2014-07-17 / Around Town

Antiques Show a Newport Star

By Marion Laffey Fox

Joe Pratt, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport and Anne Hamilton. (Photo by Susan Duca) Joe Pratt, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport and Anne Hamilton. (Photo by Susan Duca) In the galaxy of important antiques shows nationwide, the Newport Antiques Show is a shining star. Celebrating its eighth year, the show exudes an unlikely combination of fun, entertainment and scholarly enlightenment, while magnetizing a stellar group of dealers and serious collectors from across the country. Held at St. George’s School in Middletown, the three-day event is scheduled for July 25 – 27 and will benefit the Newport Historical Society and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County.

The phenomenal success of the show, which has donated over $1.6 million to the two organizations, is due in large part to the tireless efforts of its founder and chair, Anne Fritchman Hamilton (Mrs. S. Matthews V. Hamilton, Jr.) of Newport and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and the dedicated core of founders, without whose unwavering support, she says she “could not produce the show.” Hamilton, who has been intensely involved in the production of several antiques shows and many philanthropic events for over 30 years, brings a wealth of knowledge, organizational knowhow, enthusiasm and boundless energy to this program, one of her pet projects. On the other hand, she is well-respected by all for her willingness to tackle whatever needs to be done, whether it’s stamping envelopes or mopping the floor.

Diana Bittel pictured with a rare 20th century New England wooden birdhouse. Diana Bittel pictured with a rare 20th century New England wooden birdhouse. “I have worked on a lot of different antiques shows over the years,” she says. "In addition to the Philadelphia Show, I have been involved in the Yellow Springs Antiques Show, Wilmington Antiques Show and the Main Line Antiques Show which is staged in the Philadelphia suburbs. But, I always thought that Newport was the perfect venue for such an event. There is so much early American history here, and nine years ago when we were first discussing the possibility, I felt it was crazy that this town did not have a show.”

Hamilton explained that after a meeting with Ruth Taylor, Newport Historical Society’s executive director, she instinctively knew it would work. “There were a couple different things I wanted to see happen,” she said. “First, I have always been interested in children and after serving on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, I felt compelled to help them. Secondly, I felt and still do, that the Newport Historical Society is our own special hidden jewel that needs to be supported. So I asked Ruth if she thought we might make the two organizations co-beneficiaries of the show, and she immediately agreed. So seven years later, they are still benefiting from this unique collaboration. There is no doubt that we have an interesting model that works. It really does, and as a result, it is a win-win situation for everybody.”

Joe Pratt, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs, stressed his gratitude for being part of that collaboration. “Anne’s strong leadership benefiting our two organizations – representing the past and future of our community – has made a tremendous impact over such a long period of time. In addition to the generous financial support, we’ve also benefited from enhanced visibility and greater awareness of the importance of the services offered by the Boys & Girls Clubs. The event also helped us deliver on our mission to enable all youth to achieve their full potential.”

In the same spirit, Taylor agrees wholeheartedly. She said, The show supports both organizations at a high level annually, and interestingly does so, at least in part, with dollars that originate outside the community. It brings quality antiques to Newport from a variety of locations, which is great for those who wish to buy, but it is also functions as a temporary exhibition of collectibles on a grand scale for those who wish to be educated and entertained.”

Diana Bittel of Diana H. Bittel Antiques has been the show’s enthusiastic manager from the beginning. “There’s no doubt this is one of the East Coast’s most unique and important summer shows, and that’s why I love being involved with it," she said, while elaborating on the impressive makeup of the participating dealers who hail from Chicago to Los Angeles and New York City to Maine. Bittel adds that many returning dealers will be joined by a group of exciting new faces to offer fine Federal, Chippendale and Queen Anne furniture, American folk art, and garden antiques, as well as paintings and artwork of various genres. In addition, the show will feature maritime antiques including British wool works, sailor’s valentines, and ship models and marine watercolors and oils. “The list goes on,” she says, “including early English and Oriental ceramics, 19th century Oriental rugs, fine English and American jewelry, fireplace accessories, as well as a rich assortment of ‘smalls,’ such as snuff boxes, treenware, tea caddies, and articulated wooden figures.”

As in past years, the show will open with a gala Preview Patrons Party on Thursday evening, July 24, from 6 – 9 p.m. Gala tickets start at $150. In addition to the show itself, the loan exhibit “Fifty Objects that Changed Rhode Island History,” jointly designed by the Newport Historical Society and the Rhode Island Historical Society, offers an unprecedented chance to view some of the most significant objects from the two institutions in one setting.

The presenting sponsor is American Realty Capital/RCS Capital; other show sponsors include Freeman’s Auction, Amica Insurance Company, Franklin & Co., Antiques & Fine Art magazine, and Vanderbilt International Properties. Free shuttle service is available Saturday, and Sunday, July 26-27, from 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. from the Discover Newport Visitors Center, 23 America’s Cup Ave.

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