firm active: 1907-1921

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Mrs. William H. Hanna, furniture
Purcell and Elmslie
Minneapolis, Minnesota  1915

Text by William Gray Purcell

Parabiographies entry for Welcome Inn

Job Date (in Parabiographies): May 31, 1915

Mrs. William H. Hanna Furniture, Chicago, Illinois

Here was a real opportunity to do a fine thing in a beautiful and complete way, and Mr. Elmslie gave it the best that was in him with a distinguished result. The pieces were all made of Cuban white mahogany, in the huckster era of the 1940s known as "primavera", inlaid with English holly, strips of copper, and gold leaf baked on iridescent porcelain. The table supports were enriched with free standing recall fillets of brushed silver in, the form of square tubes. The chairs were ornamented with delicate sawing and inlays of gold on porcelain. It was tremendously rich, but very dignified and restrained in expression. To avoid spoiling the table top with the usual joint where the extension mechanism took place, we provided end panel extensions in the form of legless tops, complete with apron and inlaid to match the main table top, and rested on these pull-out bolsters with carved ends, inserted in the end aprons and operated with a finger pull beneath. The back of the serving table was arranged with a secret drawer operated by a concealed spring with hidden trigger. The John S. Bradstreet Company detailed and built this gadget in such a way that it absolutely defied discovery. The joints were concealed in the constructive assembly.

The furniture served Mrs. Hanna until she died in 1929, but she had fallen into the clutches of a sycophant companion and business manager who took her over completely, including her capital and finances. She persuaded Mrs. Hanna to take her investments away from the Trust Company and then proceeded to manage them for her own profit for a period of nearly ten years. Mrs. Hanna was a wealthy woman in 1920. When she died in 1929 there was nothing left in her estate but her personal effects. Before we could get in touch with the situation, every trace of Mrs. Hanna's furniture and all her possessions had utterly vanished. No one can imagine what became of them, but it appeared that this woman had exhausted all of the funds and sold the personal property to pay funeral expenses. I wonder what became of this beautiful furniture? It was Mrs. Hanna's idea to present it to some museum. Who will by some accident discover the secret drawer and what will be found in it?

We later learned that this companion-manager only survived Mrs. Hanna by about eight months.

   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.9]
research courtesy mark hammons