Category Archives: Decorative Arts

Christmas at the Campbell House

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Part of what makes Camp­bell House so unique is that the vast major­i­ty of every­thing you see when you go through the House is com­plete­ly orig­i­nal.  No fakes, MSGs or fillers.  What you’re see­ing belonged to the Camp­bells, was used by them on a dai­ly basis, and is still call­ing CHM home more than 160 years lat­er.  But when it comes to Christ­mas­time at the Camp­bell House, we’ve had to be a lit­tle bit cre­ative.

2929787835_xmas_tree_question_mark_M_answer_103_xlargeYou see, though we would like to say that all of the beau­ti­ful orna­men­ta­tion, lus­cious green­ery, and Vic­to­ri­an frills found through­out the build­ing is spot-on orig­i­nal as well… it’s not.  In fact, we only have TWO orig­i­nal Camp­bell Christ­mas pieces in our col­lec­tion.  That’s not two sets of dec­o­ra­tions or two box­es… it’s two.  And there’s a pret­ty easy expla­na­tion for why this is.

The Camp­bells, as we’re well aware, knew how to throw a par­ty.  Folks like Pres­i­dent U.S. Grant, Gen­er­al William Tecum­seh Sher­man, James Eads, and Hen­ry Shaw reg­u­lar­ly supped here at the House, and Vir­ginia even had the for­mal par­lor dou­bled in size to accom­mo­date the elab­o­rate get-togeth­ers.  As you can imag­ine, their Christ­mas par­ties (and lat­er, their son Hugh’s Christ­mas par­ties) would have been a grand affair, and the Camp­bells made sure their guests went home with gifts to remind them of the evening.  But these weren’t spe­cial­ty gift bags or neon t‑shirts with “Camp­bell Xmas Par­ty 1854” embla­zoned across the front.  When you came to a Camp­bell Christ­mas par­ty, you were allowed to take with you an orna­ment from their tree.  And, as many guests came and went through the halls of this grand home, so too did the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.  Kind of a neat tra­di­tion, right?  Great for the guests, not so great for us here at CHM who would love to get our mitts on some of those orna­ments in the present day.

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Par­lor tree, mid-con­struc­tion.

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Com­plet­ed par­lor tree.

So, when you come through Camp­bell House this hol­i­day sea­son (and we HIGHLY encour­age you to do so), know that you’re look­ing at our best guess of what a Camp­bell Christ­mas might have looked like.  Is it spot-on orig­i­nal?  No.  But it is quite the sight to behold.  Hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing takes the bet­ter part of a month to com­plete.  It’s worth the effort.

Check out pic­tures below of the two remain­ing Camp­bell Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions in our col­lec­tion.  Also some pic­tures of how we deck our halls dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son!

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The only Camp­bell orna­ment remain­ing in the CHM col­lec­tion. A small, cel­lu­loid (thin plas­tic-like mate­r­i­al) piece depict­ing a young girl with a bas­ket of apples. The orna­ment was tak­en off the Camp­bell Christ­mas tree and giv­en to a young vis­i­tor in 1922. 

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The only oth­er Camp­bell Christ­mas piece still in our col­lec­tion today, is this rein­deer. Orig­i­nal­ly part of a full set of San­ta’s eight rein­deer that sat on the Camp­bells’ din­ing room table (see below), Vix­en end­ed up with a dif­fer­ent St. Louis fam­i­ly for more than 90 years before he was returned to Camp­bell House.

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Ster­ling sil­ver harp name­plate on the crit­ter’s back iden­ti­fy­ing him as Vix­en. Please dis­re­gard the neon green iPhone case.

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The orig­i­nal full set of rein­deer on the Camp­bell fam­i­ly din­ing table,  cir­ca 1895.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peeling Back the Layers of Time — WALLPAPER

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Binders full of hun­dreds of plas­tic-sleeved wall­pa­per frag­ments revealed dur­ing the restora­tion can be found in our stor­age area.

This week’s top­ic in our “Peel­ing Back the Lay­ers” series looks at some of the incred­i­ble wall­pa­per that has graced the walls of Camp­bell House since its con­struc­tion in 1851.

When the muse­um began its exten­sive restora­tion project in 2000, great care was tak­en to pre­serve any­thing and every­thing that was found in walls, under floor­boards, and under lay­ers of paint and wall­pa­per.  Everything—from large orig­i­nal doors and win­dows to the small­est scrap of fad­ed wall­pa­per was saved and is pre­served for future study here at Camp­bell House.  Our cli­mate-con­trolled archives room is chock-full of binders and box­es con­tain­ing all of these frag­ments.

