Dear Helaine and Joe:
My husband and I are curious about a chair that has been in his family for many years. As you can see from the photographs, it appears to have its original finish and the seat is original. Is the chair valuable? I would like to refinish it, but not if it will adversely affect the value.
Thank you, B. B.
Just one look at the photographs of this braced bow back Windsor armchair with a rush seat and we knew it was not an original from the late 18th or even early 19th century. We were also sure it was not 19th century at all.
B. B.’s email was titled “Sikes Chair Company Windsor chair” and in one of the photos we saw the proof of this by the appearance of a label that read “Sikes Chair Company, Buffalo Branch (we think) Buffalo, New York.” This was indeed a good thing to see.
Samuel D. Sikes founded a furniture-making company on Clinton Street in Buffalo in 1859. Originally it was called S. D. Sikes & Brother, but around 1875 Samuel died and Edwin Sikes took over the company as its president. The information we could find was more than a little vague, but Edwin is said to have “reorganized” the company and we infer that the name was changed to Sikes Chair Company.
Sikes produced all sorts of chairs, from oak press backs and a variety of Windsor-type chairs to swivel office chairs, rocking chairs and Morris-style chairs in the Arts and Crafts mode. This last type of chair is generally the most desired of Sikes’ products on today’s market and has brought as much as $700 at auction. Sikes also produced some non-chair items such as tables that might be used with their chairs.
Except for the back braces, the chair in today’s question might be called a “sack back” Windsor. Odd name, and we have seen the explanation that it was so called because a sack could be placed over the spindles that make up the back to keep the cold draft from blowing through during the winter. Colorful, interesting, but doubtful in our opinion.
A single Sikes high style Windsor armchair with a pierced central back-splat in the English style made from walnut with graceful turnings can sell at auction for as much as $850, but chairs such as the one in today’s question bring much less. The last one we found had an auction estimate of $100 to $200 and failed to sell.
B. B.’s chair is probably from the 1920s or perhaps a tad earlier. But unless it is in need of repair, it should not be touched. A good clean and polish should do the trick; refinishing it would lower the value.