Monday, August 20, 2012

Main Hall Restoration

The main hall at Glessner House Museum has undergone restoration work during the summer, which was unveiled to the public on Wednesday August 1, 2012.  The major components of the restoration are the recreation of the portieres and draperies and the modification of the reproduction light fixtures.

Historic photos show that the main hall featured portieres and draperies in the “Peacock and Dragon” design by William Morris.  Frances Glessner records selecting the fabric in a journal entry dated April 19, 1887 while she was visiting Marshall Field’s with Charles Coolidge, one of the architects who oversaw the completion of the house after the death of H. H. Richardson.  The “Peacock and Dragon” design was a bold pattern featuring alternating pairs of peacocks and dragon set amongst a lush and detailed background.  The woven woolen fabric was created by Morris in 1878 and was available in several colorways.  The modern reproduction, made by Sanderson, is exactly like the original except that the pattern is not as large, the original having a repeat measuring 43 by 35.5 inches. 

The portieres are hung on both parlor doors, the doorway to the library, and the doorway leading to the master bedroom hallway.  Most importantly, a large panel conceals the doorways leading to the guest bathroom and servants’ hallway at the north end of the hall, which would have always been kept from view.  Single panels are also hung on each of the two windows flanking the curved door.  Brass rods, brackets, and drapery rings, matching the originals in scale and design were made for all openings. 

The wall sconces, which are reproductions made in the 1970s, have been retrofitted with “spider” brackets to accommodate the proper glass shades.  These shades, made in the 1980s by the Salviatti & Company studios in Venice, replicate the original “Murano” glass shades with their simple striped design on broad cylinders.  They match the shades found in the parlor, and have been in storage awaiting installation for thirty years.  In addition, the second floor sconces were reworked by recreating the beautiful six petal back plates and additional two petal detail on the stem.  All fixtures were repainted and repaired as needed. 

The hall now conveys more of the “cozy” feeling that the Glessners specifically asked Richardson for when discussing the design of the house.  The lush fabric makes the space seem more intimate and quiet, and helps relieve the repetition of the oak wall paneling which surrounds the room.

In coming months, additional work in the main hall will include the installation of a reproduction of the original William Morris Lily carpeting on the main stairs leading up from the front entrance and additional work on the first and second floor carpeting. 

The projects are being funded by generous gifts to the 125th Anniversary Fund by Allan Vagner, Sandra Danforth, and Robert Furhoff. 

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