The Anna Safley Houston Museum of Decorative Arts – Chattanooga Museums Series 4

2017-09-01 | Art, Education, Event

A quiet, steady, stable life is rarely noted.

Anna Safely’s life was anything but. She had neither a stable life, nor a quiet life, and she was surely noticed. Born in Arkansas in 1876, she moved to Chattanooga with her second of (at least) nine husbands and began her magnificent collections of decorative glass and many other items of note.

Anna Safley Houston portrait

Anna Safley Houston portrait

She was a shrewd business woman who placed her collection above even her own well-being. Not known for getting too attached, she valued her husband James W. Houston above all others. Why? Because he had a truck to pick up the many pieces she discovered.

The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts is located in Chattanooga’s Bluff View Art District, along with The Hunter Museum, Rembrandt’s Coffee Shop, and Tony’s Pasta and Trattoria. We ate a wonderful meal at Tony’s prior to our tour through the museum. If you go, and if the weather is good, sit on the upper deck overlooking the Tennessee River.

In the photos below you’ll see the amazing amount of items she collected over the years. Before she died she arranged for the items to be exhibited in a museum. It is said that she had over 15,000 pitchers in her barn at one time. She collected music boxes, shaving mugs, steins, vases, and various pieces of furniture.

Mrs. Houston with her dog Sonny in her home

Mrs. Houston with her dog Sonny in her home

Anna Houston's water pitchers

Anna Houston’s water pitchers

A Preacher’s or Student’s chair.

A Preacher's chair in the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts

A Preacher’s chair in the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts

I was surprised at the variety of pieces in the museum. I expected to only see glassware.

Majolica Ceramic Pipe Tobacco Humidor

Majolica Ceramic Pipe Tobacco Humidor

porcelain cup with devil as handle

porcelain cup with devil as handle

Arrowheads and antique bottles

Arrowheads and antique bottles

We saw two incredible music boxes. Watch the video of the coin operated one.

Antique music player with metal disc

Antique music player with metal disc

1889 metal music disc

1889 metal music disc

The story of the shaving mugs was very interesting. Once again the government, in all their wisdom, decided that, for health reasons, one must have their own shaving mug. These were kept and proudly displayed at your favorite barber shop.

Antique personalized shaving mugs

Antique personalized shaving mugs

A very unusual water pitcher. Ice was placed in a hole in the side to keep the contents cool.

Unique water pitcher

Unique water pitcher

Another rare part of the collection of Anna Houston’s was the ivory carving collection, including a unique cribbage board.

Carved ivory items

Carved ivory items

I have walked by this museum for over 30 years, and have never had a great desire to explore it. I did not anticipate what a wonderful experience it was. Our tour guide told us numerous stories about the museum’s namesake and the tales that are connected to every piece in this collection. You don’t have to be interested in decorative glass to enjoy these exhibits. Take a chance. Make an effort to visit the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised.

Houston Museum of Decorative Arts Infomation

Location – 201 High Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403

Email – houstonmuseumchattanooga@gmail.com

Phone – 423.267.7176

Hours:

Open Wednesday – Saturday
Noon to 4 PM
AND on the 1st Sunday of each month

Admission:

Adults $9.00
Children (4-17) $3.50
College student with current student ID, $5.00

Randall Soules is a writer. His interests are varied. They include travel, food, technology, literature, self-development, education, music and the arts.