Imagine exploring the attic of a 200-year-old mansion and finding treasures collected by an affluent family during the first half of the 20th century.
Approximately 1,000 vintage items, including cast-iron cookware, furniture, hats, clothing and jewelry, will be available for purchase at the Ashantilly Attic Sale.
Set for Sept. 28-29 in downtown Darien, the items were stored for generations in the attic of Ashantilly, a circa 1810 house that now serves as an education center in McIntosh County.
"We've got a lot of stuff to sell and it's all very vintage," says Harriet Langford, president of the Ashantilly Center board of directors.
The items were all owned by a family who lived in the house for nearly a century. It consisted of William Haynes Sr., his wife, Laura Grant Haynes, their son, William Jr., and daughters, Frances and Anne Lee.
Bill Jr. was an artist who did letterpress printing, and the center plans to preserve his work. That's one reason the attic was emptied.
"We are trying to get some room," says Sara Blocker, vice president of the Ashantilly Center board of directors. "There's a lot of stuff, including papers and artwork, that we need to archive. In order to make the room into an archive, we have to get everything out of it."
"They are going to use proceeds from the sale for a new roof over Mr. Haynes' library," says Mary Stimmel, a volunteer who is handling public relations. "He was a great lover of books and had a tremendous collection."
Money also is needed for routine maintenance.
"Ashantilly is an old house that always needs to be repaired," Blocker says.
Ashantilly was built for a wealthy planter, Thomas Spalding, as his family's mainland home. Their original home was on Sapelo Island.
In 1918, the Haynes family bought Ashantilly. The house was heavily damaged by fire in 1937, and Bill Jr. spent his life restoring the house to its former glory.
"The tabby walls remained and weren't damaged," Blocker says. "Mr. Haynes went about collecting vintage casings and doors from Savannah and Charleston so everything would look as it did in that time period. It's still a work in progress, and there's still a lot to be done to it.
"The items for sale are from the attic, mostly from the third floor, that have been collected ever since then," she says. "I don't think they ever threw anything away.
"There's a beautiful collection of handkerchiefs. There are probably 15 or 20 cast iron skillets and muffin pans. Mr. Haynes and his wife and two sisters lived there last."
Members of the Haynes family lived and worked in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s, when men and women alike wore hats every time they left the house, and everyone dressed for dinner and evening social events. Several of the gowns have designer labels, and all are in good enough condition to wear.
The Hayneses were very stylish, even glamorous. One black velvet evening frock is trimmed in blonde mink and there is another with ermine tippets. There are men's linen pants, vests and jackets from as far back as the 1920s.
There also are numerous household items, ranging from utilitarian to decorative.
"There is a lot of kitchen stuff, including enamelware," Blocker says. "There are a lot of woodcarvings.
"There is some furniture, and one of the really neat things is a biscuit brake made of cast iron with a marble top and rollers," she says. "It's a really nice piece of furniture."
The biscuit brake would have been used in a large house like Ashantilly with a large family and staff to feed.
"The cook takes the dough and passes it through a ringer, then doubles it and passes it through again, then doubles it and passes it through again until there are many layers of dough," Stimmel says.
"It was a very clever way of doing what the Europeans had done by hand," she says. "If I were a chef or had a bakery or restaurant, this would be something really great to have."
There are even hobby pieces.
"There are some model airplane kits from the 1930s and '40s," Blocker says. "There are all kinds of sewing notions, thimbles, little embroidery kits. There's a collection of jewelry, not fine jewelry, but a lot of really nice costume jewelry."
Among the more unusual items is vintage sheet music, some from the Civil War era. There are two old wooden radios, a Silvertone and a Zenith, and four numdha rugs embroidered over goat hair from India.
There are even vintage unopened record sets.
"I've been amazed at some of the stuff they've found," Blocker says. "But a lot of the stuff, like the kitchenware, are things we as an education center don't need.
"We're not a museum," she says. "But we've kept back enough to have displays at times."
Some of the vintage gowns, the mahogany and oak dressers, the biscuit brake and a collection of sewing notions, including 40 embroidery scissors, will be sold in a silent auction. The auction will open Saturday when the sale begins and close Sunday when it ends and bidders do not have to be present to win.
The sale has drawn interest from parts far beyond Darien. "We've had inquiries from Atlanta, Jacksonville and from all over Georgia," Blocker says.
"The clothes are amazing, but my personal favorites are the cast iron kitchenware, including a square skillet and muffin and corn stick pans," Stimmel says. "You could use them for cooking or as weapons.
"I also like the hats. Some are straw, some are wool, and there are various felted wools.
"They're all wearable," she says. "There's a good 60 hats there."
Collectively, the items demonstrate a lifestyle of comfort and beauty.
"To me, these sales are real social history," Stimmel says. "This is a piece of social history from Coastal Georgia from the past 100 years.
"The Haynes bought the house in 1918, but there are some things that are older than that. Some of the furniture needs upholstery or work done, but it's all doable."
There are several sets of English china, including Mason brand and some flow blue. Except for the silent auction items, everything will have a pre-set price attached and will be sold as if from any other store.
"It's a big sale, with at least 1,000 items in the store," Stimmel says. "There are a lot of collectibles the family brought back from their travels to Africa, Portugal and who knows where."
Several programs are presented every year at Ashantilly, which is open to the public.
"It's not open every single day, but you can call and there are volunteers to give tours," Stimmel says.
"Mr. Haynes died in 2001 and left the house as a nonprofit with a board of directors," she says. "The people who run it day-to-day do a great job and work with other organizations to have plant sales and all types of events at Ashantilly."