By Melissa Cole, Curator
In the fall of 2014, we received a donation of an artifact with a tie to the Henry family: Dr. Franklin Luther Henry’s desk. This piece was donated to the museum by descendants of the Henry Family. The donor was married to the late great granddaughter of Dr. F.L. Henry. The couple was married in Henry House on August 25, 1973. This antique desk was once located in the former home and dental practice of Dr. Henry.
Dr. FL Henry was a grandson of Thomas and Lurenda Henry, of Henry House. He married Millie Clifford in 1889 and they had two children Rhea and Russell Henry. This particular desk was located in his dentist office and home that was located at 231 King Street East in Oshawa. Currently this building still stands and is now home to the Community Wellness Centre.
This desk is a lovely example of a Classic Revival spinet desk that is made of mahogany and veneer. The name Spinet is used to describe this style of desk because it resembles a spinet, which is a musical instrument of the harpsichord family. From the exterior the spinet desk has the appearance of a somewhat higher than usual writing desk. This particular desk does not have a hinged panel top, that fold over the top of the desk hiding the interior compartment, as most Spinet style desks do. There are two types of Spinet desks: factory made pieces dating from the 1920’s through to the 40’s, the second type are conversions made from Victorian Square case pianos. This piece is of the first type, factory made. The original Spinet desks were originally Circa 1840 pianos that were converted into desks during the 1920’s through to the 1940’s, when their internal works were beyond repair, their rosewood and mahogany veneered cases and square design being seen as “Old fashioned”, but thought too valuable to throw out would then be converted into a desk. This particular desk features pigeonhole compartments in the interior of the desk along with small drawers. There is a sculpted apron and long tapered octagonal legs.
Who was Dr. F.L Henry? We know that he was a dentist but he did much more for the community of Oshawa. At the turn of the century, Oshawa was known as the Manchester of Canada. Dr. F.L. Henry, was a high profile Liberal who persuaded the legislature to build a much needed Post Office in Oshawa. The site was the northeast corner of Ontario and King Streets. The Post Office was officially opened in 1904. Dr. F.L Henry was an active citizen in the community; he sat on the City of Oshawa’s First Public Parks Commission along with other citizens of Oshawa including R.S. McLaughlin. Dr. Henry managed the construction of the hospital in 1910, he was also a member of the Thirty-Club.
Dr. F.L Henry passed away on October 19, 1947 at the age of 83, he is buried in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery. This beautiful mahogany desk is currently on display in the study of Henry House.
To hear Melissa talking about the Dr. Henry Desk, check out her podcast on the Oshawa Museum YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSO4OxxWbPE