Back to Basics
As the saying goes, “If you wait long
enough, what once was fashionable
comes back into style.” For those of us
who appreciate the pioneering spirit of
our ancestors, we like to believe some
movements endure as they await discovery
by new audiences.
First, let me take a moment to reflect as we begin our
50th year of publication. I’ve been on the staff for nearly
half that time, and I am constantly amazed and humbled
to hear long-time subscribers tell us, “I still have the first
issue and every one since.”
Through five decades of constant social and technological
change, we have continued to honor America’s
past with fresh looks at favorite topics—how people
restore and furnish period homes, assemble collections,
perpetuate traditional handcraftsmanship, and uncover
new research that often changes our perceptions of that
past. (See more about how the magazine has changed
while remaining true to its founding spirit in the following
This issue’s houses offer two perspectives on decorating.
In 2007, Judy Condon—the maven of simple, affordable
country decorating—happened upon an 1825 Cape
Cod in Massachusetts that “needed some work.” She set
about following her own advice for meshing primitive
antiques with modern amenities, disguising the latter
with strategically placed faux cupboards, hanging boxes,
hooked rugs, and wooden boards. Not surprisingly, she
Then there is the Christopher Manwaring house,
built in 1796 in Connecticut, its pieces strewn across
three states for the better part of three decades after three
previous owners tried and failed to reconstruct what had
been a mansion in its time. When Don and Jill DeSapri
saw the house in a real estate ad, they decided to gamble
on “reassembling the puzzle.”
The Ohio couple not only hired a contractor with
an appreciation for traditional building methods, they
bought salvage rights to another old house so they could
replace damaged or missing floorboards and foundation
stones with comparable original material.
The DeSapris brought the same quest for period
perfection to the interior, adorning rooms with vibrant
paint colors and patterned wallpapers, bold oriental rugs
and shimmering damask draperies that complement their
antique Connecticut furniture.
Regardless of decorating style, every early home with
a fireplace had andirons to hold logs off the floor for a
better burn. Curator Tom Kelleher traces the changing
materials and styles of these utilitarian yet decorative
utensils through two centuries of American makers.
We also take you on a tour of Boston architecture,
patriot-style, along the Freedom Trail. This brisk walk
through colonial history, best understood in the company
of an 18th-Century guide, takes you among the towering
steeples of the city’s many meeting houses, past burying
grounds with gravestones worn smooth by time, to the
humble abode of Paul Revere, one of Boston’s oldest surviving
homes. And that’s just a start.
As in Boston, the pages that follow hold other nuggets
of America’s early domestic and political history.
Turn the page and you might discover, as we often do,
that what’s old is new again.