- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

Gorge Mason's Gunston Hall Plantation in Mason Neck is cleaning house. More than 250 objects from the home will be offered Jan. 19, 2002, during an auction at Sotheby's in New York City.

Emily Coleman Kangas, communications director at Gunston Hall, says she wants the public to know that the plantation is not having a financial crisis. The decision to sell some of the items in the house came after about 10 years of studying the accuracy of the collection. After investigation, it was found that some of the objects in the house were not relevant to the time of George Mason.

"From research we were able to tell more precisely what types of things George Mason had at Gunston Hall," Ms. Kangas says. "This way we will be able to furnish the house the way it should have been furnished in the first place. We don't want the public to think we are getting rid of everything in the house, because we are not."

Dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, the collection includes furniture, lighting devices, carpets, china, prints, paintings and children's furniture and toys. The objects are valued from $50 to $50,000.

"It's not just items for people with a lot of money," Ms. Kangas says. "We have objects which are very good quality, but some could go for $100."

Ms. Kangas encourages the public to attend the auction.

"Anyone can go," she says. "It's a chance for people who have spent time at Gunston Hall in the past to be able to take some of the hall with them. History buffs would especially benefit from it."

Susan Borchardt, deputy director of collections and education at Gunston Hall, says their research encompassed many resources, such as back files from the home, the home itself, furniture that had survived with Mason's family, merchant records, and letters. Inventories of the belongings of local 18th-century residents, which were compiled after they died, were also useful.

While conducting the study, Ms. Borchardt says they considered the time period of the pieces in the home and also their origin.

"Since George Mason died in 1792, we don't take anything past the 1790s," she says. "People in Virginia were ordering British things. Since they sent tobacco crops abroad, they had credit in Britain. They also had regional things from Virginia. It was a rare exception to have something from New England. They also bought Windsor chairs from Philadelphia because the city specialized in them."

Until the auction, Gunston Hall lacks the funds to buy new items, says Ms. Borchardt. She would like to purchase correct beds for the house.

"We know George Mason would have had five canopy beds," Ms. Borchardt says. "That says a lot about a person's status because you had to afford all the bed hangings."

Patty Fox, press officer at Sotheby's in New York City, says there will be a display of the property five to seven days before the auction. The auction will take place in two sessions at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

"What is different about this auction is that it is a single owner sale, with all of the property coming from Gunston Hall," she says. "It will have its own catalog."

John Nye, head of Sotheby's American Furniture Department, says he believes the auction will be a huge success. He expects that the Chippendale carved-mahogany drop-leaf six-leg table will bring much attention.

"A table like that doesn't come along very often," he says. "It's rare. The vast majority of remaining items will be auctioned off at reasonable prices. People will love to have a souvenir from one of the nation's landmarks. "

Mason was a Virginia delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Constitution, but he voted against it. He wrote Virginia's Declaration of Rights, which formed the basis for a federal Bill of Rights.

His Gunston Hall, in southeastern Fairfax County, operates as a 550-acre National Historic Landmark owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is administered by a board of regents appointed from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.

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