Famous San Francisco Bay Area Historic Spenger Collection Comes to Auction at Clars in January and February 2019
Oakland, CA – For over 125 years, Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley (CA) had been one of the most sought out after destinations for seafood in the San Francisco Bay Area. A mention of its name to any Bay Area local immediately conjured the images and aromas of fabulous clam chowder and sourdough bread. While Spenger’s closed its doors in October 2018, its name still elicits a deep sense of pride in the history and richness of the San Francisco Bay Area and the founding families that helped build it.
The restaurant may be gone, but its legacy lives on through the amazing historic maritime collection the family amassed over the past 125 years. It’s this collection that Clars Auction Gallery is very honored to present on behalf of the Spenger Family. This is a rare opportunity for long-time local patrons to own a piece of this landmark, but it will also create interest internationally, driven by the significance of many of its pieces. The collection will be offered in two parts. The first installment will be presented January 19th and 20th and the second will come to the block on February 16th and 17th.
The Spenger Collection
While food drew the crowds, the Spenger Family’s passion for collecting created the unique and historically rich maritime interior and exterior that was as fabulous as the cuisine. Patrons found themselves not just at a restaurant, but inside a museum that showcased an amazing nautical collection of century-old artifacts. In the main dining room, patrons could view the famous local Spenger Diamond: A 34.28 cts. old mine-cut diamond ring. Turn your head in another direction and the equally rare and historic eight-foot Meiji vase exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, reigned over the room. These pieces and more will be offered in the January and February sales.
January Auction Highlights – The Maritime Collection
On Saturday and Sunday, January 19th and 20th, Clars will present the first installment of the Spenger’s Maritime Collection, much of which was brought together by the founder, Frank Spenger. Included in these early nautical objects will be ships’ pilot wheels, one of which spans eight feet in diameter. There will be diving helmets, ships’ nameboards, lanterns and a carved ships’ figurehead from the 19th century. Early ships’ bells will be offered as well as a very large selection of ships’ instruments including binnacle compasses, engine room telegraphs and a rangefinder from a U.S. destroyer. Scale ship models will also be offered including a handmade example of the four-masted German barque ‘Thekla’ with all sails set. Some of the taxidermies that once graced the walls of the main room and bar will also be part of this sale. In addition, 16 ships’ knees made from old growth Redwood salvaged from pre-1906 San Francisco ferry boats, will be offered.
February Auction Highlights
On Saturday and Sunday, February 16th and 17th, Clars will present the second installment of the Spenger’s Collection. The rare and unusually large Spenger Diamond ring will definitely draw worldwide attention during this session. Acquired by Spenger in the early 1900s, Frank Spenger would carry it in a specially tailored pocket to show patrons at the bar. After his passing, it resided in a special viewing case in the Diamond Bar.
The eight-foot monumental Japanese cloisonné vase from the Meiji period will be another exciting highlight. Its provenance is as impressive as its size. The vase was created by Japan for exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and, a year later, at the 1894 Midwinter Fair in San Francisco. The top of the vase features red, white and blue stars and stripes in honor of the U.S. Fairs. Among the significant Japanese artists that helped create this magnificent work was Suzuki Shoeman, a leading artist of the Nagoya School, and Shirozayemon Tsunekawa of Yokohama.
Rounding out the February offerings will be the second installment of the Maritime Collection. To be offered will be the collection of maritime paintings, memorabilia, antique dive helmets and the remainder of ships’ wheels, nameboards, instruments, and other artifacts.
A complete catalog will be available two weeks prior to each sale and will have complete lot description and estimates.
A Look Back at the History of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto
Spenger’s was founded by Johann Spenger who emigrated to California from Bavaria in 1860 and worked as a hook and line fisherman on Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Beginning as just a clam stand in the 1890s, Johann’s son Frank expanded the “stand” to a full restaurant in the 1930s. Since then, celebrities and locals alike packed the restaurant daily. By the 1950s, the restaurant was serving 3,500 pounds of fish each day, more than any restaurant west of the Mississippi. By the 1980s, it was serving 3,000 meals each day, staffed by 240 employees. By the 1980s, it had grown to be the fourth busiest restaurant in the country.
Deric Torres, Vice President of Decorative Arts & Furniture for Clars stated, “As the largest West Coast full-service auction gallery, Clars is so proud and honored to represent the historic Spenger collection. Many in the Bay Area and the nation know of the restaurant and its collection, and we feel the sentimental attachment many have regarding the memories they shared with friends and loved ones at the restaurant will surely make the sale of this collection very exciting and highly successful for the Spenger Family.”
The January 19th and 20th Sale of the Spenger Collection will be held in conjunction with Clars’ Fine Art, Decorative Art, Furniture, Jewelry, and Asian Art Auction. The sales will begin promptly at 9:30 am on Saturday and Sunday. Previews for this sale will be held Friday, January 18th from 1 pm to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday beginning at 9:00 am and by appointment the week prior. For more information, please visit www.clars.com or email: [email protected]
Clars Auction Gallery is located at 5644 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609.
For More About the Monumental “Found” Vase:
Chicago Tribune: A rare vase from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was thought to be lost. Turns out it was at a California seafood restaurant.
Newly Discovered Monumental Japanese Cloisonne Vase from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair Comes to Auction
Clars Auction Gallery is based in Oakland (CA) and is the largest full-service auction gallery in the Western United States. Clars Auction Gallery has been the chosen auction gallery of a number of institutions and distinguished private collectors across the country including the Richard Mellon Scaife Estate, the Thomas J. Perkins Estate and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC).