Dear Yankee | September/October 2019

Readers respond to their favorite Yankee magazine articles.

By Yankee Magazine

Aug 21 2019


Aged to Perfection

Judging by the slew of online comments for Howard Mansfield’s article “The Death of Brown Furniture” [July/August], a lot of readers aren’t ready to give up their antique bureaus and vintage sofas just yet. Here’s a sampling of their views (edited for length):

“‘Brown’ furniture is out of vogue and no one wants it—antiques, history, eek! ugh! We want clean lines and modern, no-fuss living. Understandable, but lamentable. I love my brown furniture with all my heart and the sentiments that make it infinitely more valuable than some glass-and-chrome coffee table.” —Melissa Houston

“As we look to downsize, my wife and I are struggling with what to do with family ‘stuff’ handed down through the generations. Every piece of furniture and glassware has its own story, yet it’s only known by my late parents. They’d be so disappointed knowing their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have no interest in their ‘treasures’ painstakingly collected and cared for over their lifetime. So sad….” —Rob Cline

The younger generation actually does love antiques. They just don’t know it yet. Their favorite stores—Ikea, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma Home—are full of factory-made knockoffs of trestle tables, back stools, blanket chests, and every modern reinvention of ginger jars, Chinese export, and creamware imaginable…. With a few more years under their belts, and a little more of the education and money they’ll accumulate along the way, they’ll want the real thing someday, just the way the rest of us did.” Mary Kay Felton

“When I moved into my first house, my in-laws gave us their dining room set: brown wood painted ‘antique blue.’ I promptly had the entire set stripped and refinished walnut. Now my 30-something children want me to chalk-paint it blue! Everything is cyclical.” —Audrey Mento

All in the Family

I was thrilled to read the article about Maine’s Swedish Colony in your May/June issue [“Välkommen to Midsommar”]. My great-great-grandparents A.P. and Maria Peterson immigrated to New Sweden in 1871, and when I saw the article’s photograph of the two young Peterson girls dressed in Swedish attire, I thought they could be related to me.

I’ve summered in southern Maine for years, and decided to make the five-hour trek north to meet with genealogist Lynn Johnson at the New Sweden Historical Society and Museum. She was as passionate about tracing my ancestry as if it was her own, and was able to tell me about their journey from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Hull, England, then finally to Houlton, Maine, on May 22, 1871. She also traced my great-grandfather Hans Swenson, who homesteaded on 100 acres in New Sweden; I learned he had immigrated to Maine in 1893 and had four brothers and a sister. She even led me to the Petersons’ family headstone, which lies in the cemetery next to the museum.

I intend to go back to New Sweden next year for Midsommar and look up a few of my long-lost relatives! —Carol S. Harvat, Lusby, Maryland

“Life” Goes On

Well, did Rye decide to strike out on his own? Did Ben and Penny add new piglets this spring? Does Fin also hunt with a bow? As you can tell, this faithful follower in Connecticut who cannot imagine taking jars of sauerkraut on a camping trip, and marvels at living in a partially finished house, really was disappointed to not find a new “Life in the Kingdom” in your May/June issue. —Barb Francese, Madison, Connecticut

Editor’s note: For all those who might be fretting about missing a news fix from the Northeast Kingdom, rest easy. Ben Hewitt’s dispatches resumed in July/August; in this issue, he and Penny embark on new adventures in home building. You can catch up on all of Ben’s columns and features at


Contrary to the roundup of Rhode Island geography trivia in our July/August issue (“Rhode Signs”), it would take a miracle for the Vatican, at 108 acres, to fit inside any Newport mansion.

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