History of the Potomac Collection of Antique Art Carpets



We owe a young woman with the dream of a start-up for our acquisition of the monumental Potomac Collection. This 130-rug treasury was passionately assembled over three generations and furnished various homes along the historic Potomac River and a summer residence in Charleston, SC.

Our young visionary owes her great-grandfather for finding a friend at Yale in George Hewitt Myers who would eventually create the Washington Textile Museum. On moving into his dorm room, the heir to the Bristol-Myers pharmaceutical fortune decided to purchase two Persian rugs and became smitten with them. Myers’ enthusiasm was apparently infectious, because the great-grandfather of the Potomac family, whose parents were in manufacturing, became an aficionado himself and eventually filled his D.C. home with extraordinary pieces. Over 50 years, these two men periodically enjoyed viewing the “rug finds” from each other’s travels and shared their research.

The seller’s grandfather, also attended Yale and ambitiously enjoyed the pursuit of collecting antique carpets. By graduation, he had determined a strategy for investing in nascent inventions that subsequently quadrupled the family holdings. Supported by a wife with an equal passion for rare rugs and a great acumen for interior design, over time their Arlington, VA home became covered with collectible Persian and tribal rugs.

His son, the father of our seller, concentrated on finance and along with his wife, a successful retailer, built a home in Great Falls and acquired a vacation residence in Charleston SC, both of which Claremont helped to furnish. He eventually inherited the D.C. and Virginia homes from his two predecessors, along with a Manhattan apartment — and the combined rug collection that had covered the floors and walls of virtually all the rooms in them.

It was their only child, a young woman still in her 30s, who contacted us. Remembering our rug presentations in the family’s homes, she offered 130 collectible pieces to us, after keeping 35 for herself. We were completely stunned, as we had never dreamt we would have the opportunity to represent the spectacular rugs we sold her parents again, much less the entire collection.

Over the two weeks that we took to get reacquainted with the entire collection, she shared many vivid memories of her parents’ and grandparents’ love of rugs and American antiques. When the young woman heard about Jan as a teenager entertaining his grandmother and her collector friends by guessing blindfolded the region of rugs by their handle, she remembered sessions with her grandparents learning the names of the Caucasian motifs and speculating how they worked together to create a symbolic language. She told us how relieved she felt to be able to pass on what she called “my lifelong friends” to people who understood them and will cherish them as much as she and her family had.

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