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I Played Hookie to go to a White House Estate Sale

If it's work related, is it really hookie? I'll leave that up to you to decide, but here's how it all went down.

At the beginning of a week, I usually check out what estate sales are coming up. Often they begin on Fridays, but sometimes Thursdays, too. I'll scan the start times and since I open the shop at 11am, if the start time is 10 am or later, I don't bother to look at the pictures or read the description of the sale since it's unlikely that I'll be able to attend. C'est la vie, there's always another sale in the pipeline.

This past week was no different and on Friday I'd planned to attend a nearby sale that started early, but the pictures weren't giving me much excitement and I decided to bail. I texted my friend, Amy, who agreed but mentioned a sale in Herndon that looked promising. I hadn't even seen it because of the late start time. I knew I couldn't make it, but it doesn't hurt to look at the pictures, right? In addition to the 500 images listed and large collections shown, it was disclosed that this was the estate of Mr. Irvin Williams, the White House gardener for over 40 years. This was not to be missed so I made the decision to just close up shop. These events are so special and don't come around that often.

I hopped in the car, called Amy and we agreed to head out. As I turned on to the street to park, cars were lined up as far as you could see. As I walked up the driveway, I noticed the beautiful Magnolia tree in bloom and thought to myself how pretty it was. Turns out, according to the Washington Post, that tree MAY have grown from a cutting of the Jackson Magnolia, believed to have been planted over 200 years ago by Andrew Jackson as a tribute to his wife.

Amy and I were numbers 75 & 76 to enter and anxiously peered into boxes and hands of those emerging from the house. It's always interesting to see what people choose to bring home from estate sales, especially one like this. Many were there just to get a glance into his home and garden and had never attended an estate sale before.

Finally, our numbers were called and we entered the house. Entering the split foyer, we immediately went downstairs...(that's our favorite part of the house to start in, especially if you're into vintage). We took our time looking through all the rooms and treasures, picking out pieces we loved, chatting about the collections we found and looking at all of the White House memorabilia.

We walked the back yard, peeked in sheds, and found a hidden garden full of raised beds I imagine once held vegetable or plants to propagate. There were also many cement busts and benches scattered around the perimeter of the lawn.

Willow Wright carrying a traffic light on a furniture dolly

We even found an old traffic signal box mounted on a cement base. After a few minutes hemming and hawing, I decided that I had to have it! It'll make a great Little Free Library, home bar, garden accessory, or just a very cool piece that came from Mr & Mrs. Williams' home.

Here I am rolling it out on a beer keg dolly we found. I hope that means they had some fun parties over the years!

One of the best parts of living in the DC area is having the opportunity to get a glimpse into the lives of men and women who have served this country in a variety of ways.

From White House employees like this, to those with extensive government and military careers to astronauts like John Glen, who's estate sale I attended some years ago, but that's a story for another day.

It was a really wonderful day, sharing the experience with a friend and running into fellow vintage lovers and shop owners along the way. I came home with many beautiful old Christmas ornaments, a couple of amazing mirrors, a few more treasures, but most importantly got to learn about Mr. Irvin Williams, a gentleman who made signifiant contributions to the White House grounds from 1962-2006!

To read more about Mr. Williams, please click here. To read my top tips for shopping estate sales, click here.


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