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Hathaway, Designed by Delano & Aldrich, circa 1905

About two years ago this writer came across the story of the Hathaway Heist, an uncomfortable story from the darker side of the art business. Many of us are familiar with dealers who sometimes claim to buy masterpieces for nothing and sell them on for a fortune. The flip side is meeting somebody whose family was strip-mined of their heritage. Such was the case when this writer walked in the door of a decaying mansion in Onteora Park. NY. My friend Karl invited us up there on this outing to look at a house he wanted to buy, one which had a very unique story. He said the house had been robbed and I might be able to help them find what was taken.

H heist 1 2Heist in the Local News

Well, "Easier said than done" was my reaction, but any trip to the Catskills was always worth the ride.

June 2012 we went up to see this former magnificent home designed in 1905 by Delano & Aldrich for Everett Macy. The house did not disappoint, it had seen better days but the prairie style masterpiece was built out of poured concrete and had the finest interior wood panelling I had ever seen. It turns out Gustav Stickley himself designed the interior of the house, and furnished it with one of a kind prototypes of his soon to be popular Arts and Crafts furniture.

H heist 1 3Interior by Gustave Stickley

Therein lies the story, after the Macy's passed on and a subsequent buyer owned the home by the late 1960's, it was bought by the Showers family who bought the giant home as a white elephant, contents and all. When bills got tight twenty years later in 1980's the family contacted Skinner's Auction of Bolton MA, and called them in for an appraisal. The family sold one or two pieces of Stickley at auction in 1988 or 1989, but after the father died, the widow, Mrs. Showers, elected not to sell the bulk of the collection because of sentimental attachments to the pieces. The house and the furniture were the most direct links to her late husband and it had been his idea to buy the place decades earlier. She picked up the phone to tell Skinner's no deal on the sale. Just before New Years Day 1991, Mrs. Showers left on a trip to Florida.

H heist 1 4Bereft of its contents the Building wears the dignity of another age

When Mrs. Showers returned on January 10, 1991 she arrived to an empty house. Everything was gone. The place had been emptied out by a giant moving truck in early January 1991. What remained behind was not only not-Stickley, but to make sure, the thieves left the objects upside-down looking for Stickley labels and/or Skinner Auction inventory tags. How they knew to look for Skinner tags remains a mystery. As a footnote, the late Mrs. Showers daughter (Betsy Showers Mann) informed me that all of the lots which Skinners had indicated that it had an interest in selling, were carefully tagged to separate the very best pieces from the rest.

Seen below are photos of the finest pieces.

H heist 1 5Stickley "Morris" Type Spindle Chair Prototype Narrow Spindle side Arms, Leather Seat, Insignia Back Rear Right

H heist 1 6Gustav Stickley "Morris Chair" ??Four Slats in Back, Leather Seat, Back Adjusts to Three Positions Has Gustav Stickley Red Mark/Insignia right Rear

H heist 1 7Stickley Couch: Slat Back, fourteen Vertical Slats, Vertical Slat Arms Has Gustav Stickley Large Red Mark/Insignia Left Rear Leg Inside

H heist 1 8Stickley Chairs

H heist 1 9Stickley Dresser, Two Small Drawers Top, Three Drawers Below, Iron Pull Handles, Has Gustav ?Stickley Mark/Insignia

H heist 1 10Stickley Arm Chair, Three Vertical Slats in back, Leather Seat Has Gustav Stickley Mark/Insignia

H heist 1 11Stickley His and Her Beds, Hers has Three Vertical Slats at Headboard and Footboard, Colored Gray/Green, Has Stickley Mark/Insignia

H heist 1 12Stickley His and Hers Beds, His has Four Vertical Slats at Headboard and Footboard, Colored Gray/Green, Has Stickley Mark/Insignia

Also documented are several paintings taken, which is where the story gets interesting. The furniture never turned up, but one of the paintings did. While everyone in the family wanted to point the finger at Skinner's Auction House, post heist that trail went elsewhere. The strange story of “The Devotion of Madamoiselle de Sombreuil” by Frans Huard is where we pick up again, in part two.

H heist 1 13Gold Leaf Framed Painting of Dead Rabbits, Approximately 30 by 44 inches

H heist 1 14The Devotion of Madamoiselle de Sombreuil, by Frans Huard

H heist 1 15Inscription by Frans Huard

H heist 1 16NY State Police, Wanted - Information

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You may also like to read:

* The Rabbi Jewelry Score :: Inside The Mind Of A Professional Jewelry Thief

* Inside The Mind Of A Professional Jewelry Thief :: A Midtown Jewelry Score

* Bad Guys Bedevil The Art Market

* Hathaway Heist Part Two

* Hathaway Heist :: Update

About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...