Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


Among the numerous shops that attract the attention of the countless passers along Ocean avenue in picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey county there is perhaps none that holds the interest of the intelligent and cultured tourist longer than the admirably stocked shop of Miss Tilly Polak, dealer in antiques and objects d' art, who has established there one of the most thoughtfully selected collections of the kind to be found in the state of California. With an inherent and highly trained sense of art valuations Miss Polak has assembled her treasures of art and antiquity with fine discriminatory judgment, and thus her appeal to both the artistic and the utilitarian sense of her patrons has met with a degree of response that insures the permanence of the establishment she has set up there in the delightful little resort town by the sea. One of the fine antiques that Miss Polak, at great pains and no little expense, imported from Europe has become a permanent "exhibit" at Carmel and has proved an object of much admiration. This interesting piece is an old wrought-iron sign, certified to be right around three hundred years old, that Miss Polak found hanging in front of a restaurant in Luzerne, Switzerland, one of the oldest signs in continuous use in that ancient city. She was enabled to add it to her collection and the value of the old sign as a guidon for the front of his theater was recognized by the proprietor of the Theater of the Golden Bough at Carmel, who bought it and had it installed at his theater where it now may be admired by all. Another of the treasures which Miss Polak brought with her from Holland was a treasure chest of the seventeenth century, which attracted the attention of a tourist from Maine, who selected it from Miss Polak's shop and had it shipped back to his New England home. Many other prizes of equal value have thus been distributed in this country through Miss Polak's discriminatory sense as a collector and dealer.

Tilly Polak is a native of the kingdom of Holland, born in the city of Amsterdam, and was reared amid a fine social environment. She was given every advantage in the way of education and acquired a facile use of three languages besides her own native Dutch, speaking English, French and German fluently. Early trained in literary and artistic expression, Miss Polak became connected with the printing trades in her native Amsterdam and became the manager of a publishing house there, later taking up artistic catalog work, and was thus engaged in that city until after the conclusion of the World war, when she found herself longing for the great outdoors and for some form of self expression that would take her away from the old environment. Through local connections she decided to go to Java, with a view to indulging an ambition to become an apiarist there or some other place in the antipodes, the bee industry long having interested her, and after six months of investigation in Java she sailed over to New South Wales in Australia, where she became an apiarist. The venture did not come up to her expectations and she presently abandoned the enterprise and went to Auckland in New Zealand. From there she presently sailed up to the Fiji islands and after a six month's cruise took passage for Victoria, British Columbia. While in Victoria she heard so many good reports of California that she presently took passage to San Francisco and in this latter city heard many admiring comments concerning beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea. With a party of friends she visited Carmel and there became convinced of the prospective value of a shop given over to the display and sale of antiques and objects d' art and with artistic care selected such material as would be suitable for such an enterprise in a small way and opened a shop on Ocean avenue. This art and antique shop proved an immediate success and the initial stock of goods soon was sold out. In March, 1923, Miss Polak returned to Holland and there arranged for the exportation to her shop in Carmel of a carefully selected stock of goods in her line and has since been importing, having found a ready market for all the articles of real value she can secure. It is thus that the beautifully appointed Tilly Polak art shop at Carmel has come to be recognized as one of the show places of that picturesque and popular resort.

Source: History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925, 890 pgs.