John S. Bradstreet
John S. Bradstreet and Company
Tiffany Studios (glass shades, fireplace tiles)
37 x 34 3/4 x 33 1/2in. (94 x 88.3 x 85.1cm)
Gift of funds from Wheaton Wood, by exchange
Accession #: 82.43.1
|Interior designer John Scott Bradstreet arrived in Minnesota in 1874, by way of northeastern Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, where he had worked at the Gorham Silver Company. From his earliest years here he was committed to providing imaginative interpretations of the latest interior decorating styles from Europe and Asia for both private and commercial clients, and by the 1890s he had developed a national reputation. With frequent trips overseas, he regularly updated his design vocabulary, while enhancing each room with European and Asian antiques and curios bought on his travels. In 1904 he opened his Craftshouse, loosely based on the English arts and crafts philosophy of William Morris, at 328 S. 7th Street in Minneapolis. There he marketed not only antiques and reproductions of historical styles, but also his jin-di-sugi furniture and woodwork, adapted from the Japanese technique of artificially aging and carving cypress wood. This jin-di-sugi finish became the trademark of John S. Bradstreet and Company, and it is now recognized as his personal contribution to the American Arts and Crafts style.
One of Bradstreet's most important commissions was the Duluth home of William and Mina Merrill Prindle. William M. Prindle was an early developer of Duluth, heading his own real estate company and encouraging Easterners to invest in the area. Mina Prindle developed interests of her own during her husband's travels, donating land for Duluth's parks and serving as a member of the city's park board. In 1904 the couple chose William Hunt of the firm Palmer, Hall, and Hunt, as the architect of their new home. From the Twin Cities, Mina Prindle chose William A. French and John Bradstreet to decorate the interiors. For the living room, which is displayed here, Bradstreet used carved sugi-finished wood in furniture that combined contemporary Art Nouveau ornamentation, including lotus leaves and flowers, with Queen Anne-style furniture forms. Bradstreet used glass light fixtures and fireplace tiles manufactured by Tiffany Studios, and Mrs. Prindle incorporated Japanese-style decorative accessories that she purchased from the Craftshouse. She was so respectful of Bradstreet's accomplishment that the interior, finished in 1906, was virtually intact when the Institute acquired it 75 years later. Labels written in Mrs. Prindle's hand and attached to each piece, described their Bradstreet and Co. origin and documented the jin-di-sugi technique he had used. The Prindle house was given to the Institute two days before a house sale in June 1981 dispersed its contents. The furniture and many of the objects from the living room were acquired at the sale by the Institute, and the paneling and contents were removed and a complementary interior was installed. The house was sold in 1982 to the Religious Sisters of Mercy, who have made it the home of the John Duss Music Conservatory.
Bradstreet worked for many of St. Paul's and Minneapolis' business elite, including the Pillsburys, Morrisons, William Dunwoody, and L.S. Donaldson, among others. His most complete interiors still in place are the five rooms executed at "Glensheen," the Chester Congdon residence in Duluth. These include the first-floor breakfast and smoking rooms, where he used Rookwood tile, his own stained glass, and metal-work light fixtures from the Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis, as well as some third-floor bedroom suites which he executed in his version of the contemporary "mission" style. A few years earlier, he had designed a fireplace for the Joseph Sellwood residence in Duluth, executed by the Grueby Faience Co. of Boston, a national leader in arts-and-crafts pottery and architectural ceramic work. This fireplace is also in the Institute's collection.