Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Faded Grandeur and Mystery


While researching the dovecotes at Glessner House recently, we stumbled across an image of a dovecote tower in the Rivington Terraced Gardens, located in Lancashire, England.  The story of the gardens and the recent efforts to preserve their “faded grandeur and mystery” piqued our interest.  This week, we share the story of the Rivington Terraced Gardens, referred to as “one of the largest and most impressive examples of landscape design in Edwardian England,” in the hopes of raising awareness for this little known treasure.


The story of Rivington Terraced Gardens begins with Lord Leverhulme, born William Hesketh Lever in 1851 in the town of Bolton, Lancashire.  Along with brother James, he founded Lever Brothers in 1885 to manufacture soap and other products, under the names of Sunlight, Lux, and Lifebuoy to name but a few.  (The company survives today under the name Unilever).  In 1887, Lever purchased a large tract of land at Cheshire, where he constructed Port Sunlight, a company town for his employees, along the lines of the Town of Pullman in Chicago.  Lever worked with several other large soap manufacturers to form a soap industry trust in 1906, making him one of the wealthiest and most powerful English industrialists of the era.  That same year he was elected to Parliament, and in 1917 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Leverhulme, the latter part of the name being in honor of his wife, Elizabeth Ellen Hulme.  He was a noted philanthropist and was especially generous to his home town of Bolton.

In 1900, Lever purchased the nearby Rivington Hall estate, which consisted of 2,100 acres of land comprising tenanted farms and moorland.  Lever donated 364 acres of the property to the people of Bolton for use as a public park, personally supervising and funding its landscaping and maintenance.  Lever Park opened in 1904 and contained a boating lake, a zoo, and a network of tree-lined avenues and footpaths.  An interesting feature was a folly known as Rivington Castle, which was a scale replica of Liverpool Castle.  


Lodges were built at the entrances to the estate, including Stone House Lodge at the main driveway. 


For his private use, he began terracing 45 acres of the site for elaborate gardens and construction of a large frame bungalow designed by architect Jonathan Simpson, known as Roynton Cottage.  An admirable work of the Arts and Crafts movement, it was destroyed in an arson attack in 1913, led by suffragette Edith Rigby.  A new house, built of stone, was completed in 1915.

The prominent English landscape architect Thomas Hayton Mawson (T. H. Mawson) was hired to design the private gardens between 1905 and 1922.  


The gardens included numerous terraces and a pool, a great lawn, a Japanese lake and pagoda, Italian-style gardens, an impressive seven-arched bridge, a man-made ravine and cascade, and the Dovecote Tower (commonly known as the Pigeon Tower), completed in 1910. 


The Dovecote Tower stands at the northwestern edge of the Terraced Gardens.  The first two floors were designed to house ornamental doves and pigeons.  


The top floor contained a small sitting room with spectacular views overlooking the boating lake.  Lady Lever also used the space as a sewing room and music room.  An interesting feature of the room is the ornate stone fireplace engraved with the initials of William Hesketh and Elizabeth Ellen Lever, which spell the word “WHEEL” set into a circular wheel carved above the family motto, “Mutare Vel Timere Sperno.”  


The three floors are connected by a spiral stone staircase located within the semi-circular tower of the structure. 


It is the semi-circular tower that bears a similarity to the tower set within the courtyard of Glessner House.  Like Lever’s structure, the tower contains a spiral staircase, and leads to the third floor, where the Glessner’s sewing room (and other spaces) is located.  There is no evidence that Lever or Mawson would have known the Glessner tower.  The inspiration for the tower would have come from Italy, the same source of inspiration that would have influenced Richardson’s design of the tower at Glessner House.

Lord Leverhulme died in 1925 and later that year the property was purchased by John Magee, a local brewery owner.  Magee died in 1938 and the property was put up for sale.  During World War II, the bungalow was requisitioned as a billet for wounded troops, and Nissen huts were erected on the grounds.  By the time the war ended in 1945, the significant damage to the stone bungalow led to its demolition.  However, the gardens were opened to the public in 1948 and eleven of the remaining structures are now listed by English Heritage. 


