In 1973, York antiquarian Joe K. Kindig III was studying an auction catalog at Sotheby’s in London when he noticed that a set of five chairs from Ireland matched a chair in the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.
He phoned in an offer for the set.
This signaled to the famous auction house that the chairs could be American. Sotheby’s has withdrawn the chair from sale in London so that it can be studied by its US division.
The chairs indeed corresponded to a chair from Winterthur, the famous New Castle County museum. They were then sold and ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, and the National Gallery.
A phone call delayed a sale.
This story from the Maine Antique Digest shows Kindig’s vast knowledge of American, English and Irish antiques and the respect bestowed on this member of a venerable family of antique dealers. During his long life he also developed expertise in Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, the long gun and 1700s architecture, among a host of other subjects.
He was also a powerful contributor to the history of York County. His attention to detail on discovering the rare half-timbered construction of the Golden Plow Tavern hiding under the cladding is legendary. Joan Mummert of the York County History Center tells this story below.
Joe Kindig III died on September 4 at the age of 98.
Continue the work of his father
âYoung Joeâ Kindig worked quietly from his building at 325 W. Market St. and rarely went to antique shows.
âYoung Joeâ is still confused today with his father Joe Kindig Jr. (1898-1971), described as âflamboyantâ by the Maine newspaper. Late in life, the very visible “Old Joe” as he was called, dressed in simple shirts and pants, did not wear socks and grew his hair and beard without cutting them.
This story from the Kindig Antiques website tells how Old Joe founded the venerable antiques business:
Old Joe, then a young boy in the early 1900s, absolutely wanted a gun. His father, of Mennonite origin, did not believe in such weapons.
His father suggested that his son buy an air rifle, but then discovered that it could damage an eye.
Joe then asked for an ancient weapon. He was told he could buy a lot.
And he did.
Joe’s aunt, an antique dealer, went to the local farm sales. Joe accompanied him and also began buying old furniture, which he began selling to merchants in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. He used the money generated from these sales to buy more rifles. At 16, Joe circulated a list of firearms by mail order.
Kindig’s website says the Kentucky Rifle was Old Joe’s first love.
âIn the end, he assembled the largest collection of long guns in the world,â the website says.
Young Joe entered the family business in 1947 and kept the collection after his father’s death.
“Ninety-five percent of it remains intact,” the website says. “Few rifles are ever offered to the collecting public.”
In 2014, Young Joe praised local gunsmiths: âThe best guns, luckily, were made here in York. “
Generous of his knowledge
Joe Kindig III is one of a long list of historians upon which succeeding generations of local scholars rely today. Young Joe joins Kathryn Jordan, Henry James Young, Landon Charles Reisinger, Charles H. Glatfelter, Al Rose, Lila Fourhman-Shaull, Justine Landis, Betty Brown, Wm. Lee Smallwood and Fred Weiser, among many others, on this list. late contributors.
Current and future generations of local historians and scholars can learn a lot from the reserved young Joe.
A close colleague, Philip Zimmerman, said of Kindig in Maine Digest: âHe was curious, open to new information and well read.
He was talking about books he read during his visit two weeks before his death.
âHe had a good knowledge of history and the decorative arts and was a big consumer of fiction,â Zimmerman said.
And Peter Tillou, a friend, noted years ago that Joe was generous with his time.
âOne of the nicest things about Joe is that if he respects you and sees your passion, he’s generous with his knowledge,â he said. “One of my great joys over the years has been his willingness to spend time.”
The influence of Kindig III
Perhaps Young Joe’s most enduring legacy comes from his work in preserving the Golden Plow Tavern / Gates House in 1963.
This happened at a time when the City of York Market, York Children’s Home, York Collegiate Institute, and many other historic buildings were being demolished.
The successful rescue of the Billmeyer House on East Market Street in the mid-1970s is sometimes credited with starting the modern historic preservation movement in York County. This could be the case as a preservation movement supported with intention.
But Kindig’s significant involvement in saving the Golden Plow Tavern around 1741 came a dozen years earlier.
