Coffee and Tea Service, 1912
George Washington Maher, designer, American, 1864-1926
From Rockledge, the E. L. King residence, Homer, Minnesota
Made by the Gorham Manufacturing Company, Providence, Rhode Island
Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton in honor of Russell A. Plimpton
Photo: Bob FogtThe coffee and tea service from Rockledge illustrates the extent to which Prairie School architect George Maher pursued a progressive, unified interior in his designs for businessman E. L. King's house near Winona, Minnesota. He believed that harmony in the home—and therefore in life—could be achieved by the consistent repetition of specific design elements. This was done at Rockledge, which was unfortunately razed in 1989, through the use of the flattened arch, placed above the doorway of the house and on many of the furnishings, and the coral lily abundant at the site, also applied throughout the interiors.Because King wholeheartedly supported his architect's vision, Maher was able to design a silver service that was created to the highest standards. The Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island, meticulously followed Maher's design, and the result cleverly combined the popular arts-and-crafts aesthetic of the time with traditional high-quality silver-making techniques. For instance, the visibly hand-hammered surface of each piece typifies arts-and-crafts metalwork, while the techniques of casting and applying the handles and other projecting elements and inserting ivory insulators date from the 18th century. The hot-water kettle of the silver service features the flattened-arch motif and thus further links the interior of Rockledge and its furnishings to the exterior. Each piece of the service is emblazoned with the King monogram and the coral lily. The result is a finely crafted and decorated object, with a strong architectural presence, that formed an integral part of one of the region's most progressive turn-of-the century interiors.Thanks to the generosity of Ruth and Bruce Dayton, the recent acquisition of the Rockledge coffee and tea service supports the Institute's commitment to the preservation of elements from local Prairie School interiors. A rare example of Prairie School silver, the service was purchased in honor of former Institute director Russell A. Plimpton, a strong supporter of the Institute's silver collection. The Rockledge coffee and tea service is on view in the Bean Gallery, near the entrance to Holiday Traditions in the Period Rooms (see article on page 5), which features many 18th- and 19th-century silver objects from the Institute's collection.