Although the landscape was considered to have national significance, it became heavily overgrown and the structures deteriorated over the years.  In 1997, the Rivington Heritage Trust was organized to oversee the preservation of the landscape, and in 2013 a grant was received to develop a full proposal, which will focus on preserving the “faded grandeur and mystery” of the site for future generations to enjoy. 


For more information, visit http://www.rivingtonheritagetrust.co.uk/

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Encounter with Poet Robert Frost

Robert Frost, circa 1910

Exactly 100 years ago, members of the Glessner family were enjoying their bucolic summer estate, The Rocks, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  John Glessner noted in the journal for Sunday, August 8, 1915:

“Frances, George and Alice, George Macbeth, Robert and Anne von Moschzisker at supper, Anne much pleased at having ‘discovered’ and met Robert Frost, a poet, now living on 40 acre farm near Franconia.”

(George Macbeth was Frances Glessner’s brother and lived on a nearby summer estate known as Glamis.  His daughter Anne was married to Robert von Moschzisker, a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; he served as Chief Justice from 1921 to 1930).

One can imagine Anne’s delight at “discovering” the poet Robert Frost while touring through the countryside.  Frost (1874-1963) was not yet widely known in the U.S., which may account for John Glessner referring to him as “a poet” as opposed to “the poet.”  Frost and his family had travelled to Great Britain in 1912, and his first two collections of poetry were published there.  He returned to the United States at the start of World War I in 1915 and purchased the property at Franconia, New Hampshire, which included a modest frame house built in the 1860s.  The Frost family would live in the home for five years, and would continue to spend their summers there until 1938.  It was here that Frost launched his successful career as a writer, teacher, and lecturer, eventually being awarded four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry. 


In 1976, the town of Franconia purchased the house and nine acres of land, restoring it and giving it the name The Frost Place.  Added to the National Register of Historic Places later that year, it opened as a museum in 1977.  

2015 Conference on Poetry and Teaching

It is operated as a nonprofit educational center and hosts annual events including a Conference on Poetry, a Poetry Seminar, and a Conference on Poetry and Teaching.  Each year, Frost Place awards a resident poet award to an emerging American poet; the award includes a stipend and the opportunity to live and write in the house during July and August.


The non-profit organization that operates Frost Place has worked hard to preserve the ambiance that drew Robert Frost to this location.  Situated on a quiet north country lane with a spectacular view of the White Mountains from the front porch, visitors won’t encounter fancy multi-media displays or cafes, but rather “a sense of the kind of place where a young poet could concentrate.”  The collection includes signed first editions of Frost’s works and other memorabilia from his years in the home.  There is also a half-mile nature trail with plaques displaying poems that Frost wrote during his years in Franconia.

Frost Place is located about six miles from the Glessners’ summer estate.  As an interesting note, until earlier this year, the organization maintained their offices on the second floor of Frances Glessner Lee’s home, The Cottage, at The Rocks Estate.


Frost Place is open from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October each year.  For further information, visit www.frostplace.org.    

Monday, August 10, 2015

Helping Hands . . . that talk!


On Thursday August 6, 2015, the Jane Addams Memorial in the Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, entitled Helping Hands, took on new life as part of an innovative program known as Statue Stories Chicago.  Through the program, visitors to the park will be able to use their mobile devices to receive a “call” from the statue to learn more about Nobel Peace Prize winner and social reformer Jane Addams (1860-1935).


HELPING HANDS
Helping Hands was sculpted in 1993 by Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), an internationally recognized French-born artist who lived and worked in New York.  For this work, the first major work of art in the Chicago parks to honor a significant woman, Bourgeois chose to create carved black granite hands that sit atop a series of rough hewn stone pedestals set into a circle.   


The sculpture was original installed in 1996 in Jane Addams Memorial Park at Navy Pier.  The site proved to be a less than ideal location for the work, and following vandalism in 2006, it was removed and the damaged pieces were recarved by the artist, then in her mid-90s. 


