Joseph Gromacki, Collector, Chicago, IL
Joseph P. Gromacki will tell us about his house built in the first half of the 18th century, its collection of 17th and early 18th century American furniture and decorative arts, and the home’s bucolic landscape. His home, Kelton House Farm, is named for the family who built it in the upper Connecticut River Valley, near Deerfield, Massachusetts.
The five-bay, boxed frame “saltbox” with a large brick center chimney and four fireplaces, including a large kitchen hearth with a bake oven. Kelton House exemplifies classic Georgian architecture, as interpreted by the rural refinement of the Connecticut River Valley in the early 18th century. The sense of place pervades the house from its interior chamfered corner posts; simple wall and wainscot raised paneling; feather-edged board walls; small-paned windows and interior wooden, raised panel shutters. Abandonment from active use at the time of the Civil War preserved the farmhouse in its original condition until the mid-20th century when it was carefully dismantled, moved, reconstructed and restored at its current site in rural Wisconsin.
Kelton House’s furniture, ceramic, textiles and metal wares are not intended to create a period house museum of the 17th century and early 18th century Instead, the assemblage of household furnishings reflects the aesthetic achievement and diverse cultural influences of its time. Most of the furniture is from New England — primarily made by joiners and turners of English descent — and the middle colonies — reflecting British, Dutch and German influences.
Kelton Farm’s ceramics, based on the results of archaeological evidence from early American sites, were made in England, the Netherlands (including modern Belgium), Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and China. The collection also includes several pieces of early American ceramics.
The collection’s needlework is primarily of British origin, but also includes sophisticated examples of needlework from urban centers such as Boston and Philadelphia. The metal wares for cooking, lighting and dining are English, European and American. Iron fireplace tools and cooking implements are complemented by brass candlesticks and sconces, and pewter spoons.
Kelton House, bordered on one side by a river, includes woodlands, meadows, crop lands and pasturage for livestock. Gardens of historic design feature hundreds of heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables, herbs and flowers. Heritage breeds of cattle, chicken and doves, as well as the apiary’s bees, populate Kelton Farm. The farm produces an abundant harvest.
Joseph Gromacki received his bachelor’s degree in history from Yale and law degree from the University of Virginia. He is a senior partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block in Chicago, where he specializes in mergers and acquisitions and securities transactions. He chairs the firmwide corporate practice and serves on the firm’s governing committee.
Mr. Gromacki’s longstanding interest in historic preservation, and fine and decorative arts, is reflected, of course, by Kelton House Farm. He also serves as a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Layton Art Collection in Milwaukee, Historic Deerfield, and the Bidwell House Museum (initial structure built in 1750) in Monterey, Massachusetts. Like us, Mr. Gromacki is no stranger to museum support groups. He also serves on the board of directors of the American Arts Society, a support group of the Milwaukee Art Museum, as well as the National Trust Council, a support group for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.