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Historic vase to be featured at Edison Ford Winter Estates Foundation gala auction

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

Bidders will be pleased to find a lovely and significant item has been added to the auction list for Edison Ford Winter Estates Foundation’s 8th fund-raising gala to be held Friday evening, November 14, 2008, at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.

Fort Myers philanthropist Berne Davis, who received a telegraph of congratulations on her wedding day from Mina Edison, has selected something precious from her own home to enhance the bidding during the Foundation Gala, two exquisite 18th century vases from her personal collection. Delicate, beautiful and functional, the vases depict a garden scene and have been in the Davis home since 1978. Their provenance is fascinating, a story of love and heartache, no doubt part of the allure spurring Berne Davis to own them.

The vases were purchased from the estate of the shipping heiress Helen Hooper and her husband, the Honorable Lathrup Brown, a former congressman, Secretary of the Interior, and Best Man at FDR’s wedding to Eleanor. The Browns moved to Sanibel Island in the 1960s and planned to live on a large paddle-wheeler named Algiers intentionally beached on 30 Gulf-front acres. It was to have been inhabited by the couple, who had spared no expense in refurbishing, moving and furnishing the boat. Terrazzo tiles from Italy and marble countertops from France complemented sinks inlaid with gold shells and seahorses. But before the couple could move in, Lathrup died unexpectedly. Helen couldn’t bear the thought of living there without her husband and never returned to the island.

Upon Helen’s death, the couple’s belongings were auctioned, with Mrs. Sidney Davis in attendance. She said she feels the pair of vases carry special sentiment, and who could disagree? With ties to three prestigious couples, and each a lovely vessel for our area’s abundant tropical flora, the pair will provide any winning bidder a rather enviable topic of conversation.

The live auction is part of the Edison Ford Winter Estates Foundation’s signature fundraising event, a tribute to the estates’ esteemed former residents. All the profits raised at the 8th annual gala will further the mission of the Foundation: restoration and preservation of the estates where Thomas Edison and Henry Ford wintered. A 5:30 cocktail reception precedes a dinner, the live auction, and dancing to the music of Alter Ego. The event is black tie. Tickets are $375 per person. For more information, please call the Foundation office at 274-2377.