This year, the house at Hills & Dales Estate will be 94 years old. In 1916, Fuller and Ida Callaway, along with their two sons, Cason and Fuller Jr, (and Ida’s parents) moved into their new Italian Villa home. Delightfully, many of the original items Fuller and Ida chose, with the help of the architect Neel Reid, remain in the home to this day. As visitors tour the house, one of the first questions they ask is, “What’s original?” There is a genuine interest in knowing what has stood the test of time and remains in the house to be admired. Most guests are surprised to learn that the leather sofa in the library is an original furnishing. Historic pictures show us different arrangements of the room and always include the sofa. In addition, the kidney-shaped desk and chair belonged to Fuller Sr.
A most interesting “original” is a set of folding, elaborately carved wooden chairs chosen by Ida Cason Callaway in 1916. The wood is possibly walnut, stained very dark, and extremely heavy. The strip back and seat are brown leather, secured to each side by large brass nail heads. The design on the front of the arms and legs is carved with raised grapevine leaves and grape clusters. The arm decoration starts with a leaf design, extending to a carved head of a bearded, laughing man and ending in a smooth under curve. The center of the front joining the arms and legs is a carved lion’s head with open mouth. The front feet are carved in lion motif or “paw and claw.” A similar 16th Century Dante chair is pictured in The Encyclopedia of Furniture by Joseph Aronson. These type chairs date from ancient times and were extensively used in the Renaissance Period throughout Europe. Visitors will see these classic ornate beauties when the second and third floors are opened for tours later this year.
The chandeliers in the library, music room (former parlor) and dining room were enjoyed by the first family of Callaways to occupy Hills & Dales. The architect chose pewter and silver for the library, crystal for the parlor and bronze for the dining room.
A beautifully painted chest sits in the living room entrance foyer. Neel Reid, the major architect for Hills & Dales, suggested this piece for Ida’s consideration when she was choosing furniture in 1915-16 for her new home. Ida decided that this purchase from the Aimone Galleries in New York City would indeed complement her house. The top and sides of the chest are hand painted and feature “The taking of the Port of Trebizond in the year 1461.” This battle, which is shown on various parts of the chest, was the last stronghold of the Byzantine Empire and shows the Turks entering the city victoriously. The front panels of the chest are skillfully carved.
The dining room contains most of the original furniture and accessories from the time of Fuller and Ida. These furnishings include the walnut refectory dining table, ten side chairs, four armchairs, walnut credenza, hand wrought andirons, a painting of Madonna and Child and a polychrome ceramic bust of St. George. The architect chose these items which clearly show an Italian influence.
On the second floor, beautifully ornate, original mantels have seen years of different paint and have now been restored to their original character which accents the details. These will surely be a favorite of visitors when the second floor is open for tours.
The third floor holds another magnificent “original,” Fuller Callaway Sr’s billiard table complete with authentic ivory billiard balls! The ambiance of this game room is reminiscent of a quaint English pub and visitors will enjoy stepping back in time as they enter this “gentlemen’s gathering place.”