Pullman couch donated to Cobblestone Museum

Photos by Tom Rivers: David Mitchell, left, donated this couch made by George Pullman in the 1850s to the Cobblestone Museum. Mitchell is pictured with Doug Farley, the museum’s director, in the Danolds Room on the first floor of the Cobblestone Church.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 July 2018 at 10:11 am

ALBION – When David Mitchell pursued buying the Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home’s Albion and Holley sites last year, he made sure the sale included the “Pullman couches.”

Merrill-Grinnell had a sofa and loveseat from the mid-1850s. One had a stamp “From G.M. Pullman and Co. Albion” on back. The other loveseat doesn’t have a Pullman mark, and it can’t be determined for sure if Pullman made that furniture.

The loveseat is in the Rococo style, with ornamental carving and asymmetrical designs. Bill Lattin, retired Orleans County Historian and former curator of the Cobblestone Museum, said both “are really nice pieces.”

The back of this couch from the 1850s bear a mark from George Pullman’s furniture company in Albion.

When Mitchell did a walk-through of the Merrill-Grinnell funeral home last year, the couches weren’t on the premises. He made it clear he wanted them back before he would purchase the Albion and Holley funeral homes from Service Corporation International. SCI is based in Houston, Texas and owns about 1,500 funeral homes.

Mitchell closed on the sale last Dec. 22, and the two sofas were back.

On Friday, he donated them to the Cobblestone Museum. The loveseat was moved to the upstairs gallery of the Brick House next to the Cobblestone Church. The Pullman sofa was moved to the Danolds room in the first floor of the Cobblestone Church.

The loveseat is in the Rococo style, while the Pullman couch is in the Empire style.

The Danolds Room is dedicated to Charles and Mary Jane Danolds, who were friends with George Pullman. In the 1850s, when the canal was enlarged, Danolds had a contract to expand the canal and he hired Pullman to move some of the houses that were in the way of the expansion.

Pullman also ran a furniture business in Albion from 1853 to 1859. He would move to Chicago and become a titan of industry with railroad sleeping cars.

Danolds kept up a friendship with Pullman and while the two were vacationing in the Thousand Islands in 1890, Danolds made a pitch for Pullman to help build a new Universalist Church in Albion. Pullman agreed as long as the locals would commit some of their own funds to the project.

The new church opened in 1895 as a memorial to Pullman’s parents, James Lewis Pullman and Emily Caroline Pullman.

Bill Lattin, right, discusses the life of George Pullman on Friday with Josh and David Mitchell, and Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum. They are pictured in the Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home in Albion.

Lattin said he hasn’t seen other Pullman sofas in such great shape as the one that was at Merrill-Grinnell’s. Lattin saw others before but the couches were broken down.

Mitchell, owner of Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes, is selling the Merrill-Grinnell site on East State Street. He wanted the sofa and loveseat showcased and preserved.

“It’s exciting it’s going to a good home,” Mitchell said about the Pullman couch. “You have to embrace your local history. You have to know where your roots are.”

The museum will put out a display about the couch in the Danolds Room.

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