Russell Whitmore opened his Red Hook antiques shop, Erie Basin, in 2006 at the corner of Van Brunt and Dikeman Streets. A long-time lover of ancient objects--his parents collected, and he went to college in Gambier, Ohio, where buying heirlooms passed for an exciting pastime--Whitmore has an eye for distinctive jewelry, furniture and oddities.
But how does the collector decorate his own home, a "rough-around-the-edges" two-bedroom co-op in Brooklyn Heights that he and his wife picked up for $560,000 a few years ago and spent two years renovating? Of all the objects in his place, the piece that gets the most attention is his grandfather’s Campbell-Stokes recorder, also called a Stokes Sphere, which records the hours and minutes of the day by harnessing sunlight to burn holes in a card. Below, Whitmore elaborates.
It’s an antique meteorological instrument for recording hours of sunshine that belonged to my grandpa, who was a meteorologist. He gave it to me about 15 years ago. He'll be 100 next year. It’s a completely functional object: the crystal sphere focuses sunlight against a paper card inserted behind the sphere, burning lines in it when the sun is shining. But it’s so beautiful and bizarre looking that it’s easily overlooked as just decorative.
Visitors to our apartment often admire it sitting on our desk, but I can’t recall anyone ever asking what it is—it's always just compliments on the beauty of it.
The desk is in the living room. Not exactly a focal point, but it’s a small room, so nothing’s ever really too far out of focus.