Art Deco: the phrase evokes many different images to many different people. Its pinnacle was the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratif et Industriels Modernes at the Paris World’s Fair in 1925. The phrase, which was not used until the 1960s, has come to represent a much broader scope of work and has expanded to include an extensive array of ‘moderne’ architecture dating from approximately 1915-1940. Its exact origins are hard to trace; however, the early years of the 20th Century brought a new style, coinciding with the end of Art Nouveau. Its evolution and inspiration are diverse. Influenced by the discovery of the Tutankhamen tomb in 1922, African art, the Aztec and Mayan ruins, and contemporary arts of the time, such as Constructivism and Cubism, Art Deco pays homage to the rich heritage of Louis XV and XVI and most importantly to the mood of change, speed and the machine age of a post-war world. 

I do not profess to be an expert on Art Deco; no more than a wine collector would profess to be an expert on wine. I discovered Art Deco when I purchased the Hamilton home on the Niagara Parkway in 1978. I purchased the home on the Brae Burn farm site because I had hit quick sand when preparing to expand Inniskillin at the original winery site at SR #58, approximately two kilometers south of the current winery site on SR#66 / Line#3.

Early in the morning, I was working on a tractor in the vineyard I had planted in 1974 on Line #3. A man came across Line #3 to ask me a few questions about the Hamilton Estate. He had been hired to appraise the property because Mrs. Hamilton had passed away and she had no heirs. The property was to be sold. Karl Kaiser, my partner at Inniskillin, had moved into the home on the adjacent property where we had planted 30 acres of Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay. Ziraldo Farms and Nurseries had bought the Jeffries farm across from the Hamilton property in 1974 because we had grafted 30,000 Vitis vinifera grape vines and were not able to sell them due to the official position by the Horticultural Research Station at Vineland: it is too cold to grow Vitis vinifera - Chardonnay, Riesling etc. - in Niagara. As fate would have it, I became Chairman of that same research station in 2006 after leaving Inniskillin.

Once I secured the property in 1978, the Hamilton Estate held an auction sale. The auctioneer, Phillips Auction House, prepared a full catalogue and I was amazed at the number of people that came from as far away as New York City. The auction was held in the adjacent 1920s barn, which I began converting into a  gallery , showroom and Ziraldo winery facility. During the viewing, my friend Al Rubin, who was a collector of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, was ‘fawning’ over this Galle vase. He also informed me that the bathroom in the Hamilton house was classic Art Deco - it had pink, black and yellow glass tile and a black and white Cubist patterned floor.

Basically, that is how and when my passion for Art Deco began.

Being in the wine business, I was often in Paris and began not only noticing the Art Deco elements of the city, but also visiting museums. One of my favorite passtimes in Paris was to wander through Les Marche de Puce in Clignancourt (de Saint-Quen): a literal flea market for high art. Only in Paris! Had I been more intuitive, I would have purchased more since I had the opportunity to ship my purchases back to Canada in containers filed with wine cabinets. 

As I became more focused on pieces that I wanted to incorporate into my home in Niagara, Ed did an amazing job and truly set about to create a masterpiece. Costs, however, began to get out of control. I did the living room as per his design; however, Ed had different ideas. As you can see from the sketches, Ed wanted to design and build furniture as part of the actual restoration. By this time, I had acquired a number of pieces of furniture from Paris, New York, and San Francisco and wanted them to be the focal points of my collection. He and I began to disagree and we parted company shortly after the first phase of the restoration occurred. The living room was done to his exact drawings less the built-in furniture. His drawings were amazing and true to the period with Lalique glass ceilings, Deco motifs, glass panels. etc

I literally become obsessed with Art Deco and collected every book I could find as I travelled the Art deco world. Along the way I met many Art Deco collectors, afficianados and experts such as Roberto Navarro from Toronto's Navarro Gallery, Cassandra who I met in Aspen and Ted Morawetz, Toronto who wrote Art deco architecture in Toronto artdecotoronto.caand who hosted me at  the 10th World Congress on Art Deco in Montreal May 2008.

Over the years, I have collected various pieces of Art Deco from New York, Paris, San Francisco, Santiago and Toronto. In the barn beside my house, I recreated the original bathroom, using Carrera marble and inlaying one of the medallions from the original Toronto Stock Exchange - now The Design Exchange - which were designed by Charles Comfort. Other medallions are inlayed in the floor and hang throughout the barn. The decorative medallions pay homage to Canada’s major industries, once traded in the Toronto Stock Exchange: “pulp and paper, agriculture, mining, construction and engineering, refining, transportation and communication, oil and smelting. The medallions and the frieze are rooted in Realism, but they also reflect the mood of the time through aspects of Cubism.” The Ziraldo Estate Winery logo which you see to the left is a redisgn of one of the industrial medalions; the man holding a drill in recreated as 'Mother Nature" who is pressing grapes in a 'torchio" with grapevines at her feet.


