Graham Arader lives history and experiences deep pleasure in unearthing connections. In the rare book and image field he has achieved rare eminence. His personal tastes go far beyond paper, ink and paint and he wants his collectible objects to be in situ. For that, he is offering his collection of rare furniture in an equally rare revolutionary war environment: Ballygomingo in Gulph Mills.
Here is his story about collectible furniture.
By Graham Arader
Accompanying my father to the showrooms of Israel Sack and Bernard Levy & Son as a young man cemented my lifelong passion for American furniture. Charles Montgomery's course on American Decorative Arts at Yale served as further inspiration and his book, American Furniture: The Federal Period was a staple on my bookshelf throughout college and the ensuing years. As a burgeoning map and print dealer, monthly visits to the homes of Robert McNeil, Jr and Richard Dietrich fostered an appreciation for the finest examples of eighteenth century Philadelphia furniture and my dreams to one day own pieces of such quality coalesced.
What was so alluring about Philadelphia furniture? In the mid eighteenth century, Philadelphia was home to the finest cabinetmakers, designers, woodworkers and carvers. The prosperity of the city created a significant demand for high style Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture. From balloon shaped seats to scalloped-edged pie-crust tables to shell carved drawers to intricately carved cabriole legs, Philadelphia furniture stylistically surpassed that of all other colonial cities.
Piece by piece over forty years, my collection of Philadelphia furniture has grown appreciably. Ballygomingo, an eighteenth century home in Gulph Mills, Pa that served briefly as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War has been a wonderful backdrop for the collection. The building and grounds have recently undergone a full historic restoration to properly highlight the furniture and map collection housed there.
As the country was recovering from the pandemic, Arader Galleries noticed a significant change in the American furniture trade. Several dealers were no longer in business, auction houses were selling pieces without proper condition disclosures and the appeal of mid-century modern to a young audience was taking hold. Collectors and designers wisely realized that owning original antique furniture with beautiful patinas was far better value than reproductions. While the holy grails of American furniture were still bringing incredible prices, one could comfortably furnish a home with American antiques at very reasonable prices.
Alas, Arader American Antiques was born!
With a commitment to proper identification, authenticity, condition and related matters, Philip Zimmerman came on board to fully describe each piece of furniture. A man with profound integrity, intelligence and experience, Philip provides very accurate descriptions illuminating the attributes of each piece and any negative aspects as well. His views are unbiased and well-researched.
Lori Cohen and Alicia Pascale, longtime gallery directors, manage Arader American Antiques and are available to answer any questions. Pieces can be viewed on the website (aradergalleries.com) or by appointment (215) 735-8811. Ballygomingo is open Sunday-Thursday from 10am-4pm. Please continue to view the website as pieces are added weekly!