On Friday we saw the culmination of a project that had been over one year in the making: a reproduction carpet for Stratford Hall’s restored 1790s parlor. Modern-day visitors to Stratford are invited to walk into the parlor and to see the room and its details from every angle (and get up close and personal with the newest room addition).
Three floor coverings were found by appraisers in the 1770s in the dining room and adjoining parlor of Stratford Hall [1 floor cloth 10/; 1 old Wilton Carpet 20/; 1 Turkey Carpet 45/ (prices in shillings)], but unfortunately the 1790s house known to Henry Lee III and his family was virtually undocumented in the written record. Did the Federal renovations of the Great House include new floor coverings in addition to the paint and woodwork changes? To answer that question, we turned to the physical evidence provided by the house itself.
As part of our room investigations during the restoration process, architects from Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects mapped existing tack marks and noted the positions of those deemed of historic value (i.e. those dating to the 1790s renovation of this room from a bedchamber into a parlor). The physical evidence indicated that a fitted (wall-to-wall) floor covering was present in the room in our target date of c. 1795. Based on our understanding of Federal-period (1780s-1830s) floor coverings in the Chesapeake Bay area and the Lee family’s financial position, we began to look to potential options for our particular carpet.
In consultation with our Historic Interiors Advisory Panel and David Luckham Consultants, we considered a number of period-correct patterns for the room. We settled on a c. 1800 historic archival pattern in a color combination of purple, green, and gold, which would have been appropriate for the Federal time period in general (and our green-painted parlor in particular). The carpet, a Brussels weave (with looped pile) in worsted (wool), was woven using hand-dyed yarns on surviving historic looms at the Grosvenor Wilton Company Limited’s factory in Kidderminster, England during the summer of 2014. After being inspected, the 27-inch wide strips of carpeting were sewn together into a “blanket” and crated for shipment across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in mid-October.
A team from DMA Floors in Richmond, Virginia arrived at Stratford with the carpet on October 29 and by the end of the day on October 30, our parlor was newly-outfitted with its period-correct carpet. We chose to follow the historic installation methods, which involved folding the carpet under at the edges and tacking the carpet into the floorboards at designated intervals. Our Director of Preservation documented the locations of these newly-introduced tacks so that staff and researchers will know exactly what they are looking at when examining the historic floors in the future.
We are very pleased with the results of this long-term research and production project and hope that our visitors will enjoy and appreciate the new, historically-appropriate look in our parlor. In addition to the much-appreciated support from our consultants and advisors, our thanks go to the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation for their generous funding in helping to make this historic carpeting project a success.
-Gretchen Goodell Pendleton, Curator