October 28, 2020 10:00 EDT

The Pennsylvania Sale featuring The Hedgerow Theatre Collection



Wharton Esherick (1887-1970)
Staircase for Hedgerow Theatre, circa 1935

Comprising thirteen stairs Painted pine.

H: 107, W: 34, D: 77 in. (overall)

Sold for $81,250
Estimated at $20,000 - $30,000


H: 107, W: 34, D: 77 in. (overall)

Provenance: Made by the artist for the Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, circa 1935
The Hedgerow Theatre Collection


Wharton Esherick, Studio & Collection, Eisenhauer, pp. 17, 32, 35-36 and 38 (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre)
Wharton Esherick, The Journey of a Creative Mind, Bascom, pp. 59-60, 106, 108-109, 120, 123, 131-136, 162-164 and 239 (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre and illustrations of related works)
Wharton Esherick and the Birth of the American Modern, Eisenhauer and Farrington, pp. 30-35, 112-127 (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre and illustrations of related works)
Drawings by Wharton Esherick, Rochberg, introduction (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre), nos. 56-61, 66-78, and 98-105 (for drawings related to Hedgerow Theatre)


Wharton Esherick's staircase designs are among his most recognizable and celebrated works, perhaps none more than the spiral staircase constructed for his hand-made studio in 1929 on the hill overlooking his farmhouse on Diamond Rock Hill in Paoli, Pennsylvania. That staircase, famously selected by Philadelphia architect George Howe to be showcased among an exhibition of Wharton's work entitled "A Pennsylvania Hill House" at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, was removed for the occasion. Exposure to the audience of over 200,000 visitors gave Esherick well-deserved recognition. Esherick built only a handful of staircases for select clients, most notably the staircase he created for the Curtis Bok residence in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania with fanning stairs similar to the present lot. Wharton Esherick crafted two spiraling staircases for Hedgerow Theatre. One set, made in 1934, was completely destroyed in a fire at the Theatre in 1985. The present lot, also built for Hedgerow Theatre in the mid-1930s remains extant. It replaced an existing set of Arts and Crafts stairs in the Theatre's lobby in order to create more room for the box office. Esherick salvaged pine timber from a covered bridge that spanned the Delaware River for its construction. He subsequently sculpted and stacked the stairs, fanning them out from a two-foot central column. The stairs lead to the theatre's balcony, where Esherick spent countless hours sketching actors on the stage. Because of the idiosyncratic and experimental design, the stairs have never adhered to local fire code. As a result, he was tasked with creating a "do not enter" sign to keep the Theatre's patrons at bay. A figural statuette, emblazoned with the word "NO" in large letters, sat at the foot of the present lot for many years.

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