A History of the Ziraldo home, Brea Burn Farm

The Hamilton Estate was built during the latter part of the 20s, so it had a number of Art Deco finishes, which are explained in the following story...

The first occupant of Lot 17, my current home, was Richard Wilkinson - a member of Lieutenant Colonel John Butler’s Rangers in 1793. The original home had a stone foundation, which still lies under the main part of the house. The property changed hands many times over the years: several significant owners, such as William Moncrieff, described as a gentleman from Buffalo, purchased the property known as the Brae Burn Farm in 1912. The 1928 Public Works Plan #6 in Niagara-on-the-Lake shows the footprint and location of a “two-story stucco house.” It appears from records found in the home that, during this period, an architect by the name of Secord did major renovations to the home. I suspect that the Art Deco elements, including the bathroom, kitchen, trim and stained glass, were influenced by the period.

A number of wealthy Americans also settled in the region. Best known was John D. Larkin of the Larkin Soap Company, who purchased approximately 1700 acres in Niagara. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the head office of the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo, New York.

In December 1942, Marion Hamilton from Toronto bought the Brae Burn farm.

In 1978, I purchased the Brae Burn Estate to relocate Inniskillin Winery, established in 1975, from the SR #58 location, where the Ziraldo nurseries were located. This is now the location of the Ziraldo Estate vineyard, which produces Ziraldo Icewine from the 'Victoria vineyard'.


Art Deco and Frank Lloyd Wright

My passion for Art Deco design has also developed into an interest in Frank Lloyd Wright, due to the Brae Burn barn on the Hamilton Estate, which is now my wine boutique. Two things occurred subsequently in regards to architecture and design...

1. Art Deco

The original contents of the Hamilton Estate were auctioned by the Phillips Auction House of Toronto and contained a number of decorative arts pieces. I purchased the home’s piano at the auction and added Art Deco legs to the base. While in Paris, I discovered Le Marché aux Puces in Clignancourt, where I purchased many of the furniture pieces now in my home, including the Leleu Room dining table. The bathroom in my upstairs office in the barn is a replica of the original bathroom in the house, with carrera marble installed by Italian craftsmen, Pellizoni,  from Friuli. Additionally, I read about the Art Deco period and the many great artists that lived in the Montparnasse: Picasso, Braque, Leger. I “hung around” the area every time I was in Paris. The Pierre Razzia print in the living room is from the La Coupole Restaurant in the Montparnasse.

2. The Frank Lloyd Wright Myth

As previously mentioned, the Larkin family of Buffalo owned land in the Niagara Region. I began researching barns in the area, both on the Brae Burn and Larkin Family farms to see if there was any connection with Frank Lloyd Wright. I met Canadian architect, Bruno Freschi, who at the time was Dean of Architecture at Buffalo State University and was commissioned to restore the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo. Martin, who was president of Larkin Soap Company, not only commissioned his own house from Frank Lloyd Wright, but had nine other homes commissioned. Freschi and I felt there may be some connection, as Frank Lloyd Wright and / or his students may have had some input in the design of these unique barns. In my book, Anatomy of a Winery, I dedicate a page to this and have also commissioned a stain glass window from the Coonley Playhouse, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Larkin Family barns and the Brae Burn barn ( currently the Inniskillin wine boutique) motivated my interest in his design elements, which I incorporated into Inniskillin’s design to create both a Canadian and “organic architecture” style, which Frank Lloyd Wright was noted for. Excerpts from the biography " J. D. Larkin" by his grandson, Daniel Larkin published in 1998;

- in 1900 the Larkin family purchased a summer home located on the Niagara Parkway, which was named "Glencairn." Glencairn was built in 1830 by one of the Hamilton brothers, shipbuilders at Queenston whose family gave its name to the city of Hamilton.

- In October 1905, Frank Llyod Wright and his wife, just back from Japan, came to Glencairn and the "architect pronounced the tea house and garden a great success".

- over several years the Larkins' acquired 1900 acres of rich farmland in Queenstown and Niagara on the-Lake; 12,000 apple trees, 4000 peach trees, wheat and oats, as well as pigs, Jersey & Angus cattle and Dorset sheep.




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