Onetime banker's residence is now show house offering many styles under one roof


May 05, 1991|By Carleton Jones

YORK, PA. — York, Pa.--One wonders what the first owner, John J. Frick, would think of it all. He built the place back in 1907 in then-popular Colonial revival style. In those days, it would have had an "inglenook" or informal den behind the parlor's columns, just the place for wicker furniture, potted palms and a Tiffany lamp.

It would have had a Victrola somewhere, a Morris chair or two, a magazine rack and the biggest oak icebox in town.

The real show-stopper in the building would be -- and is -- an enormous and original, shallow-arched, built-in china cabinet in the dining room, easily capable of housing eight or 10 complete sets of china.

Frick's mansion has a steep staircase up to its six bedrooms, huge dormers and chimneys, colonnaded porches and the elegance of Philadelphia Georgian as it was being copied in those days from Bangor, Maine, to Macon, Ga.

For banker Frick (of the York National Bank) and family it was home until 1925. After that it had four more owners, including the present one, a doctor and his wife, families who all left the house essentially unchanged.

Today the Frick house is manicured to the rafters in decorated rooms and areas, alternately darkly plush and lightly radiant. There are 32 areas, done by 25 designers and firms. The show house project is the work of the small (250-member) but hard-working Young Women's Club of York, who, since 1941, have raised about $1.5 million for area medical, social welfare and cultural charities. About $400,000 of the sum has been generated by four previous show house exhibitions.

The Frick house provided surprisingly large areas for decoration ideas, considering that it is not enormous in scale. Four virtually square bedrooms on the second floor and a large rear wing offered designers space to experiment with different light levels and floor plans for sitting rooms, bedrooms, suites and a highly spirited sewing room, or "creative environment," as it is billed in the show prospectus.

Among the homiest of the display rooms is a large third-floor suite occupying virtually all of one side of the house, from front to rear. Here the English country style is carefully arranged around a central fireplace. The pine floor blends with large-scale reproductions and antiques, a hunt board, hutch and large armoire fitted out as an entertainment center.

Downstairs on the second floor, a bachelor's or busy businessman's suite is furnished in the rich, leather and plush style of slick magazines, right down to the Abercrombie & Fitch cologne in the bath.

A unifying note in the display is the handsome, dark red and burnished metallic wallpaper from York Wallcoverings, called "Passport," which runs the entire length of the central hall to the third floor level. The East Indian theme offers a perfect accompaniment for antique Oriental wood sculpture shown on two hall landings. It also is the backdrop for the center hall's first-floor table. Elaborate brasses and china rest on the marble top and reflect in a gilded mirror. Empire chairs with gilded arms flank the hall piece.

Newer themes for designers seem to be elaborate bed treatments, with stacks and stacks of color-coordinated pillows, lavish use of custom drapery in bathroom shower stalls, dark walls (for dramatic emphasis on light wood furnishings and wall pieces) and important exhibits of Georgian, William and Mary and Empire antiques and reproductions. Stenciling of floors, cornices and even whole walls (one entire room has been done not with wallpaper but with custom stencil designs and sponged paper), are shown in a number of the exhibits.

The growth of painted designs as decorative elements is also apparent in a living room lowboy chest. Its door panels are painted to give the illusion of shelves and knicknacks in the trompe l'oeil effect inspired by 18th century models.

Closing note for traditionalists: Yes, the den or inglenook area is furnished in wicker, a la 1907.

The York club is budgeting $30,000 of show house proceeds for a forthcoming exhibit for children and adults on health education planned for the Central Pennsylvania Health Education center. Other major donations will be $15,000 for additions to the city's Memorial Park Ice Rink, the same amount for area legal services and $14,950 for a drug prevention program honoring Crispus Attucks, Revolutionary War hero. An area food bank, planned parenthood program, adult learning center and day treatment program for female offenders will also be recipients.

The decorators' show house is at 101 E. Springettsbury Ave. in the Springdale section of south York, Pa. From Baltimore, take Interstate 83 north and then Business I-83 into the city. This route becomes South George Street. Turn right at East Springettsbury Avenue about two blocks past York Hospital and proceed two blocks on Springettsbury to the mansion on the corner of South Duke Street.

The show house presentation includes a basement boutique featuring York County crafts, a completely reworked garden area with new garden structures and plantings and a catered sidewalk cafe set up in the home's garage. The exhibit is closed on Mondays. Regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 at the door. Ticket orders should be sent to the Young Women's Club of York, Pa., P.O. Box 334, York, Pa. 17405-0334. The exhibition's last day will be Sunday, May 19.

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