My family refers to this dresser as the "Hays House dresser" because it came from the Hays House in Council Grove, Kansas. The Hays House was built in 1857 by Seth Hayes, a grandson of . It was a last-stop place for supplies for westward travelers on the . It has been used as gathering place for church services, court trials, bawdy theatricals, politicians' speeches, a general store, a restaurant and hotel. Among its early patrons were George A. Custer and Jesse James. Seth Hays was a business man making a fortune off the trail traffic. Hays also had a huge stone barn east of town (still there) and adjoining a wooded area in a bow in the where travelers camped. In the barn he kept and traded horses with the travelers whose teams were travel-weary. He had about all the bases covered.
I love the detailing on this dresser. Like the hand-crafted quilts I adore, it's obvious this furniture was built not only to last, but to be pretty. From the scalloped top above the mirror and at the sides behind the candle holders....
to the inscribed designs in the drawers, this piece of furniture was someone's work of art.
However, when my grandparents got the dresser, it didn't look this way. The current beautiful appearance is due to the work my grandfather put into refinishing it. Here is that story in his own words:
When Helen Judd inherited the place from her grandmother, she got an architect and converted the place to its current use which is a restaurant. In the process, she took out all the upstairs bedrooms and added a bar and extra restaurant space. In disposing of the old furniture, I asked about the oak dresser and made a deal with her to reconstruct another dresser for her and let me have the one I wanted. The oak dresser looked terrible-painted green, drawers coming apart, one candle shelf completely missing, some of the casters missing, part of the drawer pulls mashed and some completely missing, and the top badly warped. Underneath it all, I knew it was solid and beautiful oak wood. I also loved the mirror frame with its filigree. So I stripped the green paint, took it all apart and re-glued everything, made a new candle shelf, repaired the mashed brass drawer pulls and found a new one which matched closely enough to use, and put in new mirror glass. Then I took the warped top and laid it in the sun on a rich patch of green grass. After several hours, the concave side next to the grass absorbed enough moisture from the grass to make it expand and bend the wood back into its present fairly flat surface. I have no idea of the dresser's origins or when it was placed in the upstairs room of the tavern, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the piece.
Many thanks to my grandfather providing both the history of the Hays House (which I used nearly word for word) and his personal experience in refurbishing the dresser.
I hope you've enjoyed the story of the Hays House dresser. I'll be linking up for Vintage Thingie Thursday. So head on over to the Colorado Lady's site, and check on the other Vintage Thingie Thursday entrants.