A wealthy English family, centuries ago, dined in a carved and paneled oak room, warmed by a chimney decorated with carved vine leaves and grapes. Today much of the room remains — not in Essex County, England, but in Alfred, NY. The dining room’s paneling now lines the walls of the Herrick Memorial Library conference room.
Mr. and Mrs. Philip d’Huc Dressler purchased the paneling at an auction house selling the William Randolph Hearst collection in 1926 for a home they intended to build. The house was never built and when they learned the University was planning an addition to Herrick Library in the late 1970s, they donated the 16th-century paneling.
The paneling was referred to in 17th-century publications of the English Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments. Each of the oak panels is carved with decorative molding around its perimeter. Even more ornamental is the chimney-piece, divided into sections by four columns – reminiscent of Greek architecture – and decorated with cherubs’ heads, vine leaves and grapes.