Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Great Buy in Arcadia

This past week, my friend Sandy and I took a day trip to Arcadia, Florida, which has a lot of antique shops. Arcadia is located near the center of Florida, and to get there, one passes through spaces that could best be described as Florida's equivalent of plains.

This is a typical view along the route.

One also sees many herds of cattle. The birds in the image below are cattle egrets. They pair up with the cows to groom them of bugs, and the two species appear to be the best of pals.

It might surprise you to know that Florida raises more beef cattle than the state of Texas! And because of that, Florida has a rich cowboy tradition.

Arcadia was in fact a cowboy town, and if it weren't for those darn automobiles and all the paving, you could easily imagine cowboys riding right down the middle of this street, photographed at "high noon."

I enjoyed seeing all the old brickwork,
seemingly a lost art.

My purchase for the day was this ladder back chair, which I've outlined so you can see it better. I'm not sure of the age, but it's probably mid-19th century. It's called "Spanish Colonial." The chair needs a new seat, and the painting — which is not remarkable — needs to be redone. I'd never seen a chair like this, but I did a quick Web search and found its cousin up for auction:

Note that the circular design in both chairs is supported by similar scrolls, that the finials are consistent in design and gilding, that the gilding follows to all three slats in each chair, and that both chairs have rush seating. The estimated value of the chair at auction is $750-$1250. The price of my chair was ... $35.


  1. Hello Mark:
    What an absolute find. The chair is wonderful and will, we are sure when you have completed any restoration work, be a marvellous addition to your house.

    We have been fascinated to see a glimpse of the Florida countryside which is totally different from anything we had imagined. As for the 'partnership' between the cattle and the egrets, we had never heard of such a thing before.

  2. A dream find! I`m looking forward too se the chair restord:)

  3. Hi Mark - the Spanish Colonial chair was a great find. I prefer the circular top on yours, it will look stunning when you have worked your magic on it. Hope you will show it to us again.

  4. Like the Arcadia of Ancient times there is a bit of the unspoilt look about this place.Unspoilt also in thge fact that you nabbed an utter bargain!

  5. Hello Jane and Lance:

    I went to the Internet to research "cattle egret" and discovered that egrets around the world have a symbiotic relationship with all sorts of cattle. I accessed iamages of cattle egrets from Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Panama and Taiwan.

  6. Hi, Nina and Rosemary - I will definitely do a posting on the restoration of this chair.

    Rosemary, I agree with you — I like that the top on mine has a rather Rococo feel to it!

  7. Hi, David - Arcadia is in some ways unspoiled. Sandy and I had coffee in a café that's been in continuous operation since 1929, and clearly the local customers were regarded as family. I like that about small towns.

  8. Mark great find, and that is always exciting and well worth the trip!


    Art by Karena

  9. Thanks, Karena — I'm looking forward to the restoration and posting the finished look!

  10. Arcadia (what a great name)also looks like every small town in Ohio.

    The roundel on your chair has an almost Chinese quality to the carving and color scheme.
    I just looked at a clavichord that was over-restored to within an inch of its life, but I'm sure that you'll go gentle on this chair.

  11. Mark
    Thanks for your email. Your chair is fabulous!! I have to tell you I don't know much about Spanish Colonial furniture other than I love it! I am traveling now but when I get home I will check my books and see if I can find any info for you. I saw a set of green chairs similar to yours a few years ago at the Round Top show here in Texas and they were very expensive! More soon . Ann

  12. Hi Mark,
    Looking forward to seeing the "Ruffnarienized" chair and also its location in your home.

  13. Hello, Parnassus - Acually, I would not be inclined to redo this piece were it not for the fact that the original seating is shot and the paint doesn't seem to have ever been particularly special. There's even a dribble of blue enamel down one chair leg.

    On the other hand, I think this is a good piece, and so my intention is to restore it closely to the original look. I might use two shades of the same hue and introduce a little shading to set off the circular portion, but the coloring will be subtle (not like the clavichord!).

  14. Hi, Ann - I figured that you would be the one person amongst my blogging friends who would have seen a chair like this. I imagined that Spanish Colonial might be synonymous with "early Texas." I'm actually excited an heartened that you haven't run into these, and I look forward to any more information you might be able to gleen from your books. Thanks!

  15. Hi, Anyes - I will definitely show the stages of restoration and the chair's placement. In fact one of these days (but not just now) I'll do a house tour ...

  16. Looks like you got a great deal, Mark. Love the chair. I also love nothing better than stopping by a whole block's worth of antique shops. Or a flea market. Fun.

    I'm going to look forward to seeing you restore the chair.

  17. Hi, Yvette - As you can see from Hill Country House Girl's comment above, while the chair is Spanish Colonial, it's evidently unusual for even the Texas area, so I'll want to begin with a little research. I will try to do a scholarly restoration to the chair.

  18. I love the chair! I need to get out more!
    (side note-our ranch is named the "One Egret Ranch" because when we started with cattle, we had so few we only attracted one egret!)

  19. Hi Mark, Something is wrong with my commentor. I have written 3 time to tell you this chair is fab. and don't you dare touch the paint! I going to try anonymous. Hollywood forever, Kevin

  20. Hi Mark, I can not seem to comment on your blog, it just will not go through. I going to try again. The chair is wonderful!!!! and what a great price. Kevin
    Forgive me if my last four comments get posted.

  21. Hi, Theresa - I'm so glad you like the chair, connoiseur that you are. Photographing the cows and the egrets was not easy. As soon as I got out of the car, the cows moved away (I must have spooked them), and that in turn sent the egrets running and fluttering. The view that I captured was at a distance, as they all retreated.

  22. Hi, Kevin - Three of your messages got through just fine, and I'm glad you persevered!

    I know all about the value of antiques being diminished by over-zealous refinishing, but the truth, Kevin, is that every part of the chair not shown in my photograph is flaking off in a most unattractive way. There's also a bright blue dribble of enamel running down one leg.

    My thought is to gently remove the paint and use an oatmeal paint of the same color, but I'm not going to move forward with anything until I explore many possibilities and do more research. I'd be interested in any further thoughts you might have ...

  23. Who knew??!! What an interesting trip and fabulous find!!

  24. "Fabulous" is the reoccurring word — and it is! Now I'll have fun planning its restoration ...