If you like history, cherish collections or just like old bottles, take a few minutes to visit the Bottle Room in the Bellingrath Home the next time you visit. Below, reprinted from the most recent Bellingrath Gardens newsletter, is an article written by Tom McGehee concerning the unique crystal, glass and ceramic bottles and decanters in the Bottle Room at the Gardens:
"The Bottle Room within the Bellingrath Home contains a wide assortment of crystal, glass and ceramic bottles and decanters. The figural bottles are probably the most popular.
"Figural bottles, which are also called character or portrait bottles, depict people, animals, books and other objects and were designed to catch the consumer’s eye. Those in the Bellingrath Collection include a cat, a pelican, a pair of lighthouses, a bathing beauty, President McKinley and Santa Claus.
"The bottles were made by skilled glass blowers in the late 19th century who would blow molten glass into cast iron molds. Bottle collectors in the United States did not take much notice of examples like these until the 1950s, when specialized collector clubs were being formed.
"Some twenty years earlier, this collection had been assembled by a good friend of Bessie Bellingrath, Mrs. W.B. Curran. A 1937 article in the Mobile Register described this unusual array of old bottles which had been put together by “Mrs. W.B. Curran – Mobile antique enthusiast.” Mrs. Curran later sold the collection to Mrs. Bellingrath, but they were not put on permanent display in the home until well after her 1943 death.
"Mr. Bellingrath called on Mrs. Curran to create the first inventory of his late wife’s collection in the summer of 1943. Ironically, a number of the items she described had once been in her own home, including this bottle collection.
"In the Bellingrath Bottle Room today is a clear glass figure of Santa Claus standing more than a foot tall. According to two different guides to antique bottles, this originally held a brand of crème de menthe. Images depict the bottle with a colorful paper label featuring Santa Claus in his traditional garb above a banner declaring 'Extra Quality.' The guide dates the piece between 1885 and 1910."