Sport: Pockets Full of History

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2007

In the year 1900, Ada and Minna Everleigh relocated their already-flourishing

enterprise from Omaha, Neb., to Chicago, a larger city that offered the sisters

the prospect of even greater riches, if they could establish a clientele among

the wealthiest citizens. To that end, the Everleighs spared no expense in

decorating and furnishing their new place of business. They adorned it with silk

curtains, Oriental rugs, mahogany tables, perfumed fountains, a $15,000

gold-leaf piano, and, to accommodate tobacco chewers, $650 gold cuspidors. At a

time when the average worker in Chicago made less than $10 a week, the sisters

also served gourmet meals and Champagne to their patrons, as further enticement

for them to spend $200 or more per visit to the Everleigh Club, the most opulent

brothel of its time.

In addition to enjoying the furnishings, food, drink, and companionship,

Everleigh Club customers also could play pool, on a table that Bankshot

Antiques, a pool table restoration shop in Albany, N.Y., more recently might

have acquired and refurbished. “Not all our tables have a story,” says Bankshot

co-owner Donald Bartholomay, “but they all come from a fascinating historical

period and have the character that shows it.”

 

Bartholomay cannot say with complete certainty that the table in question

once stood in the billiard room of the Everleigh Club, but he will vouch for the

provenance of another table, one that he acquired several years ago from the

descendant of a New Mexico saloon keeper. The circa-1880 model was dirty,

stained, and in general disrepair. “But no bullet holes,” notes Dave Grunenwald,

Bartholomay’s business partner.

The 19th-century craftsmen who built tables would embellish them with inlaid

patterns consisting of as many as eight different types of wood, from bird’s-eye

maple to walnut to rosewood. The Bankshot partners will repair or replace these

inlays and any other woodwork. “We don’t want them to look new,” Grunenwald

says, “but we want to get some of that liveliness back.”

Most of the tables that Bartholomay and Grunenwald restore were made from

1870 to 1930, when billiards was a national obsession and tables occupied a room

in many of the finest homes. The company’s portfolio includes a variety of

furniture styles: Empire, Victorian, Mission, Art Deco.

Bartholomay and Grunenwald are as concerned with a table’s playing quality as

they are with its appearance. They understand that a fraction-of-an-inch

variation in the placement of a cushion can make the difference between a dead

table and a lively one. Bartholomay himself delivers almost all of the tables he

restores and may spend an entire day setting one up in the buyer’s home.

Bartholomay, who runs the business out of a historic factory building in

Albany, says most of his customers are drawn to the tables for similar reasons.

“They’re always interested in antiques,” he says, “always interested in history,

always interested in furniture. Sometimes they play pool avidly, but not

necessarily.” A customer also has to have sufficient vision and confidence to

buy a worn, decrepit table and enough patience to allow Bankshot to complete the

work, which can require several months.

The prices of Bankshot’s tables range from $15,000 to $70,000. Bartholomay

owns a rare, mid-19th-century, cast iron Imperial model by the H.W. Collender

Co. that he estimates could fetch at least $100,000 when refurbished. One can

only imagine what that sum could have purchased at the Everleigh Club.

Bankshot Antiques
518.434.2800
www­.bankshotantiques.com

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