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Historic Tea Table Returns to Newport, RI for Whitehorne House Museum’s Reopening

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Meaghan Barry
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Newport, RI — When it reopens on May 29th, 2019, Newport Restoration Foundation’s Whitehorne House Museum will be the only museum in the world dedicated to displaying and exploring the artistry, history, and culture of 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts. The museum, located at 416 Thames Street in Newport, has been closed for regular visits since October 2016 to allow NRF staff to plan for a reinterpretation of the collection and an improved visitor experience. The museum will reopen to guests starting May 29, and will remain open this season until October 27.

One piece that will hold a place of particular importance in the museum is a recent addition to the collection acquired earlier this year.

This past January, Newport Restoration Foundation purchased a tilt-top tea table created by Newport artisan Joseph Sanford (1740-1784) at Sotheby’s “Important Americana” auction in New York. The table is made of beautifully grained mahogany and features carved bowed knees and detailed ball-and-claw feet.

The Sanford tea table is especially notable because it is the only known signed Sanford work in existence. Sanford’s white chalk signature on the underside of the table top, makes it a unique piece and an important contribution to our understanding of Sanford’s career.

Dr. Erik Greenberg, Newport Restoration Foundation’s Director of Museums, observed that, “the Sanford table is an exciting addition to an already exciting project. It provides a limited but personal glimpse into the working life of one of the many interrelated joiners, cabinetmakers, and other craftsmen who helped make Newport an 18th-century center of furniture production. And frankly, it’s just amazing to me that something as fragile and ephemeral as a chalk signature has survived on this piece for well over 200 years!”

Whitehorne House Museum was created by Doris Duke and opened to the public in 1974. The museum, which has been quiet for two years, will reopen this month with eighteenth-century Newport furniture as its central focus. The museum experience will help visitors explore individual pieces so that they can understand the craftsmanship and social and cultural history surrounding Newport furniture. The museum is also continuously adding items to the collection and presenting regular programming to provide new opportunities for past visitors and furniture enthusiasts to come back and experience the museum again.

Whitehorne House Museum, A Museum of Newport Furniture, Craft, and Design, will be open to the public from May 29 – October 27, Wednesdays – Sundays from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. General admission is $15, Students are $10, and Children under 12 are free. Admission to the museum is FREE for Newport County residents. Admission includes self-guided access to the museum and grounds with complimentary Highlights of the Museum guided tours offered at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Visitors may also choose to combine their ticket with Rough Point Museum, for the price of only $25. Parking is limited and please contact the museum staff at 401-847-8344 for questions for wheelchair accessibility. Visit for more information.

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