In 2011, the Chicago Park District, working with Mimi McKay, the landscape architect for the Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, chose the Park as the site for the sculpture.  Located immediately north of the Clarke House Museum, Helping Hands sits within a beautifully landscaped setting, the arrangement of the sculptures and their pedestals being the same as the artist intended for their first location.  


It was dedicated on September 24, 2011 with a ceremony that included a speech by an actress in the guise of Jane Addams herself.


The plaque at the site is entitled “Jane Addams Sculpture Garden – visionary” and summarizes her life and contributions as follows:
SOCIAL PHILOSOPHER – Jane Addams envisioned a peaceful world community based on cooperation, mutual understanding, and acceptance of differences.
PRAGMATIST – She advocated the participation of all citizens in the creation of a just and democratic social order.
WRITER – She authored eleven books and hundreds of articles.
LECTURER – A compelling public speaker, she drew upon her experiences at Hull-House as a touchstone for larger social concerns.
DEFENDER – Committed to civil liberty, she deplored violence, stressed compassion and multicultural understanding, and promoted a vision that valued life over death and liberty over coercion.
MEMORIAL – This first monument in Chicago to a woman is dedicated to Jane Addams and the many she served.
SYMBOLS – It depicts different ages of humankind – gentle baby, vulnerable child, able adult, aging parent.
HANDS – Comforting, helping, strong in solidarity, the hands recall Addam’s words: “Perhaps nothing is so fraught with significance as the human hand….”
GIFT of the B. F. Ferguson Fund of The Art Institute of Chicago, established in 1902 to honor great figures or events in American history.


B. F. FERGUSON FUND
The Ferguson Fund is named for lumber merchant and philanthropist Benjamin Franklin Ferguson, who left a $1,000,000 charitable trust gift that has funded many of the most important public monuments and sculptures in Chicago.  Among the first works to be funded were the Fountain of the Great Lakes by Lorado Taft in the South Garden of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Statue of the Republic by Daniel Chester French in Jackson Park.  Lorado Taft’s monumental Fountain of Time at the western edge of the Midway Plaisance in Washington Park, Henry Hering’s relief sculptures known as Defense and Regeneration on the south pylons of the Michigan Avenue bridge, and Ivan Mestrovic’s Bowman and the Spearman on the Michigan Avenue Plaza in Grant Park were all funded during the 1920s.  More recent pieces include Nuclear Energy by Henry Moore at the University of Chicago, and I Have a Dream by Abbott Pattison at Chicago State University.


STATUE STORIES CHICAGO
Statue Stories Chicago is the first U.S. version of a project that began in London in 2014 and showcases 30 sculptures throughout the city.  Funded by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation in cooperation with the Chicago Park District, the project allows pedestrians to swipe their smart phone on a plaque and get a call back.  For Helping Hands, the narrative was written by author Blue Balliett and recorded by Steppenwolf’s Amy Morton.  Balliett noted that “I think Jane Addams, who never stopped reaching out, connecting, and helping, would have loved what Louise Bourgeois created in her honor, and also what this sculptor said: ‘I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands. . .’”


Statue Stories Chicago will remain in place through the summer of 2016.  For more information on Statue Stories Chicago and a listing of all the sculptures included, visit http://www.statuestorieschicago.com/

Monday, August 3, 2015

Marriott Marquis breaks ground


On Tuesday July 28, 2015 ground was broken for the new Marriott Marquis Chicago Hotel at the northeast corner of Prairie Avenue and Cermak Road.  The hotel is being built as part of the new McCormick Place Entertainment District, which will include the McCormick Place Event Center on the northwest corner.

Arne M. Sorenson

The ground breaking began with remarks from several individuals involved in the project including Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) CEO Lori Healey, MPEA Chairman Jack Greenberg, and Arne M. Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International.

Alderman Pat Dowell

Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell noted that “the Marriott Marquis Chicago and the McCormick Place Entertainment District represent phenomenal opportunities for the community.” 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel reminded attendees that just a few years ago, Chicago was quickly losing its hold on the convention business to places like Las Vegas and Florida, but in the past year, it has regained its position as the number one city for conventions in the country.  As such, a new hotel adjacent to McCormick was essential to maintain that competitive position. 

