The Restoration

The Restora­tion (1998–2005)

The exterior restoration, 2001.  © Campbell House Foundation 2004

The exte­ri­or restora­tion, 2001.

Old build­ings offer a wealth of infor­ma­tion about the past. The research and analy­sis of the Camp­bell House has revealed new infor­ma­tion about the Camp­bell fam­i­ly and their neigh­bor­hood. Many of the sto­ries are still famil­iar to us today; enlarg­ing a kitchen, adding a bath­room, choos­ing the right col­or to paint the walls, find­ing space for a rel­a­tive to stay, and keep­ing up with cur­rent fashion.

Thanks to gen­er­ous dona­tions from the Muse­um’s friends and the com­mu­ni­ty, this restora­tion is help­ing to ensure the long-term sur­vival of the Muse­um and its nation­al­ly rec­og­nized col­lec­tion of 19th cen­tu­ry dec­o­ra­tive arts as well as allow­ing us to gain a deep­er and broad­er under­stand­ing of life dur­ing the 19th century.

In the ear­ly 1990s it became clear that the Muse­um’s struc­ture was in need of seri­ous repair. The Foun­da­tion com­mis­sioned a his­toric struc­ture report from St. Louis archi­tect Kim­ble Cohn. This report found seri­ous struc­tur­al prob­lems with the build­ings. The Foun­da­tion con­clud­ed that while com­plet­ing the expen­sive struc­tur­al repairs that the entire exte­ri­or and inte­ri­or of the Muse­um be restored. One of the first plan­ning steps was the adop­tion of a restora­tion policy:

The restored exterior, March 2004.  © Campbell House Foundation 2004

The restored exte­ri­or, March 2004.

” The Camp­bell House, the home of Robert and Vir­ginia Camp­bel­l’s fam­i­ly for eighty-four years (1854–1938), is an invalu­able cul­tur­al resource that pro­vides sig­nif­i­cant insight into the his­to­ry of the nine­teenth and ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Abun­dant visu­al and phys­i­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion offers a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty and chal­lenge to meet the high­est lev­el of authen­tic­i­ty and schol­ar­ship in the restora­tion and preser­va­tion of this build­ing, which was list­ed in the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric places on April 21, 1977.

Numer­ous addi­tions and alter­ations have been made to the build­ing by the Camp­bell fam­i­ly and sub­se­quent­ly by the Foun­da­tion. The phys­i­cal restora­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion will show a con­tin­u­um of one of Amer­i­can fam­i­ly’s res­i­dence in the build­ing. Mul­ti­ple aes­thet­ic and styl­is­tic move­ments pop­u­lar dur­ing its occu­pan­cy com­pli­cate the restora­tion of the build­ing to one par­tic­u­lar peri­od in time. In order to com­mu­ni­cate an accu­rate visu­al sto­ry using three-dimen­sion­al arti­facts with­in the con­fines of an his­toric space, the restora­tion of the Camp­bell House will be dic­tat­ed by phys­i­cal evidence/ doc­u­men­ta­tion yield­ed by the build­ing, the Muse­um’s col­lec­tions, the cir­ca 1885 fam­i­ly pho­to­graph album, his­tor­i­cal research, and con­tem­po­rary knowl­edge of this peri­od in Amer­i­can domes­tic, social, eco­nom­ic, and tech­no­log­i­cal his­to­ry. The restora­tion process will evolve over time draw­ing upon the skills and tal­ents of many indi­vid­u­als.” (Adopt­ed Novem­ber 1995)

Paint analysis expert Bob Furhoff working in the Campbell Parlor, 1998.  © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Paint analy­sis expert Bob Furhoff work­ing in the Camp­bell Par­lor, 1998.

When doing a thor­ough his­tor­i­cal restora­tion of any build­ing it is nec­es­sary to deter­mine which peri­od should be recreated–the “tar­get date.” With the 1880s pho­tos pro­vid­ing such strong doc­u­men­tary evi­dence it was deter­mined that they would be the guide and the restora­tion would seek to return the house to its 1885 appearance.

Although this tar­get date is more than 30 years after the con­struc­tion of the house and its pur­chase by the Camp­bells, 1885 offers a unique point to look at how both gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­ly lived in the build­ing. The Camp­bel­l’s house in 1885 does not rep­re­sent a sin­gle peri­od styl­is­ti­cal­ly, but rather reflects the fam­i­ly’s ongo­ing ren­o­va­tion and con­stant­ly chang­ing tastes.

In addi­tion to the pho­tos, the Muse­um is for­tu­nate to have a large col­lec­tion of let­ters, ledgers and receipts from the Camp­bells that doc­u­ment changes made to the house between 1854 and 1938. This col­lec­tion also doc­u­ments the com­plex busi­ness, fam­i­ly and social rela­tion­ships of the family.


Artist draw­ing for restor­ing the Par­lor ceiling.

Detailed analy­sis of CHM’s 1880s pho­tographs have pro­vid­ed a wealth of infor­ma­tion about car­pet and wall­pa­per pat­terns, fur­ni­ture place­ment, and the use of space in the house. The evi­dence, how­ev­er, can only pro­vide a frame­work for the restoration.

Phys­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tion of the build­ing’s fab­ric helps fill in the gaps in the archival record. Changes to the inte­ri­or became vis­i­ble after care­ful exam­i­na­tion of plas­ter walls, con­struc­tion mate­ri­als, and shad­ow marks that often indi­cat­ed an ear­li­er loca­tion of door­ways, walls, and stairs. Detailed paint analy­sis through­out the house pro­vid­ed the col­or palette and pat­terns for wall sten­cil­ing, wood­work and oth­er dec­o­ra­tion. Only after a detailed analy­sis was com­plet­ed was a final plan for the restora­tion developed.

In 1998 the Muse­um com­mis­sioned an Inte­ri­or Restora­tion and Fur­nish­ing Plan from nation­al­ly rec­og­nized con­sul­tants who spe­cial­ize in 19th cen­tu­ry inte­ri­ors — Gail Caskey Win­kler, Ph.D., ASID, and Roger Moss, Ph.D. Moss, for­mer Direc­tor of the Athenaeum in Philadel­phia — who stated:

…this com­pre­hen­sive restora­tion of the inte­ri­or, based on such excel­lent doc­u­men­ta­tion from the past, will be an ameni­ty for the city that’s long over­due. When it’s done, the Camp­bell House will be at the top of the list of his­toric house Muse­ums in the country.”


Paint­ed dec­o­ra­tion being restored in the Par­lor, May 2004.

Restora­tion Work Begins
In Feb­ru­ary 2000, the restora­tion of the House start­ed with the pack­ing and stor­ing of the entire Muse­um col­lec­tion. The exte­ri­or restora­tion was com­plete by mid-2001 (the inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or restora­tion of the Car­riage House was com­plet­ed in 1998). In addi­tion to mechan­i­cal updates, the exte­ri­or restora­tion includ­ed return­ing the exte­ri­or of the Camp­bell House to its his­toric appear­ance and col­ors as well as com­plet­ing struc­tur­al work to insure the long-term preser­va­tion of the build­ing and collection.

The inte­ri­or restora­tion began in the Spring of 2001 and was com­plet­ed in May 2005.

As any­one who lives in an old house knows, restora­tion and main­te­nance has no end-date. For more infor­ma­tion on the restora­tion, please con­tact the Muse­um or click here to make a donation.