It’s a Mars and Venus thing. If a couple is out antiquing or stopping by tag sales, guys look at the big things and women look at the little stuff. And that means I would never in my life have found this treasure.

Let me set the scene…

Thomas Sykes was a wealthy mill owner in Rockville and it was he who built our lovely home in 1908. Unfortunately for him, he died a year later. His widow kept on in the home with the help of 2 servants and a chauffeur. Their daughter, Bertha, shared the home with her mother and eventually inherited it when she passed away. Bertha lived here with her husband, Stephen Hardenbergh, and they had a son who they named after Bertha’s father, Thomas Sykes Hardenbergh.

While the mills that generated such great wealth for so many New England families began their migration southward after the Great Depression, the Sykes and Hardenbergh fortune was well established. Thomas Hardenbergh grew up living the life of privilege and grace that few of us could likely imagine. And that meant luxuries that included an Ivy League education, country clubs and polo tournaments.

Silver-BoxMy bride, Heather, is an inveterate flea marketer. It’s not that Heather goes to buy things, she just likes poking about on lazy Summer mornings. The Mansfield Drive-in Theater has a huge outdoor flea market that operates every Sunday during fair weather. To my eye, it’s acres and acres of pre-landfill junk but Heather spies the occasional gem among the rubble. And thus, one sunny Sunday, she was rummaging through a box of silver-plated items when she saw a tarnished box – the kind you’d keep cigarettes or playing cards in – that was a prize from a polo tournament at the Dedham Polo and Country Club in 1952. What was remarkable about this particular box, however, was that the winner was none other than Thomas S Hardenbergh

.I have no idea how this piece managed to make it from Wellesley, MA, where Thomas lived for most of his adult life to a flea market vendor in Mansfield, CT. I also don’t know what serendipity had my bride select this vendor’s pile of silver-plated items to rummage through. All I know is that this little part of Thomas, once lost, has now been found.

Welcome home, Thomas.

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