Intriguing WWII-era artifact returns to its Richmond roots

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Intriguing WWII-era artifact returns to its Richmond roots
Edward Ellwanger and his daughter at their home at 742 S 46th St. in Richmond (left). (Photos contributed)

By Kathy Chouteau

A WWII-era “war home” table that has traveled through time and Richmond history was recently donated by its current owners to the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.

According to Isabel Jenkins Ziegler, supervisory museum curator at the national park, the table originated in the home of Edward (a.k.a. Edwin) and Marie Ellwanger, who lived in Richmond war housing following WWII, and has been in the family for 76 years. The Ellwangers’ daughter and her husband, Elaine and Michael Von der Porten, inherited the table and recently donated it to the park.

Originally from Calistoga, Ellwanger joined the Navy July 1, 1942, served during WWII and “soon found himself in the South Pacific, serving occupation duty on a captured island and as a carpenter’s mate on a PT Boat Tender,” according to his son-in-law Michael Von der Porten.

Following the war, Ellwanger married Marie Lawrence of Redwood City Nov. 21, 1945. While Ellwanger completed his Naval service, his new bride lived with her parents. When he returned to his home state, Edward and Marie moved into war housing at 212 S. 37th St. in Richmond, eventually moving into a war home at 742 S 46th St. in Richmond, per Von der Porten.

When the couple moved in, there was a table there that had been made by the home’s builders, he said. The table was the sole piece of furniture that builders provided with the house and is constructed from the same wood as the war housing, pointing to the table likely being made around the same time the house was built, per Jenkins Ziegler.

“Ed kept that table the rest of his life. It went to Forestville, Calistoga, Larkfield, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa,” noted Von der Porten. Eventually, the table was given to the Ellwangers’ daughter, Elaine, who “has had it ever since,” said her husband. Thanks to the Von der Portens’ donation, the table has finally returned to its Richmond roots.

“The park hopes to include the table in a future exhibit related to war time housing in Richmond,” said Jenkins Ziegler. Learn more about the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park and its Visitor Center here.