After the Mayor’s comments concluded, the assembled group of dignitaries grabbed their shovels for the ceremonial spading of dirt.  The event concluded with the Mayor pressing the red button to start up the massive drill which bored a hole into the ground for the first of many piers.




The 40-story hotel is designed by Gensler.  Prairie District3 Partners is the design/build team, which includes Clark Construction Group-Chicago, LLC, Bulley & Andrews, LLC, Old Veteran Construction, Inc., McKissack & McKissack Midwest, Inc., Goettsch Partners, Inc. and Moody Nolan, Inc. 


Containing 1,206 rooms, the hotel will be the only Marriott Marquis in the metropolitan Chicago area.  It will include specialty suites, 90,000 square feet of meeting room space (including two 25,000 square-foot ballrooms), a great room-style restaurant and bar as well as a Marketplace food court which will feature local food and retail entrepreneurs. 


An important part of the project is the incorporation and renovation of the landmarked American Book Company building at 330 E. Cermak Road.  That company had been formed in 1890 with the consolidation of four of the five largest textbook publishing houses in the United States.  In 1911, the company acquired the land at Prairie and Cermak (then 22nd Street) for their new five-story plant.  Architect N. Max Dunning was commission to design a fireproof building which featured a prominent center tower that concealed a water tower.  


The building is finely detailed with brick laid in various decorative patterns, as well as limestone and terra cotta trim, including small “plaques” depicting open books.   The main entrance is executed in the Renaissance-Revival with a tympanum above containing a beautiful multi-color terra cotta crest for the company featuring symbols of intellectual and spiritual illumination. 


The scheduled completion date for the hotel is August 2017. 

The 2100 block of Prairie Avenue in the 1890s;
site of the new Marriott Marquis Chicago Hotel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Thomas B. Carter, Chicago pioneer


Chicago in the 1830s was ripe with opportunity.  The population increased at a dramatic rate following the incorporation of Chicago as a town in 1833 and as a city in 1837.   Scores of men headed west from their homes in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, seeking their fortune.  One of these men was Thomas Butler Carter.

Thomas Carter was born in New Jersey on March 26, 1817.  In September 1838 he arrived in Chicago, then a bustling metropolis of 4,000, and just two months later said in a letter home, “but this is destined to become a great place, and will soon surpass Buffalo.”  Carter established his dry goods business, T. B. Carter & Co. at 118 Lake Street, in the heart of what was then the business district.  His house stood at the corner of State and Madison.


In 1840, he married Catherine Raymond, who had been born in 1818 in New York.  Catherine’s brother Benjamin Wright Raymond had been elected mayor of the city of Chicago in 1839 and was just finishing his first term at the time.  He was re-elected for a second one year term in 1842.

Benjamin Raymond, Mayor of Chicago
1839-1840 and 1842-1843

Carter was a deeply religious man, and he and his wife were members of First Presbyterian Church.  In June 1842, the Second Presbyterian Church was organized and they were among the 26 charter members (Catherine’s brother Benjamin and his wife were charter members as well).  Within a few years, he was elected Elder, a position he held until the 1890s.  He also organized and led the first choir and served as an officer in both the Chicago Bible Society and the Chicago Sacred Music Society.

By 1847, the congregation was growing to the point that a new building was needed.  Carter served on the building committee, and he and his fellow committee members were not pleased with the plans they received from a local architect.  Carter was heading to the East Coast, and agreed to show the plans to a couple of architects to get their opinion.  There was general agreement that the plans were not sound, and it was recommended that Carter speak with the New York architect James Renwick, Jr., who had achieved recognition for his design of Grace Episcopal Church a few years earlier and had just received the commission to design the Smithsonian Institution “Castle” in Washington, D.C.   (Renwick received the commission for his best known work, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, in 1853).  Renwick agreed to design a new building, working within the $25,000 budget.  It would be the first Gothic Revival building in Chicago, and one of the first buildings constructed of stone in the young city.


