We're definitely in a different room this time. In fact, today's table is set in a completely different house, a very special one that I've mentioned before on Affordable Accoutrements. It was during a (virtual) tour of Historic Bolivar, Tennessee, a few months ago. You can see it HERE.
Here's the property's historic marker, erected by the Tennessee Historical Commission:
The Pillars, built circa 1828, is now an Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities property (owned and maintained by the Hardeman County Chapter). U. S. Presidents, James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson; Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America; and Sam Houston, governor of two states, President of the Republic of Texas, U.S. senator, and military hero, were all entertained here by John Houston Bills and his first wife, Prudence Polk McNeal Bills, a cousin of President Polk. Celebrated American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician, Davy Crockett also came to call. The Pillars served as a hospital twice during the Civil War, alternately providing care for men on both sides of the conflict.
Don't you love real wood shutters? Shutters that are actually hinged and can be latched to keep out damaging storm winds and the sweltering heat of a bright summer day ...
Below is an original portrait of Major Bills in the home's entry hall.
The parlor to the left of the foyer ...
The Bills family lived in the home for approximately 140 years. Most of the furnishings are original. Behind the wonderful old square piano is one of the home's windows with "jib" doors(that allowed the window to be raised and the wooden double doors at the bottom opened) to provide easy access to the porches.
I was honored to be asked to stage the dining room for this year's tour of historic homes in Bolivar. It provided a slightly daunting challenge, as I thought of the home's rich history and of the celebrated guests who'd been entertained there in the 1800s. When Paula, one of the organizers of the tour, asked me if I'd be interested, she kindly offered to let me use any of the Bills family's china and serving pieces that remained in the home. I told her I'd feel more comfortable using something of my own, unless it needed to be period china. She assured me that it would not be necessary to adhere to an historic interpretation, pointing out that The Pillars had truly been a family home over a very long period of time. She reminded me that things had been used, worn out, replaced as styles changed, thrown away, inherited, and so on.
Naturally, the night before, I had selected (and packed) everything I planned to use. From unloading the car to unwrapping china and crystal, setting the table, arranging the flowers, cleaning up the staging area, and taking photographs, I managed to finish the task in well under 2 hours on Saturday morning. It was a pleasure to be a small part of such a well-orchestrated day that involved dozens and dozens of docents and other volunteers. I admire their dedication, their passion, and their energy. Community pride and a warm spirit of cooperation were evident in everyone I met that day from children to the beautiful octogenarian who didn't look remotely near the age she demurely revealed herself to be.
Isn't it a wonderful room? A docent mentioned that Major Bills preferred light, warm wall colors that reflected the soft light of candles and oil lamps. One of the rooms is painted a fairly intense, slightly greenish, shade of yellow that most of us today would find somewhat garish. They know it's a color he favored, however, because he wrote down the paint formula in one of the detailed diaries he maintained over the years. She said it brightens the room in the daytime, and takes on a soft, subtle glow by candlelight.
The chandelier originally hung in the home of one of Tennessee's former governors.
Cissye, president of the local APTA chapter, can be seen in the background preparing to make beaten biscuits to serve to tour participants. Since she's average height, or slightly above average, it's easy to see how tall the ceilings and doorways of the home are.
Have you ever tried beaten biscuits? In days gone by, these were made by beating the dough until it blistered (about 15-30 minutes) to make the dough "snap." They are sometimes considered "Sunday biscuits" and can be stored for several months in an airtight container. Beaten biscuits were once so popular that special machines, called biscuits brakes, were manufactured to knead the dough in home kitchens. A biscuit brake typically consists of a pair of steel rollers geared together and operated by a crank, mounted on a small table with a marble top and cast iron legs. That's what Cissye used during demonstrations for visitors, and she explained that the dough has to be put through the rollers approximately 200 times!
I decided to go for an old-fashioned look, using vintage Tiffin crystal stemware and Haviland china.
The table's so beautiful, I opted to dispense with a tablecloth. It can be expanded to serve 12 guests, but I decided to remove some of the leaves and set it for 6, leaving plenty of space for guests to move about in the room.
This set of crystal also includes oyster/cocktail glasses and pretty little cordials, but I felt that four stems per place setting would be sufficient.
The clear glass underplate is Caprice by Cambridge. The solid, gold-rimmed china is Concorde by Theodore Haviland (made in America), and the salad plates are French by Charles Field Haviland (an 1880s pattern).
The flatware is Jamestown, introduced by International in 1916. Even though it's 20th Century, I felt that it had a nice, old-fashioned look that worked well in this context.
The large, starched dinner napkins are vintage, and came from a recent estate sale.
In 1947, Joseph and Louise McAnulty purchased a 10-acre tract of forested land within the city limits of Bolivar (across from The Pillars). They later learned that their woods were a remnant of a rare virgin forest! McAnulty was a prominent local businessman whose family had lived in Hardeman County for many generations. The local Episcopal Church had owned this forest since the 1800s where they built a girl’s school on a slope surrounded on three sides by wooded ravines. The McAnulty family built their home on this old school site being careful not to disturb the precious forest that, as far as they knew, had never been cut.
I hope you've enjoyed visiting The Pillars today. Please join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch and visit all her talented Tablescape Thursday participants. I'm also linking to a new party I hope you'll visit, Centerpiece Wednesday with The Style Sisters. Check it out HERE. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to view this post and a special thank you to the Hardeman County Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities for inviting me to be part of their annual tour of homes. It was an honor and a great privilege.