Over time, wall­pa­per itself has fad­ed in and out of style and, along with this, lots of dif­fer­ent designs saw peaks in pop­u­lar­i­ty.  The first thing a lot of us think of when think of wall­pa­per might be some­thing like you see to the right.

Random internet picture of terrible wallpaper.

Ran­dom inter­net pic­ture of ter­ri­ble wall­pa­per.

Yikes, right?  Have no fear—our wall­pa­per is way more inter­est­ing than Grand­ma’s din­ing room.

Like the linoleum we talked about a cou­ple of weeks ago, we found quite a few lay­ers of wall­pa­per­ing when we began the restora­tion.

After uncov­er­ing all of these nifty scraps, we began the process of recre­at­ing wall­pa­pers and inte­ri­ors that matched the orig­i­nals, which was an enor­mous project, read more about that and see some neat pic­tures of us at work dur­ing the restora­tion after the break—

Here’s a taste of what we have in our wallpaper collection:

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Cir­ca 1870 wall­pa­per from CHM’s 3rd floor sit­ting room, still attached to plas­ter.

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Wall­pa­per bor­der rem­nant from the sec­ond floor of the Car­riage House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wall­pa­per sam­ples found in the sec­ond floor ser­vants hall with a “felt board” back­ing, dat­ing from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cir­ca 1860 wall­pa­per bor­der frag­ment found in the third floor stair­well. The bor­der accent­ed an unusu­al­ly large pat­terned Ash­lar paper—designed to look like fin­ished brick or stone. See the cur­rent iter­a­tion of Ash­lar paper found today at Camp­bell House below. 

 

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Ash­lar block wall­pa­per on the walls at Camp­bell House today- installed in the ear­ly 2000s dur­ing our restora­tion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Block flo­ral motif pat­tern found under the crown mold­ing in the ser­vants hall and out­side the sec­ond floor bath­room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bor­der paper frag­ment found in Mrs. Kyle’s room behind man­tle facade dat­ing from the 1860s- this like­ly pre­dat­ed the many exten­sive struc­tur­al addi­tions and improve­ments that the Camp­bells made to their home over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wall­pa­per frag­ment found on the west wall of CHM’s library. This was found behind a divid­ing wall, mean­ing it dates from before the 1880s and was installed by Robert and Vir­ginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wallpaper Restoration

After uncov­er­ing all of those neat his­tor­i­cal pieces of wall­pa­per, we began the process of re-paper­ing with spe­cial­ly designed spot-on recre­ations of what orig­i­nal­ly hung on the Camp­bells’ walls.  This was quite the process—wallpapering in the 1880s was noth­ing like what it is today.

Wall­pa­per had to be recre­at­ed through col­or analy­sis and pho­tos of the var­i­ous rooms that were tak­en in the 1880s, when it arrived it came in rolls like this:

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The wall­pa­per came rolled in 30 inch-wide strips.  How­ev­er, the design was only on 19 inch­es of the strip, which meant our installers had to hand cut the edges of the wall­pa­per and pay extra spe­cial atten­tion to make sure edges matched up once the paper was past­ed to the walls.

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All of the wall­pa­pers used in our restora­tion were cus­tom-designed to match orig­i­nal wall­pa­pers found in the house dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry by spe­cial­ty design firms.

 

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The end prod­uct: the entire wall of the Camp­bel­l’s mas­ter bed­room is cov­ered with indi­vid­ual strips that had to be hand-cut and then past­ed into place.

 

 

So that sounds like quite the project, right?  Well things got even cra­zier with the com­plex wall­pa­per and bor­der design found in Mrs. Kyle’s bed­room.  Like the green lily wall­pa­per seen above, the Japan­ese-inspired wall­pa­per for this project came in small strips that had to be hand-trimmed.

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What made this room extra tricky, though, was the bor­der that had to be sliced off the top of the roll, past­ed, and reassem­bled by hand into a com­plex design on the ceil­ing and around the tops of the walls.

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Red and gold trim along the top of the wall­pa­per had to be cut off.

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Our crafts­man del­i­cate­ly past­ing the cut-off sliv­ers of wall­pa­per into a box-design on the ceil­ing.

 

 

 

 

 

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The final prod­uct.

Check out the pictures below for some more examples of wallpapering that was done during our restoration:

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Mrs. Kyle’s sec­ond floor bed­room

Dining-Room

Din­ing room

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Head house­keep­er’s sec­ond floor bed­room

Library

Third floor library