Houston Museum


Chattanooga, TN

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Art Glass Basket
Exhibition: Bottles, Baskets and Bowls
Art Glass Basket
Exhibition: Bottles, Baskets and Bowls
Art Glass Baskets
Art Glass Baskets
Art Glass Baskets
Exhibition: Bottles, Baskets and Bowls
Art Glass Baskets
Exhibition: Bottles, Baskets and Bowls
Art Glass Baskets

Art Glass Baskets

The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts
201 High Street
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37403
Telephone 423-267-7176

Email: houstonmuseumchattanooga@gmail.com

  • Thursday through Sunday from 12:00 noon until 4:00pm.
  • Other days may be scheduled by calling 423-267-7176.

A unique museum in the Southeast, the Houston is one of Chattanooga's significant visitor attractions. The museum offers guided tours of its permanent displays of the rarest pieces from Mrs. Houston's collections and changing exhibits as well. It also houses a gift shop where many unusual items are available, including some similar to glass and ceramic pieces in the Houston collections. The gift shop is open to the public, free of admission charge.

The History of the Houston Museum
Legends galore surround the enigmatic life of the red-haired country girl who came to Chattanooga in 1904 and proceeded to put together what is considered one of the world’s finest collections of antique glass, furniture and much more.

Anna Safley Houston (1876-1951) was an eccentric antiques dealer, considered a “town character” and called “Antique Annie.” But in time she became a nationally recognized authority on antique glass and dedicated her life to her collections. During the 15 years prior to her death she lived in virtual poverty in a huge ramshackle structure she had built with her own hands on the outskirts of the city, saving her choicest antiques for a “museum” and refusing to sell them even to buy food, medicine or other essentials.

She left all her possessions in trust to the people of Chattanooga, but her “museum” did not become a reality until a decade after her death, and then only through the efforts of dedicated volunteers who recognized the true value of her legacy. Today her collections are valued at so many millions of dollars that the Board of Trustees which oversees them will not even discuss a figure for publication.

And her collections -- including some hundreds of antique pitchers (the largest collection of its kind in the world) as well as many other kinds of antiques numbering tens of thousands of individual items -- attest to her uncanny ability to find and acquire rare pieces, many of which are now considered priceless.

The remarkable life story of Mrs. Houston, including her “collection” of at least nine husbands, is told in a biography, “Always Paddle Your Own Canoe,” published in 1995 and available at the Houston Museum Gift Shop.

Glassware and Ceramics
Anna Safley Houston amassed what has been termed by some experts to be the finest collections of such objects in the world. Stunning art glass pieces including Tiffany, Steuben, Loetz, Durand, Amberina, Plated Amberina, Pomona, Peach Blow, Burmese, Cranberry, Satin and more are among the inventory. There are cut glass vessels and over 600 patterns of Early American pressed glass, as well as Mary Gregory-type glass in abundance.

At one time, Mrs. Houston owned 15,000 glass and ceramic pitchers, surely the largest collection of its type in the world. Today the entire collection numbers approximately 12,000 pieces -- over 50 smaller collections within the larger assemblage. A generous sampling of lustreware -- copper, pink, yellow and silver -- and numerous pieces of Staffordshire, Wedgwood, Royal Bayreuth, Royal Worcester, Doulton, Royal Doulton, Rockingham-Bennington pottery, Parian, Meissen, Chinese export porcelain, Mettlach steins, Toby jugs, face mugs and humidors are highlights of the ceramic holdings.

American art pottery adds special interest to the mix. There are Newcomb, Rookwood, Weller and Roseville creations. An Alabama butter churn is among single objects drawing visitors’ special attention. All in all, there is an overwhelming number of treasures to behold.

A sampling of the amazing glassware and ceramic items follows.

  • Steins
    More than 75 rare steins are displayed on shelving in the second floor hall of the museum. Many were produced by Villeroy and Boch at its factory in Mettlach. The colorful vessels include krugs and children's steins and are shown with some novelty pieces from Royal Bayreuth, including the highly collectible Devil and Cards grouping.
  • Toby Jugs
    Supposedly named for a notorious drinker of the eighteenth century, the first Toby jugs were used for beer. The Houston Museum is fortunate to possess a fine collection of Toby jugs and face mugs, which are seen here against the backdrop of one of the museum's fine corner cupboards.
  • Miniature Lamps
    Miniature lamps, or "courting lamps," were used as night lights in the last half of the nineteenth century. They were made in many types of glass. The miniature lamp collection at the Houston is a collector's dream.
  • Art Glass Baskets
    Art glass baskets were favorites of the Victorians. All types of art glass were used in their creation, along with lots of the artist's imagination. The Houston Museum features an extensive collection of these baskets, both in full size and miniature. The late Robert Miller, antiques expert, wrote a book on the Art Glass Basket, using Houston pieces as illustrations.
  • Majolica
    A cherry Pennsylvania cupboard, circa 1850, holds some of the Houston's extensive collection of antique majolica, the brightly glazed earthenware pottery that delighted the Victorians after Henry Minton's re-introduction of it at the World Exposition in 1851. Prized among the museum's majolica holdings is a fish set by Joseph Holdcroft with six matching plates (in foreground). The cupboard displaying the majolica features candle drawers, bun feet and spoon slots.
  • Upstairs Dining Room
    The Houston Museum's upstairs dining room features fine examples of early Staffordshire, flow blue and a complete set of Charles Dana Gibson Girl plates by Royal Doulton, as well as a number of handsome pieces of antique furniture. A unique collection of antique pickle castors is exhibited on window shelving. A photograph of museum founder Anna Safley Houston with her beloved dog, Sonny, hangs on the wall at left.
  • Alabama Crock
    The butter churn of alkaline glazed stonewear bears a thumbprint at the base of both handles that identifies the piece to be from the Belcher's Gap area in North Alabama, where much beautiful pottery was made over a span of 60 years, beginning sometime in the 1850's and continuing until the end of the first World War (1918). The area was rich in kaolin, the main ingredient in the manufacture of porcelain. Belcher's Gap is in the Wills Valley.
  • Pressed Glass Room
    The Houston Museum's pattern or pressed glass room displays many rare pieces, including an impressive sampling of coin glass. Many pitchers hang from the ceiling, reminiscent of their early storage in Mrs. Houston's original barnlike building. At least 600 different patterns are represented.
  • Cranberry Glass
    Mrs. Houston's apparent affection for cranberry glass is borne out in the large number of cranberry pieces in the collection, including numerous pitchers, creamers, cruets and bowls. These shelves are in the upstairs Cranberry Room, which features a beautiful cranberry chandelier. Window shelving above the front hall staircase is also filled with cranberry pitchers.
  • Tiffany Glassware
    Stunning examples of art glass pieces by Tiffany, Steuben, Loetz and Durand adorn the mantlepiece in the downstairs front parlor. Some of the pieces are from the original Houston collection. Others have been donated since Mrs. Houston's death, including a Louis Comfort Tiffany favrile late 19th century bowl (center) in gold and blue tones, which was added to the Houston collection in May 2009.
  • Cameo Glass on Sugar Chest
    Handsome examples of cameo glass, including two signed Galle pieces, are displayed on one of three sugar chests in the Houston collection, a tiger maple chest with cherry top made in Tennessee between 1790 and 1810. Other cameo pieces in the grouping are by Thomas Webb, Val St. Lambert and J. Michel.
  • Rookwood Tiles and Pattern Glass
    Rookwood tiles produced by the popular American art pottery factory in Cincinnati, Ohio, set off a fireplace in the museum's pattern glass room. A pair of Staffordshire dogs are displayed at every fireplace in the house.
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