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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, May 26, 2024


Jan. 2, 2002 – For its third year, the annual Antiques, Art and Collectibles Auction of the St. Thomas Synagogue has not only grown in scope but moved from an early December date to Sunday, Feb. 3, 2002.
This third event, like the others, will take place at the Old Stone Farmhouse on St. Thomas. And, like the others, its purpose is to raise funds to enable the small Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas to keep its 168-year-old synagogue, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark, open to the public.
The variety of antiques that will go on the auction block this year is expected to attract a number of off-island bidders as well as local collectors.
Among the show pieces of West Indian antique furniture are more than 25 items from the collection of Patti Cadby Birch of St. Thomas.
One-of-a-kind pieces from the Birch collection include a pair of mahogany sofa tables made in Barbados around 1870, a mahogany center table with dog-head legs from the same era, two late 19th century chaises, two mid-19th century console tables, a mahogany sleigh bed and assorted tea tables, card tables and candle stands.
"This is a rare opportunity for collectors and admirers of West Indian antiques to obtain top-quality — in some cases museum-quality — pieces," Philip Sturm, an authority on West Indian furniture, said. "The fact that Mrs. Birch is putting some of her pieces on the market should generate enormous interest in antique furniture circles."
Birch, the widow of attorney Everett Birch, is a former art dealer with galleries in New York and on St. Thomas. A 45-year resident of St. Thomas, she is a trustee of the New York Museum of Modern Art and an honorary trustee and member of the Chairman's Council at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Seven years ago, in her late husband's honor, she founded the Birch Forum, which has sponsored appearances locally by internationally acclaimed performing artists and lecturers.
Other items to be auctioned from the Birch collection include a 17th century Venetian bed and a pair of intricately carved late-18th century Indian chairs.
Also to be auctioned are furniture, linens and decorative items from the estate of Frances and Sidney Kessler, developers of the Virgin Isle Hotel in the late 1940s, as well as more than a dozen pieces of furniture hand-crafted on St. Thomas from local mahogany in the 1940s and '50s.
Art items to go on the block include two large bronze deer from the Coach shop on Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, a signed and numbered lithograph by Marc Chagall, a stamped and numbered print by Pablo Picasso, a 1972 oil painting by the late St. Thomas artist Eric Winter, and dozens of recent works by many of the territory's leading artists.
In addition to the auction of antiques, artwork and one-of-a-kind collectibles, the event will feature the open sale of a number of modestly priced items that will be displayed on tables. The Old Stone Farmhouse will open at 10 a.m. for previewing of items to be auctioned and for sales from the display tables. The auction will begin at noon and is expected to continue until 4 p.m.
The $10 donation for admission includes the auction catalogue. Food and drink will be available for purchase throughout the day.
The 168-year-old St. Thomas synagogue, the oldest in continuous use under the American flag, has undergone extensive restoration work, both exterior and interior, in the last few years. The structure, a main visitor attraction in historic downtown Charlotte Amalie, is noted for its sand floor, said to recall the days of the Spanish Inquisition when Jews in Spain were forbidden to practice their faith and so put sand on the floor to muffle the sounds of their worship services.
For additional information, including numerous photographs of furniture items and artwork to be auctioned, see the synagogue auction web site, telephone 774-4312, fax to 774-3249 or e-mail to Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas.
Proxy bidding will be permitted for those wishing to bid on specific items who cannot be present for the auction. Arrangements should be made with the synagogue office.

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