By JOSHUA THOMAS
CANAJOHARIE — On Saturday, 25 antiques dealers converged on the Great Hall at the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie to set up shop, and all in the name of a good cause. As they do annually, the Palatine Settlement Society scheduled the event in order to raise funding for the continued restoration of the 1747 Nellis Tavern, located in St. Johnsville.
The event served two purposes for Palatine Settlement Society Trustee Donna Reston, who is not only active in restoring the Nellis Tavern, but also annually sells items at the event on behalf of her business, Reston’s Books and Antiques.
She said that Saturday’s show was successful in both respects. She sold numerous items, including a cupboard, a quilt, books, an atlas, several prints, and several pieces of rare, 18th Century silver, and a good chunk of money was taken in for the tavern.
The show takes Reston about three months to organize each year, which includes signing a contract with the museum, rounding up the 25 dealers, advertising, and appointing a chair of the food preparation committee. “For me, it’s a labor of love,” said Reston of the process, noting that she’s also proud to have the opportunity to help the museum raise money through the optional purchase of a combination ticket, which allows attendees access to the show and the museum’s galleries. Many take advantage of that option, she said.
Reston explained that while she likes to bring in some local dealers, the most important consideration in organizing the relatively small show is striking a balance. “That’s part of attracting people,” she stated, noting that aside from attempting to bring in dealers with something for everybody, she makes sure the dealers are bringing in quality, authentic antiques and collectibles. “If you’re going to charge people money to come into a show, let’s give them what they’re paying for,” Reston commented.
Lori Strunk, owner of Windy Hill Antiques, out of Palatine Bridge, did just that, showing off a wide assortment of quality jewelry ranging from 1810 to 1980, including Native American jewelry, 19th century modernist, and Victorian.
Strunk, who has had a booth at the show for the past two years, said of the chance to sell items in the Great Room, “it’s fabulous, because everybody enjoys the space.”
She continued of attendees, “the people are very pleasant. They’re very interested, and for a small show, it’s not people with hands in their pockets. People are spending a little bit. For the number of people here, I think the quality is very good, and the number of people coming through the door is very good.”
While giving people what they came for is important, the reason for the antique show remained the most important fact of the day, and it seemed to be on everybody’s minds. Programs explaining what the Palatine Settlement Society has been up to were handed out at the door, and Reston spoke about upcoming projects.
Of the show and the ongoing restoration of the tavern, Jeremy Rosenthal, a Schoharie resident that attends every year, stated on behalf of himself and his wife, Laura, “It’s a great little collection, and it helps support the Nellis Tavern, which we think is a wonderful institution. We’re really hoping that they can move forward with their restoration. They’ve done a great job so far, but there’s a significant way to go. It’s very impressive how they can garner resources from the local community to support and rebuild an ongoing part of our heritage.”
Of the tavern’s restoration, Reston said, “We still need a massive amount of things done,” including a paint job on the Nellis Tavern’s front side (which faces away from Route 5 toward the river), foundation repair, and the construction of a service building. Now that the building is fully furnished, and annual events such as the Rhubarb Festival have amassed a devoted following, there simply isn’t enough room inside the tavern to hold everybody.
It would also be useful to have a kitchen installed in the service building, said Reston, as cooking is currently done off-site. The tavern’s board also hopes to install a restroom in the service building, as the port-a-potty currently outside is a costly expense at $100 per month for the six-to-seven months the Nellis Tavern is open every year.
She also noted that the cheese house, dropped in the wrong spot when it was donated, will be moved at some point in the near future. While it would seem an easy task, it is costly, as a new foundation for the structure, which currently blocks the original view of the Tavern, would need to be poured for the building to be permanently secured.
The Nellis Tavern will open its doors a bit early this year, as they have a program, wherein songs from the war of 1812 will be performed, scheduled for May 5. The program, sponsored by the NYS Council on the Arts, is free and open to the public.