The collection has had tens of thousands of bids online.
TAUNTON — Right now, the Silver City Galleria is a bizarre and beautiful sight to behold.
Hosting the approximately 15,000 pieces of furniture and other items from New York City’s famously ritzy Waldorf Astoria hotel while they are up for auction, the mall is a strange tribute to 20th century America.
Where once was a Champs Sports, elegant furniture from a suite where 16 American presidents stayed fills the space. Where once was a Radio Shack, there sits the custom-ordered furniture used by Gen. Douglas MacArthur for decades.
In a whirlwind of assorted furniture from different cultures and eras, the luxury and glamour of the mid-1900s meets the now-dying mall culture of the 1990s, covering the entire first floor of the Galleria with everything from 17th century portraits to 20th century French ormolu mounted cabinets.
It was nothing but the best for the rich and famous guests of the Waldorf Astoria. But now that so many of its expensive pieces are up for bid, bargain hunters have a chance to snag some of the historic hotel’s high end furniture.
Cliff Schorer, art consultant to the sale, said that because there is simply so much that needs to go, prices have been driven down from the thousands to the tens for lots of quality items.
“The lowest starting price is $10. But you’ll see there’s not a lot of super low-end things. Probably the smallest thing is a nightstand from a bedroom or a crystal lamp,” he said. “And generally they bought the best of the best, so the products they have are really good.”
Bidders will be able to find almost any household item or decoration they can think of. There are couches and chairs with the finest upholstery. There are tables, desks, cabinets and chests with beautiful golden accents. There are all kinds of decorations to suit your home, from porcelain Chinese vases to framed photos of people like Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon. And all of it will go for a tiny fraction of what it was originally purchased for.
“It’s enough furniture, we figure, for about 1,000 houses because there’s a lot of big, big furniture today,” Schorer said. “You can get a bedroom set and a dining room set for the average house.”
But there are also deals for businesses as well, especially restaurant owners. The benches and tables from the hotel’s upscale restaurants are all for sale, and there is enough to easily furnish more than one restaurant in its entirety. Schorer said days four and six of the auction will be especially fruitful for those looking for a bargain.
There are, of course, also items that will go for thousands of dollars, such as the 26 pianos up for grabs. The auction offers everything from the Steinway Model M to Boston and Yamaha brands. A set of pillows featuring the Duchess of Windsor’s pug dogs are also very popular.
But how did all this historic luxury end up in the Silver City? According to Schorer, when the hotel closed four years ago after being sold to a new owner, all the old furniture was shipped up to a warehouse in upstate New York where it stayed for three-and-a-half years while they decided what to do with it.
“In the end, they decided to reuse only the very important historical things — a handful of things,” he said.
The rest was donated to St. Bartholomew’s Church — a historic building across from the hotel — to fund its restoration and preservation. The church hired the auction company to sell the furniture in the hopes of raising at least $2 million.
But Schorer said finding a space for the auction was a huge challenge.
“There were no spaces big enough. This was probably the cleanest, driest, well-lit space with over a million square feet that was available,” he said.
And then they had to make the mall suitable for holding the furniture as well as hosting the auction. To do so, they had to get a special permit from the city, install increased security, clean up the space and make sure the water and power were running correctly after being off for so long.
The furniture was transported to the mall in 88 trucks, and took 416 hours of unloading over the course of 26 days to get into the mall. Schorer said they still haven’t finished cataloguing.
On Wednesday, Joan Hagianis drove down from Marlboro with her daughter to see the collection. She grew up in Manhattan, and said she used to walk through the hotel in its heyday.
“It’s bringing back memories,” she said. “… As a young person you’d go through like ‘Ooh, aah. Look at this, look at that!'”
Hagianis said she would sometimes bump into celebrities such as Myrna Loy and Bela Lugosi as she walked through. But so as not to be so gauche, she never asked for autographs.
So far, Schorer said, Hagianis is one of the few visitors who has come by to look at the collection in person. But the collection has had tens of thousands of bids online.
The auction is maintaining strict social distancing rules, requires mask-wearing, has a self-imposed limit of 525 people in the building at a time and has guests fill out a questionnaire and have their temperature taken as they walk in to ensure anyone who wants to see the splendor first-hand will be safe inside the building.
But bidders need not leave their homes to participate. Online bidding is already open atkaminskiauctions.com, and items will start to be auctioned off Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 through both the online platform and in-person simultaneously.
The auction will last two weeks, after which those who purchased furniture will pick up their items. All of the items must be out by Nov. 15, and anything not purchased will be donated to charity.
Reach Susannah Sudborough at [email protected]