Auction preview shows how Dukes lived
“It’s just gorgeous,” said Nancy Haywood. “It’s exquisite.”
Haywood and her friend Belle Long were bright-eyed as they looked closely at a Steinway and Sons grand piano. Purchased in 1915 by Benjamin Duke, the piano had been well maintained over the years and is one of many items up for auction.
A preview was held in the Washington Duke Inn Saturday for the public and for potential bidders on various items that once were owned by the Duke Family, including Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans.
Presented by Asheville-based Brunk Auctions and with more than 400 lots, the preview included fine art, antiques, textiles, monogrammed silver and much more.
While some came to find items they might add to their own collections, almost in a chorus, Long and Haywood said that they were at the preview because of their curiosity.
“I want to see how the other 1 percent lived,” Long said. “I’m just interested in the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
“I used to know Mrs. Semans but she didn’t know me. She used to shop at a store where I worked. She was a lovely lady. I came because I have a bit of a personal connection to her.”
Semans was the granddaughter of Benjamin Duke, the founder of Duke University, and spent most of her life in Durham. A philanthropist and city leader, Semans served as Durham’s mayor pro tem and as a trustee for Duke University.
Semans died in January 2012 at 91 but her legacy is unforgotten. She helped found the Durham Arts Council and the North Carolina School of the Arts, and was a known champion for civil rights, education and affordable housing.
Items up for auction come from five of the Duke homes, including “Pinecrest” and “Les Terrasses” in Durham’s Forest Hills neighborhood, the 19th century-era Duke Homestead, the townhouse on Fifth Avenue in New York that was built in 1901, and “Four Acres” on West Chapel Hill Street.
Chris Parrish of Raleigh has been collecting antiques for about 30 years and said that he couldn’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“The Duke family is well known in this area and this is the first time that anything of theirs has been up for auction,” he said. “They are such a great family. I just think it’d be great to own things that they owned.
Aaron Edwards, representing the auction house, explained that people from all over the world have been taking part in the process leading up to the actual auction, with bids placed online for many items.
The preview, he said, is “great for a lot of the people who are local.”
The auction will begin at noon Sunday in the Washington Duke Inn after a 10 a.m. preview.
For information, including a fully illustrated catalogue, visit www.brunkauctions.com.