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Merion Station Home Used To Be Wedgwood Museum

The six-bedroom stone mansion on N. Bowman was once a showcase for the country's largest collection of Wedgwood china.

A classic stone home on North Bowman Avenue in Merion Station used to showcase the country's largest collection of Wedgwood china.

"It was 15 to 20 years into our marriage before I ever had any other dishes but Wedgwood," recalls Max Buten.

As most families of the 1950s and 1960s were discovering the convenience of the TV dinner, the Buten family embraced the elegance of fine dining like no other.

Buten's family owned and ran the Buten Museum of Wedgwood right out of their house for almost 40 years.

Museum Origins

The museum was a passion project for his parents, Harry and Nettie Buten, who began their collection with a piece received for their first wedding anniversary.

Built in the early 1900s, the grey stone manor located at 246 N. Bowman Ave., first housed another legendary name, Josef Hofmann, director of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. Hofmann added on a wing to the original structure, which included a large music room for recitals and concerts and an exercise room.

Buten's parents purchased the house from Hofmann around 1939 when Hofmann left the institute and moved to California. There was a fire in the furnace room during the settlement of the property, which delayed the family’s move until June.

In 1957, Buten remembers his father "stopped trying to make it look like a house, and made it look like a museum."

The doors to the Buten Wedgwood Museum were open for tours two afternoons a week and Saturdays.

Every closet and storage space was filled with a variety of plates, serving dishes, vases, statues, and other decorative Wedgwood designs that dated as far back as the 1770s. 

The Wedgwood Family Connection

Buten's father had a good relationship with the Wedgwood family. He would go to England every once in a while bringing back barrels of odds and ends. When Wedgwood made too many candy dishes without lids, his father brought them home and they ended up as souvenirs.

"He was very inventive and would put this stuff together and sell it in the museum store," recalled Buten.

Buten's parents were not just collectors. They took this seriously and turned it into an enterprise. Harry Buten, who also owned Buten Paints, wrote several books and articles on the history of Wedgwood.

The Butens’ collection placed them in some very exclusive circles. Harry Buten was even invited to meet the Queen of England and was inducted into the British Royal Society of the Arts. The mayor of Seoul, Korea once dined at the Buten home.

 

Check back Saturday to find out what happened to the museum and its collection of Wedgwood.

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