Architect Asher Carter was sent to Chicago to oversee construction of the building, which was completed late in 1850.  During this period, Thomas Carter hired Carter to design a new house for him on Wabash Avenue, between Adams and Jackson Streets.

Carter remained deeply involved in church work.  In 1856 he drew up the original papers creating the “Lake Forest Association” which was a direct outgrowth of his work at Second Presbyterian.  The Association oversaw the development of all the activities in the newly created town, purchasing 7,300 acres of land.  Fifty acres were set aside for the university, and Rev. Robert W. Patterson, pastor at Second Presbyterian, served as its first president.

Catherine Carter passed away in 1866 at the age of 48.  Soon after, he retired from the dry goods business, and became connected with the Equitable Life Insurance Association.  


In 1870, he purchased a house at 55 Twentieth Street from James Pattison for $9,000.  The house, which now bears the address 215 E. Cullerton Street, was only two years old at the time, but is now the oldest surviving home in the Prairie Avenue Historic District on its original site.



His home, a three story brick Italianate row house, is a good example of pre-Chicago Fire architecture.  The architect is unknown, but it possesses all the typical features of this style including tall arched windows and a projecting cornice supported on pairs of brackets.  


The beautiful double front doors were recreated and installed in January 2006, based on the one and only known historic photo of the house dating to about 1920.

Immediately after the Chicago Fire in October 1871, Carter became deeply involved with the Relief and Aid Society, organized to assist those impacted by the disaster.  In 1874, Carter married Mrs. Margaret Garthwaite of Newark, New Jersey.

In 1892, Second Presbyterian celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Carter, as the last surviving charter member still active in the congregation, compiled and wrote the history of the church.  The same year, he moved to Evanston, making it his home during the summer months, and spending the winters in the south.  (The Cullerton Street house was leased for many years and finally sold by the family in 1925).

Carter and his wife returned from the South in mid-April 1898, and he was taken seriously ill soon afterwards, passing away at his Evanston home on April 24 at the age of 81.  Funeral services took place at Second Presbyterian Church and he was laid to rest at Graceland Cemetery beside his first wife.  He was survived by four children – Frank H. Carter of New York, and Frederic R. B. Carter, Mrs. Lansing L. Porter, and Mrs. J. H. Nitchie, all of Evanston.

Carter monument at Graceland Cemetery
Mayor Benjamin Raymond is interred in the same plot


In 1978, a descendant donated many of his papers to the Newberry Library; the collection is now known as the Thomas Butler Carter Papers 1831-1898.  The papers include many interesting letters written by Carter to his cousin Aaron Carter in New Jersey throughout that period, as well as an autobiography Carter penned in 1889, covering his early life, difficult journey to Chicago in 1838, and his 50 years in Chicago.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Glessner Center


Glessner House Museum is one of two buildings in Chicago that carry the Glessner name.  The other is a lesser known, five-story brick loft building at 130 S. Jefferson Street in the West Loop known as The Glessner Center.  In this article, we will explore the history of that building and how it came to be known by that name.

John Glessner arrived in Chicago in December 1870 with his new bride, in order to take over management of the sales office for his farm machinery firm, Warder, Bushnell & Glessner.  Business thrived under his capable leadership, and by the early 1880s, the firm sought to build a larger headquarters to house their offices, showrooms, and warehouse. 

In August 1882, the firm purchased a lot at the northwest corner of Adams and Jefferson, measuring 80 by 200 feet, for $31,000.  Glessner engaged the firm of Jaffray & Scott to design the five-story building.  The newly formed partnership consisted of architect Henry S. Jaffray (best remembered today for his design of the George M. Pullman mansion at 1729 S. Prairie Avenue), and designer Isaac Scott, a close friend of the Glessner family, who had completed numerous projects for them including furniture and interiors for their home on West Washington Street. 

All was proceeding according to plan until April 10, 1883 when a wooden pier collapsed in the north half of the building, causing the whole interior to crash into the basement level and taking much of the north wall with it.  Later that evening, during a heavy windstorm, the east wall, which had been compromised by the earlier collapse, also fell in.  Jaffray and Scott were dismissed from the project, and architect W. W. Boyington was called in to complete the building.

