Monday, February 20, 2012

American Chestnut: 1922 Starkey House, a Finger Lakes Bed & Breakfast is Adorned With Original Woods

The Arts & Crafts period of architecture in America often called for woodworking in the form of panels, doors, moldings and floors that were created using the, now extinct American Chestnut tree. 

Wood work at 1922 Starkey House was taken from the
majestic American Chestnut tree, now extinct.
When I first stepped into the house almost thirteen years ago, I fell in love with the color, sheen, and richness of the the original Chestnut wood used throughout as the perfect finish to the philosophy of that era; simple, natural, functional beauty. The untouched, vintage setting was probably one of the reasons I decided to make the house mine.

 The trim moldings that were cut and fitted on site, were as beautiful as they day they were installed. I can picture the busy carpenters using the tools of the craft with perfect precision as they completed every detail fitting around beveled glass and framing of the stained glass windows and doors.
Solid American Chestnut entry door from south veranda
at 1922 Starkey House Bed & Breakfast Inn
My eyes raced back and forth in amazement first at the built-in bookcases between the dining room and living room. 

Then, to the French doors in the main hall, the stairway and finally, to the panels and plate rails in the dining room. Corner moldings were used as final appointments even on the third floor. 

Main entry hallway at 1922 Starkey House Bed & Breakfast
located in the Finger Lakes Region of upstate NY
Remarkable wood grain of vintage American Chestnut
raised paneling and plate rail in the dining room at
historic 1922 Starkey House

The history of the great American Chestnut is an interesting one. The fact that its wood and fruit provided for and sustained the American people with a variety of uses from early on, up to its demise during the later 1930's.

 "The fruit that fell to the ground was an important cash crop. Families raked up chestnuts by the bushels and took wagon loads of them to sell in nearby towns. The people even cooked the chestnuts for their own use. The bark and wood were rich in tannic acid which provided tannins for use in the tanning of leather. More than half of the vegetable tannin used by the American leather industry at the turn of the century came from the American Chestnut."      taken from

It is sad to know that a blight hit and destroyed this variety of Chestnut tree from the early 1900's to around the 1930's from eastern Canada down the coast to the Carolinas. There is a society and movement to revive and restore the growth of the American Chestnut.

I am happy to be the keeper of the beautiful Chestnut wood left by those who worked so artistically and carefully during the last century, to impart its natural beauty here at 1922 Starkey House. I thank all of the owner-keepers before me for preserving it and not painting over it.

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