Mummert, of the History Center, answered questions about the preservation work, life and influence of Joe Kindig III:
Q. How did Joe Kindig III get involved in the Gates and Plow complex?
A. In his 2014 History Center presentation, Joe Kindig III shared his 1960 experience sitting at the Market Street and Pershing Avenue traffic lights when sunlight hit the building at such an angle that it noticed the nail pattern in the clapboard siding. In addition, the sharp angle of the terraced roof also caught his attention. The two inspired him to further inspect the building, which at the time was slated for demolition with a number of buildings around this corner. Joe’s observations and subsequent advocacy and efforts propelled a community effort to restore the Golden Plow Tavern and General Horatio Gates House.
With significant help from the Redevelopment Authority of York, the Junior League, the Tourism Bureau and others, a non-profit entity, Historic York County, was formed to raise the necessary funds and oversee the revitalization. Joe led this effort using his background in historic architecture by contracting with G. Edwin Brumbaugh, a highly regarded restoration architect, who had recently led the effort to restore the Ephrata Cloister. The project has received considerable praise as a unique combination of historic preservation and urban revitalization.
Under the direction of Mr. Kindig and Mr. Brumbaugh, the iconic Gates and Plow buildings are reminiscent of the York frontier experience as a new nation was formed. These structures hosted delegates to the Second Continental Congress and the Marquis de Lafayette during the darkest days of the American Revolution. Joe’s keen eye, knowledge of architectural history and involvement ensured that the buildings and their fascinating stories would be accessible to residents and visitors alike.
Q. What significant contributions did Joe Kindig III and his ancestors make to the York County History Center in York and beyond.
A. Joe Kindig and a group of dedicated volunteers have constantly strived to ensure that York County’s history is accessible to future generations. Beyond the restoration of the Gates & Plow buildings, the Bobb Log House (Anglicized by Bupp) was moved from the corner of College and Pershing avenues to the current location along Pershing Avenue. This particular property was seen as a “practical” home for weaving, a way to connect young children to historic crafts.
Many of the significant decorative art artifacts on display and preserved at the York County History Center have been brought together with the help of the experienced eye of Mr. Kindig. He and others – such as Mimi Brimfield, Ingrid Graham, Nancy McFall, Byron LeCates, Russell and Eleanor Gohn, Walter Loucks, Mary Skold and Mary S. Keesey – have worked to build relationships within the community for s’ ensure that York County crafts would be preserved and shared.
To convey the region’s vast history, they sought out collections representing a variety of artistic styles and industries. Today, these collections form the basis of more than 90,000 artefacts in the History Center Collection, the largest three-dimensional collection of private historical nonprofit societies in south-central Pennsylvania.
This group has published books – such as “Philadelphia Chair 1685-1785”, “Masterpieces of the American Long Rifle – The Joe Kindig, Jr. Collection” and “Architecture of York County” – has regularly invited renowned speakers and has established a strong routine of significant exhibits which contributed to historical knowledge of certain artefacts. In their day, this group of dedicated people created an organization that enjoyed a reputation esteemed and extended far beyond York County.
Joe has served for over 20 years with the Historical Society of York County in a variety of capacities, including board member, committee chair, and exhibit designer. His work with the organization and the region was recognized in 1981 with the Governor’s Pennsylvania Distinguished Citizen Award.
Q. What should York County know about Joe Kindig III?
The exceptional work of A. Joe was honored with the 2008 ADA (Antiques Dealers’ Association of America) Merit Award for his outstanding contributions to the field of American fine and decorative arts and the purchase and sale of ‘antiques. It is the highest honor that can be obtained in the field of antiques, which has resulted in a life of collecting and continuous learning.
He served in World War II after attending York Collegiate Institute, then enrolled at Amherst College.
Even with his vast experience at the highest levels of the antique world, working with large collectable institutions and families such as the DuPonts, Joe was genuinely genuine, gracious and engaging. He has been generous with his time and talent to seriously share his knowledge through programs designed to impart knowledge rather than impress.
His passion for historic architecture has continued in recent years through lectures and presentations at the Historic Hellam Preserve and Wright’s Ferry Mansion.
Jim McClure is the retired editor of the York Daily Record and is the author or co-author of eight books on the history of York County. Contact him at [email protected]