The Gilded Age Vancroft Estate

This Gustav Stickley fire screen, model 104, was formerly part of the Indian Room at the sprawling, Shingle Style estate known as "Vancroft" in Wellsburg, West Virginia. Set on 500 wooded acres, the seventy-three-room, Gilded Age mansion with several additional buildings was designed in 1901 by Alden & Harlow as a summer home for Joseph B. Vandergrift, a Pittsburgh financier and steel magnate.

Vancroft Indian Room
Indian Room, Vancroft Estate, Wellsburg, West Virginia

The mansion itself has a variety of other themed rooms, such as Turkish and Japanese, and the exterior has gable roofs as well as a stone turret and chimney. The grounds of Vancroft feature a pergola, clubhouse, racetrack, stables, barn, mill, and smaller residences.

Vandergrift sold the property soon after its completion, in 1904, leading to a series of owners, including the The Knights of Saint George, who turned Vancroft into a care home. Now held in a trust, the entire estate was listed on the open market for $3.8 million as of late 2021 with many of its original, period furnishings.

Vancroft Estate
Vancroft Estate, Wellsburg, West Virginia
(photo courtesy of Paull Associates)

Gustav Stickley

Gustav Stickley, whose name is synonymous with Craftsman furniture, was a visionary American proponent for the Arts and Crafts philosophy in design, literature, and life. At the peak of his career, his furniture was sold throughout the country, Craftsman houses built in many areas, and The Craftsman magazine widely read. After bankruptcy in 1915, Stickley was largely forgotten until the 1970s, when his importance as a designer was rediscovered by a new generation.

The eldest son of first generation German immigrants, Stickley was born into a family that owned furniture-manufacturing businesses. He found inspiration in the writings of John Ruskin and William Morris and the well-built, hand-crafted furniture and the brotherhood of honest labor they espoused. In 1898 he established the Gustav Stickley Company in Eastwood, a suburb of Syracuse, New York. He adopted a William Morris motto, "Als ik kan" ("If I can") and used the symbol of a medieval joiner’s compass as his trademark.

Stickley’s furniture was a radical departure from the American furniture of the Victorian era. Surfaces were unadorned, mortise and tenon joinery and wood grain exposed. The hammered metal hardware underscored the artisanal look of furniture, which was fabricated both by hand and by contemporary woodworking machines.

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