The new headquarters was ready for occupancy by October of that year.  Known as the “Champion Building” after the trademarked name of the machines produced by the firm, its efficient and attractive design was praised in newspapers and other publications.  The building consisted of two main parts.  The south half of the building facing Adams contained offices and the showrooms, with huge windows facing south to bathe the spaces in natural light.  The north half of the building was utilized as a warehouse, and was bisected by a tall driveway that ran east to west through the building, allowing up to eight delivery wagons to be loaded and unloaded simultaneously while protected from the elements. 


The functions of the building were clearly demarcated on the exterior – the offices and showrooms were set beneath a hipped roof with dormers and a tower, whereas the warehouse was a more utilitarian structure with a simple brick cornice.  A delicate band of terra cotta ran across the top of the large showroom windows and depicted oak leaves and acorns, an image that would be welcoming to farmers visiting to purchase equipment.  Four different designs of oak leaves and three different designs of acorns were used to create a meandering, naturalistic pattern. 


The Chicago Tribune, in an October 27, 1883 article entitled “A Champion Enterprise,” praised the building and stated, in part:

“The building, covering an area of 80x200 feet, built of the best pressed brick, terra cotta trimmings, etc. is of elegant architectural proportions, and forms at once an ornament and landmark.  Designed and built expressly for a reaper warehouse with great care in every arrangement, it is today the best-lighted and most perfect building of its kind in America.”

Main Office
(Inland Architect, October 1883)

Another article, published simultaneously in The Inland Architect and Builder, gave a detailed description of the interior:

“What are conceded to be the finest appointed mercantile offices west of New York are those just completed in the Champion Reaper Company’s building built by architects Jaffray & Scott.  These offices occupy two floors in the front part of the warehouse proper.  The total space occupied is about 60 x 80 feet.  A space of 20 feet square is occupied by an immense vault and the stairway leading to the upper tier of offices.  This stairway is open, and like the general woodwork, is of red-oak.  The main office is 40 x 60, and divided from this and also from each other by partitions composed almost entirely of plate-glass, are four offices about occupying an equally divided space, 18 x 60.  The ceilings are frescoed in colors harmonizing with a heavy, solid, polished red-oak cornice and stained glass in quiet shades, give a softening effect.  The smaller offices are elegantly fitted with grates and mantels, Turkish rugs are on the polished red-oak floors, and above the mantels bronze panels add effectiveness to the general interior, in which one is apt to forget that this is an office devoted to the demands of trade, and not a costly private apartment. . . As a whole, this office in its arrangement and light-colored decoration, with the view of securing perfect light, is a model in office construction, and reflects general credit upon architect and owner.”

John J. Glessner's office
(Inland Architect, October 1883)

After Glessner’s firm merged with others to form International Harvester in 1902, the building was utilized by the new corporation, but was sold in 1907.  Through the years, it was occupied and owned by various companies and was known by its address – 600 W. Adams Street.  For many years, it was owned by Polk Brothers, which used it as a furniture and appliance warehouse-outlet store. 



In 1984, as the surrounding neighborhood was rapidly changing, it was purchased by a developer and completely gutted and rehabbed into a luxury loft office building, containing 60,000 square feet of office space.  The architects were Booth/Hansen and Associates, with Paul Hansen serving as project architect.  


It was renamed The Glessner Center and the main entrance was shifted around the corner to 130 S. Jefferson Street.  Many of the exterior features were altered, including the roofline and corner tower, but the basic structure remains as it did when first built.  And one original interior feature was left in place – the massive door to the vault, which still bears the inscription “The Warder, Bushnell and Glessner Company – Champion Binders & Mowers.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

Double Bough Wallpaper Installed


When the Glessners’ corner guestroom was opened to the public in April 2014 after a four year restoration project, one important element was missing – the Morris & Co. “Double Bough” wallpaper.  Thanks to the generosity of numerous donors, we raised the necessary funds to replicate the wallpaper which was installed in late June, allowing us to reopen the room earlier this month.

