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Buffets, sometimes phonetically spelled and pronounced as "bow-fats" in the 18th century, were important architectural and functional features of genteel parlors. At Stenton, the "Buffet and Closets" contained Chinese porcelain, broken cases of knives and forks, and 329 ounces of plate (the period term for silver). Arched tops, often finished with a sunburst or shell design, and shaped shelves framed and displayed the wares inside. These sometimes brightly colored interiors complemented the costly and reflective ceramics and precious metals. The buffet was kept locked to secure the valuables within when the room was not in use.

Left Image: The beaded edge of Stenton’s buffet shelves may have been painted in a contrasting coral-red. All the ceramics on display have family provenance with much of the blue-and-white excavated at Stenton in 1982 and mended in 2009-2010.

Images: 1) The buffet as a key feature of the fireplace wall. The under cupboard may have housed a cellarette for beverage service. 2) The buffet prior to Stenton’s opening to the public, c.1890s, Stenton Archives. 3) A colorfully restored historic paint scheme in the Jaffrey House buffet from Portsmouth, NH, now in the MFA Boston. 4) The Logan tankard, c.1714 by Johannis Nys of Philadelphia, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, likely rested on the lowest roundel in the buffet. The diameter of the roundel is just wider than tankard base. 5) Looking up into the buffet cupboard in the Stenton parlor at the roundels which punctuated the display of ceramics and silver with featured objects at the center of each shelf.

1 Comment

So excited to see this post. I have a photo I treasure from our tour of the mended china displayed on the table-- a fuller view of which you might include in your cabinet photos. The information on the shelves is quite fascinating! For many years my husband and I have collected shards found on our Massachusetts property and were so inspired by the amazing effort of reconstruction performed by your staff and volunteers. History is made even more relevant at times like these....thank you.