Treasure: Collector focuses on historic Dearborn Inn
The New Year represents a fresh start for collectors. Who knows what treasures are out there and what you’ll discover in 2018? Here’s to all of the possibilities. As part of our occasional spotlight on local collectors, we checked in with Jennifer Ganem to offer some antiquing inspiration.
What do you collect and why?
I collect items associated with the historic Dearborn Inn. The Inn was built in 1931 primarily to accommodate passengers and pilots arriving at the Ford airport. I own furniture, china, silver pieces, menus, matchbooks, postcards, brochures, room keys and a variety of other ephemera. There are even a coat hanger and a bar of soap in the collection (hey, who stole those?), and I own someone’s 8mm home movie of vacationing at Dearborn Inn in 1946.
How long have you been collecting this?
The official collection began in 2009 when my friend Susan McCabe was shopping at the Saline Antique market and found 10 dinner plates dating to the opening of the Dearborn Inn. I came to own four of those, and now have dozens of similar plates.
The first piece that we came to own (prior to this being an official collection) was a full-size bed that is a replica of the one owned by Barbara Fritchie, of Frederick, Maryland, and used at the Inn. (Fritchie gained fame in the John Greenleaf Whittier poem, “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag,” for waving the stars and stripes out of her window at passing troops.) Paul Ganem, my husband, purchased the bed at the Inn’s hotel furniture sell off in 1989 when Dearborn Inn was closed for major renovations. There are five cottages behind the Dearborn Inn for guest use, each a replica of the home of a famous American, including Fritchie, Edgar Allan Poe, Patrick Henry, Oliver Wolcott and Walt Whitman.
Where do you shop?
I watch area yard sales, thrift shops and antique stores always hoping for a great find. I once bought a dinner plate on eBay for .99 Great British pounds and paid to have it shipped from England. The closest I’ve ever found anything was a silverplated coffee pot that was listed on Craigslist and located just two blocks away on my very own street. My friends regularly treat me to surprises when they find Dearborn Inn items, most recently a box of stationery.
What’s the best deal you’ve found? What’s the most you’ve spent?
The best deal has been two, twin-sized, mahogany beds, beautifully carved and dating to the opening of the inn. They were listed on Craigslist — for free. (Although there was some assembly required after my son dug them out of a garage!) Who may have slept on those beds? It could have been Eleanor Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Walt Disney, Duncan Hines, George Washington Carver or one of the dozens of other famous visitors to Dearborn Inn. The most we’ve ever spent to acquire anything for the collection was $125 for a nightstand, but it was given to us as a gift from my father, Henry Czerwick. Beyond that, my husband once treated me to a silverplated water pitcher found on eBay and priced about $45.
What’s your “Holy Grail” piece and why?
I haven’t acquired the “Holy Grail” pieces yet, which is what makes collecting so fun! I’m looking for a blanket chest, a desk and a three-legged stool, which were standard in every guestroom. I know the location of four blanket chests; none are for sale ... yet.
Is there a local collector’s club for this?
There’s no collector’s club, but I encourage people to share their Dearborn Inn memories with me and photos of items they have on a Facebook group I maintain: Facebook.com/DearbornInnBook .
One thing you wish people knew about collecting this?
The original dinner plates I acquired led me to do research, and eventually I wrote a book (“Dearborn Inn”) about the history of the Dearborn Inn, which is a Marriott hotel owned by Ford Land Development. The book was published by Arcadia and is available online, but I recommend buying it ($21.99) at the front desk of the Dearborn Inn, then staying to enjoy dinner at Edison’s restaurant or drinks at the Ten Eyck Tavern. Best tips: Be sure to try their famous bread pudding for dessert, it’s amazing, and look carefully in the lobby for four pieces of furniture that are original to the inn.
Upcoming appraisals in January
Interested in finding out about your own treasures? We have two appraisal days scheduled in January and are taking submissions for spaces on these dates. The first will be held on Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. at DuMouchelles downtown. The second session will be held Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. Appraisals are free but are first-come, first-served as you sign in and you must be willing to be featured in the column with your item. To apply, send a photo of your item with the words Appraisal Application in the subject line, how and where you acquired the item and any other information you know about it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please specify which location if you have a preference. If you are chosen, you will be contacted by email before the appraisal dates.
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.