The fundraising campaign was led by a generous $10,000 grant from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), which was sponsored by the Chicago Chapter, the first local DAR chapter organized in the United States.  Frances Glessner was a charter member of the Chicago Chapter when it was formed in 1891, and the chapter has funded several recent projects at the museum, including the installation of the exhibit on The Rocks, and the restoration of the Glessners’ Kutani bowl.


Corner guestroom in 1923 (top) and 2015 (below)

The Glessners first installed Double Bough in the guestroom in 1892 after the room had been wired for electricity.  When the room was re-wallpapered in 1916, they chose Double Bough once again.  In November 2010, during early work in the restoration project, Robert Furhoff, an expert in historic interiors and finishes, uncovered a section of the original wallpaper which was carefully peeled off the wall and conserved.  The fragment was important as it established the color way selected by the Glessners.  Morris & Co. produced the wallpaper in several different color ways, and of course, the only surviving historic images of the room were in black and white.

Robert Furhoff, November 2010

The Morris & Co. archive in England was consulted, and a small sample was found in one of the company log books that matched the sample from the Glessner bedroom.  The museum was also informed that all 22 original hand-carved fruitwood blocks used to print the original paper were in the archive, and could be used again to reprint the wallpaper using exactly the same process as undertaken more than 120 years ago.

Sample from the Morris & Co. archives

In order to produce the wallpaper in this manner, the process is extremely time consuming as each of the 22 blocks is applied individually and then the paper needs to dry sufficiently before the next block can be applied.  As such, only one roll of wallpaper can be produced per week.  

The order was placed in May 2014 with Zoffany, the parent company of Sanderson, which owns the Morris & Co. archives.  Several weeks later, the first strike-off was received for approval.  Robert Furhoff was again brought in for consultation, and several corrections were made to the colors used in various parts of the design.  The corrections were returned to England and a second strike-off was received, which was approved.  Production began and the 25 rolls of wallpaper were shipped to the museum in December.

Wallpaper awaiting installation

Due to the way in which the wallpaper is produced, the installation is a complex process, as absolutely no water or paste can ever touch the surface of the paper, or the ink can be damaged.  The museum was fortunate to secure the services of Jim Yates of Historic Wallpaper Specialties, who has a national reputation for the installation of 19th century wallpapers.  One of his most prominent projects was the wallpaper in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House.

Jim Yates

In late June, Yates and his team arrived at the museum from Tennessee, and spent the next six days completing the project.  Their work began with the installation of muslin on the walls, so that in the event any cracking of the plaster occurs, it will transfer to the muslin itself, and not damage the wallpaper.  Once the muslin was installed, it was covered with an acid-free liner to provide the optimum base to which the wallpaper would be applied.

While these steps were being undertaken, the wallpaper was all cut to size and readied for installation.  Only one historic photo survives showing the first installation of the wallpaper from 1892.  

Fanny Glessner, November 24, 1897

This photo was taken of Fanny Glessner on the day of her formal debut – November 24, 1897.  The photo was studied to ensure that the pattern (a 31” repeat) was placed on the walls exactly as it had been originally – both top to bottom, and side to side.

As the wallpaper was placed on the walls, the room took on an entirely different feel, as the space was suddenly filled with the intricate floral design that is among the most complex ever produced by Morris & Co.   Within a few days, the furnishings were brought back into the room, including the Morris & Co.  “Rose and Thistle” reproduction draperies, Morris inspired area rug, furniture designed by A. H. Davenport & Company, and engravings displayed in custom-made frames by Isaac Scott. 



Corner guestroom in 1923 (top) and 2015 (below)

The room was reopened to the public for tours on Wednesday July 1, 2015.  With the completion of this room, Glessner House Museum now features one of the largest public collections of Morris & Co. reproduction wallpapers, textiles, and rugs in the country, accurately recreating the Arts and Crafts inspired interior created by John and Frances Glessner more than a century ago.
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