Blinded By a Case of Tunnel Vision

Last week, as I was writing my piece on collecting the sterling silver of William Waldo Dodge, I was reminded of an experience I had almost twenty years ago that still makes me wince today.

It was May 17, 1993, and I was preparing to interview the 93-year-old architect Tony Lord, who died just a few months later. Tony Lord had been a friend, a collaborator and a partner of William Waldo Dodge and he had agreed to let me record his recollections of the Asheville silversmith for a future book of mine.

Tony Lord had been trained as an architect, having graduated from Yale with a degree in architecture in 1927. After a brief tour of Europe, Tony returned to his hometown of Asheville, where he joined his father’s architectural firm. But the stock market crash a few years later and the resulting Great Depression changed his plans, as it did millions of others. Fellow architect William Dodge turned to silversmithing; Tony Lord took up blacksmithing.

Working in the style of Arts & Crafts metalsmith Samuel Yellin, young Tony Lord forged artistic, hand-hammered hardware and decorative hinges for exterior doors, as well as iron grill works for windows. Some of his finest work is still in use on the Yale campus in New Haven, CT, as well as in Washington, DC, and, of course, around Asheville.

Now, I have often been accused of suffering from an acute case of tunnel vision, but on this particular day it was at its worst. As I stood on Tony Lord’s front porch I caught sight of an Arts & Crafts oak settle a few feet away, partially covered with an old blanket, but I paid virtually no attention to it as I focused on my task at hand: collect all the information I could from Mr. Lord about William Waldo Dodge and his silver.

We had a wonderful few hours together that spring afternoon, the memory of which still remains fresh in my mind. After Tony passed away, his house was sold and the contents distributed among family, friends and, I suspect, a few strangers, as is generally the case.

A few years later, as I was sitting next to the son of William Dodge going through some old photographs taken in 1924 inside the first Dodge silver shop, I stopped and pointed to a familiar piece. “What’s that?” I asked.

“Why,” Mr. Dodge replied, “that’s an old Stickley couch we had growing up. My father took it over to his silver shop for clients to sit on while he was wrapping up their purchases.”

I was almost afraid to ask, for I already knew the answer.

“Do you have any idea what ever happened to it?”

“I know exactly what happened to it,” Dodge replied matter-of-factly. “He gave it to Tony Lord.”

Oh, for a life without regrets….

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!

– Bruce