Independence Hall &
The National Park Service
Over the years Robert Whitley has worked closely with Independence Hall and the National Park service, to restore and reproduce many of the important historical pieces throughout the nation.
Queen Anne Side Chair, William Savery, Philadelphia, circa 1740-1760. The straightforward dignity and simplicity of this chair is a desirable attribute to many collectors. The restrained design elements found in the serpentine crest, the splat, the cabriole legs and paneled slippered feet are indicative of much of Savery’s work. This is a copy of one of the eight originals Savery made for the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). In 1971 there were only four left, the others were presumed broken and used for firewood during the British occupation of Philadelphia. Mr. Whitley was commissioned to make four reproductions to fill out the initial set of eight. These now sit in the Governor’s Council Chamber on the second floor of Independence Hall.
The antique restoration of a rare Chippendale Curly Maple Cellarette, Philadelphia, circa 1760-1780. The Philadelphia cellarette form was rarely used and this on in curly maple is unique. It came to Robert Whitley with three main problems. The first was worm infestation, the second was that it had been repaired improperly, the third was that three interior compartments were missing. The last two problems while challenging, were standard restoration problems. The worm infestation, however, presented a real challenge. Termites and wood borers attack wood by boring a small hole in the surface and then tunneling underneath it, coming close but never quite breaking through the surface again. This is why it is so hard to detect. That entrance hole may go entirely unnoticed, but the slightest bump anywhere could expose a much larger and completely riddled area.
After fumigation, a hypodermic needle was fitted with a special tip, allowing a Whitley to inject special polyvinyl glue into the entrance hole and solidify the piece. The operation required several applications a day for several weeks to fill all the damaged areas beneath the surface. It was only after this that the other repairs were made and the piece was restored to its original condition. It now resides in the Governor’s Council Camber at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Frederick Maus Tall Case Clock, circa 1785-1793. This clock has a free-standing craved cockerel phinial perched atop a bonnet with elaborately carved and dentilled scrolls. Below the scrolls is a delicate fretwork panel. The remainder is well-proportioned with fluted corner columns and applied moldings. The most unusual feature of this clock is the wood from which the case is made. It was originally thought to be mahogany, but Whitley had some doubts. At the beginning of the restoration, he sent a piece to be analyzed by an expert wood analyst. Much to the surprise of everyone concerned, the report came back stating that the wood that composed the clock cabinet was persimmon! Although persimmon was fairly common in the 18th century, it was rarely used in cabinet making of this type.
But most difficult part of this restoration was undoubtedly the work on the cockerel phinial. Its arched tail feathers, coxcomb and its beak were all gone; additionally it was presumed that there was no other similar cockerel to work from. After months of exhaustive research, Whitley discovered another Frederick Maus clock at the Detroit Museum of Fine Arts, with a similar Cockerel. Photos and plans were made, and Whitley created a cockerel appropriate to the clock and its original design. The clock now sits in the new Portrait Gallery at the second National Bank of the United States
Philadelphia Queen Anne Arm Chair, circa 1745 .This chair has been designated by many museum curators as the finest American Queen Anne arm chair in the world. It was originally made for Joshua Humphreys, the man who designed The Constitution and her two sister frigate ships. The chair is a masterful combination of flowing lines, encompassing three carved shells and twelve carved volutes that terminate in carved Trifid feet. The original can be seen on the second floor of Independence Hall.
Thomas Jefferson’s Swivel Windsor Arm Chair, circa 1775-1776. The recreation of the original chair Jefferson sat in when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. This is a copy of the original now owned by the Philosophical Society, which was formed by Benjamin Franklin. The chair is a Windsor arm type with a unique swivel based seat, supposedly made to help Jefferson to do research and move quickly between his bookshelf and desk. The original is held in the Graff House, 7th and Market Streets (The rooms rented by Thomas Jefferson when he took On the task of writing the Declaration of Independence
Major restoration of the Federal Inlaid Crotch Walnut Demi-lune Card Table, circa 1780-1800 including replication of the thistle flower inlay. The replication of these inlays was by far the most difficult part of the entire restoration. A rubbing on linen paper was taken from the original remaining inlay, to carefully reproduce matching inlays. This piece can now be seen on the second floor of the Portrait Gallery of The Second National Bank, Philadelphia.