustrating the original Wizard of Oz books.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Field Museum. (Think, Night at the Museum, the movie.) We had fun dodging the rain drops walking the two miles back to the van. On the way out of town we visited International House at the University of Chicago. My mom and dad met there in 1964 while getting their masters degrees. Speaking of degrees, it was 100 with 90% humidity. Luckily, it never got that bad the rest of the trip.
Longtime Arts & Crafts collector Bill Porter had invited us to stop by for a visit in Ann Arbor, but unfortunately he was out of town when we rolled through, but thanks to him, we visited the Henry Ford Museum outside of Detroit. We thought we could explore this place in 2-3 hours. Wrong. We extended our stay for another day. The highlight of this stop: Thomas Edison’s original workshop!
After Michigan, we drove through Ohio into Pennsylvania to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. Alyson had been asking to add this to the list of places to visit for the past 6 months. An 8 year old asking to see a Frank Lloyd Wright house. How cool is that?! (See third photo.)
From Fallingwater we headed north to Jamestown, NY and Lake Chautauqua and the community of Chautauqua. Founded in 1874 as a multi-denominational educational experiment in out-of-school, vacation learning, Chautauqua has been credited as one of Elbert Hubbard’s early inspirations in creating the Roycroft community. And speaking of Hubbard, our next stop was East Aurora, NY.
We stayed at the Roycroft Inn for just one night and explored the Roycroft campus the next day. (See bottom photo.) The Roycroft Inn is amazing. Personally, I love the murals in the salon painted by Alexis Fournier. After a very nice lunch, we visited the Roycroft Museum, which was originally the George and Gladys Scheidemantel House. George was a leather worker at Roycroft. Not just any leather worker but the best. His house and collection are amazing.
We stopped in just one antique shop randomly during the whole trip while in East Aurora. We certainly visited other shops along the journey, but this trip was unplanned. It’s hard to believe but in this one shop, I found the earliest known Gustav Stickley settle ever made. Made in 1900 as part of the “New Furniture” Gustav experimented with carving and turned legs. This settle has both, but it also has its original hard leather back and rare early tacks. It is marked on a label on the bottom in pencil “158”. Similar examples in the early catalog are numbers 152 & 154 for smaller versions.
After loading the early Gus settle into our van, we were off to Niagara Falls. Worst Holiday Inn of our trip (they’re usually great). From there we headed north and drove along the edge of Lake Ontario to Rochester, NY and then over to Syracuse where we stopped in and visited Dave Rudd of Dalton’s Antiques. Then we drove north to Oswego. I spent the first four years of my life in Oswego before we left in April of 1974 and moved to San Francisco.
Through Watertown we headed across the top of New York State, through Malone to Plattsburgh and took a car ferry across Lake Champlain towards Burlington, Vermont. We stayed in Montpelier (the smallest state capitol in the US) with family friends of my mom. Then we headed across Route 2 East towards New Hampshire, and into central Maine.
In Waterville, Maine we had lunch with an old friend, John Julia (brother of James Julia, the auctioneer). John has been selling antiques and antique furniture online for years and was my biggest client when I had my first nationwide furniture delivery company, Rhino Delivery Service, from 1998-2004. John took over the delivery business when I left that venture in 2002, then he hired me to drive for him. In late 2003 I gave John 6 months notice that I was going to quit the delivery business entirely, open up a small Arts & Crafts antiques shop in Berkeley, settle down, get married and have 2.3 kids. (Still working on point three.)
From Waterville we headed to the coast, Bar Harbor, one of the most beautiful, iconic coastal towns in Maine but overrun by tourists this time of year. I first discovered Bar Harbor while in the delivery business. I visited in the beginning of October when the fall colors were just stellar. But this was high tourist season and it was crowded. The highlight of this stop: Pirate’s Cove Miniature Golf (at least for Alyson…).
After Bar Harbor we headed south and visited Jennifer Fremont, daughter of Joyce Bennet, an art pottery dealer that I knew years ago. Jennifer now lives in Gloucester, MA. Last year, with my encouragement, Jennifer did a similar 6 week cross country adventure by herself. After her visit last year in Berkeley, I enjoyed seeing the old sea faring colony that she lives in now.
Check back next month for the second half of their epic trip, more fun photos and moments — and their next leg of the trip: Boston!