‘Jewelry for the home’

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, August 11, 2012

Unusual collection highlights handles

By Susan Stone

Special to the News-Herald

Looking at the collection of more than 85 doorknobs that Ann Litterst has in her Lake Prince Woods home, one would never know that it all began with a collection of postcards.

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Litterst has a longstanding interest in old postcards, and as she visited antiques stores and other places looking for cards to add to her collection, her late husband Bob would tag along, she said.

Ann Litterst shows off her collection of doorknobs in her Lake Prince Woods home. Her late husband began the collection and bought most of them at antiques shops. It now includes more than 85 doorknobs, which are displayed in a case in the home’s sunroom.

While poking around in antiques stores he almost always found old doorknobs and soon decided he’d like to begin collecting them. So began a hobby that would entertain him for years and one that left his wife with many tangible reminders of their time together.

At first, Bob Litterst planned only to collect glass knobs, but that didn’t last long.

“One day Bob was in an antiques store and found a brass door knob on which was inscribed “City of Chicago Board of Education,” she said. “Since he grew up in Chicago and attended school there, that became his first brass knob.”

During the next 25 years or so, his collection grew to more than 85 doorknobs.

The unusual collection is displayed in a plexiglass case in the sunroom of Ann’s home, and the light flooding the room shows the color and distinctions of the knobs.

“If you’ll notice, some of the glass knobs turn color in different light, while others are shaded light green, rose or cobalt blue,” she explained to a visitor. “Other glass knobs have intricate carvings — like old-fashioned cut glass bowls — inside the knob.”

An article in Country Living magazine in 2004 explained that during the Victorian era, door hardware was like “jewelry for the home.”

One particularly beautiful knob in Litterst’s collection is called a “bubble knob,” with bubbles encased inside glass. The Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. made this type of knob, although not all bubble knobs are Pairpoints. Depending on the company that made the knob, the bubbles can be uniform in size, smaller at the top than the bottom, elongated in appearance.

Bob Litterst was a member of Antique Doorknob Collectors of America, but he didn’t limit his collecting to doorknobs. He also collected doorplates and plumb bobs — inverted pyramid shape weights used as a vertical reference line. He had 64 of those.

The couple lived in the Deep Creek area of Chesapeake for 36 years before moving to Lake Prince Woods four years ago. Bob Litterst died two years ago. Today, his widow keeps busy with the daily activities available at Lake Prince Woods and especially enjoys line dancing.

She has recently discovered her talent for painting and is taking a class on campus.