New in the Collection: Peltier/Hathaway Desk to Bley House Museum
A desk that is of the very essence of Dorset has been donated to the Dorset Historical Society by James Hathaway Jr. within two months of his father's sudden death in September. Known to be presided over by at least two Peltier's owners, Perry Peltier and Jay Hathaway, the piece is a large, heavy, oak, roll-top kneehole design with four copious drawers on each side, two beveled pullout trays, and twelve cubbies along with a central drawer above the writing surface. The drawer still holds another Hathaway Family gift to DHS: Jay's reading glasses, intended to remain in their customary safe place. Made by the B. & G. Furniture Company, the desk sports a metal label showing its 1898 patent date.
The desk served Dorset Village's longest-running general store from perhaps as early as 1926, when Perry Peltier and Kimball Tifft became partners in running the business (then known as Peltier & Tifft). It may even have been used earlier, when Perry Peltier's father, John, was the store's owner (with a series of partners) beginning in 1913. In 1955 Perry Peltier bought out Tifft and the double name of the business was shortened simply to Peltier's. In Perry's time, the desk sat in a cubby in the middle of the store where the coolers are today. Terri Hathaway recently explained the noticeable evidence of charring to the left of the writing area: Perry's ever-present cigar once started a fire at the desk.
In a DHS presentation on the store's history given by Jay Hathaway in 1981 and again in 1999, he told a story of the desk that demonstrates "the ties that bind." For some time after his sale to the Hathaways, Perry Peltier would come into the store every day and sit at his desk.
Under its newest proprietors, Cindy Loudenslage and Gretchen Schmidt, the perennial business on the Green, which first opened its doors in 1816 as Blackmer and Holley, has resumed one of its earliest identities. Now in its sixteenth round of ownership, Pelter's is again known as the Dorset Union Storeits second banner (1833-39) and its seventh (1851-58).
Jay and Terri Hathaway became owners of Peltier's in 1977 and ran the business for 27 years. "When I was a kid," said their son, "the desk was in the middle of the store. My father was always working there, and somebody was talking to him. It was at the heart of the store." Later still, Jay created an office for himself at the back of the store, and the desk was relocated there. Eventually, ensconced in the Hathaways' home above the store, it housed the bookkeeping end of the business, presided over by Terri. After the Hathaways sold Peltier's, the desk did honorable service in the Dorset office of Clear Path International, the mine-victims aid organization that Hathaway Family members were centrally involved with for years.
The Peltier/Hathaway desk with its long-running attachment to Dorset history now moves to a place of honor in the Main Gallery of DHS's Bley House.