Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Great Locust Grove Wallpaper Mystery

Long ago, in Paris, just before the French Revolution, the firm of Reveillon designed an elegant arabesque figured wallpaper, with a bluish gray background, four vignettes of dancing sprites and cupids in glilt, and all the flourishes, foliage, and ornamentation of the high French style.

Later, in America, an unknown firm of wallpaper printers obtained some of the Reveillon paper, copied it, made a few changes and modifications, and sold it to customers, including a William Croghan of Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky. Major Croghan had the paper hung on the walls of his largest room, the southwest room on the second floor.

At some point, this large room was subdivided, and a slice of the wallpaper was covered by the edge of the partition wall. The rooms created were repapered at some point in the 19th century, and the original wallpaper was no longer visible, until...

During the 1960s restoration the partition was recognized as a later addition and removed, exposing the vertical strip of early wallpaper. On a snowy night, the paper peeled from the walls, and was rescued by the site's caretakers, and taken for study. The decision was made to reproduce and replace the wallpaper on the walls of the room.

A New York wallpaper firm was contracted to do the work. They identified the paper as a Reveillon design by referring to a black-and-white image of a panel of Reveillon paper. The paper was reproduced using a different printing technique, silkscreen instead of woodblock, and a different paper. The color was based on the sample from Locust Grove, blue green, orange, gray, white, and blue.

When it was hung on the walls, Locust Grove staff knew that it was a little off. The texture was not right, it was printed in strips, not panels, and, mysteriously, the dancing girl was kicking the opposite way from the sample of the original.

So, in the current re-restoration, we took the opportunity to reproduce it again, right, and sent the samples off to Adelphi paper in New York.

They told us it was not Reveillon, but a copy. They told us that the original Reveillon paper had different colors, and included not two but FOUR different dancing girls - we'd been displaying only half of the original design. BUT - was this a flaw in the 1960s reproduction, or in the 1790s knockoff?

Stay tuned....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Auction Over!

The first ever Locust Grove Auction is over; the last items have gone home with their purchasers. The auction brought in $60,365 in total; minus the auctioneers' fee, that gives us $54,328 to use for the development and preservation of the collections.

Thanks to all the collections donors through the years whose contributions will continue to work for the good of Locust Grove; thanks to all the Board and committee members who assisted in this process.

"Dr. Short's Cabinet" was the star of the show, going for $14,000 to Transylvania University. We're very glad that this important piece found a home where it should be. Several other pieces went to Locust Grove friends, volunteers, and supporters.

Now we move on to fill the gaps in the House's furnishings. We've got a list.

On Monday, we start prepping the walls for the wallpaper installation.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Waiting for Wallpaper

Locust Grove is in a holding pattern right now, waiting for the wallpaper that's on order from Adelphi Paper Hangings, the firm that hand block-prints authentic historic wallpaper patterns. Once the papers arrive, the House will begin to look much more as it did in the Croghans' day. Right now we have bare walls where no bare walls should be!

In preparation for the upcoming Auction, most of the furniture and other items to be sold have been removed from display, and are confined to the Dining Room. This leaves some rooms a bit bare, but our Acquisitions Committee has a wish list of replacement items, and they have begun the search for appropriate new furnishings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We're holding our first public auction, as part of re-thinking the furnishings of the House. Here's the announcement:

Locust Grove
Auction of Selected Items from the Collection
Tuesday, September 29th, 7:00 pm
Locust Grove Visitors Center Auditorium

Preview: Sunday, Sept. 27th, 10 am to 4:30 pm; Tuesday Sept. 29, 5 pm to 7 pm

For the first time since the Locust Grove collection was assembled in the 1960s, a portion of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century collection will be deaccessioned and sold at public auction on September 29th, 2009. Proceeds from the auction, in accordance with the museum’s policy, will be used only for the purchase, maintenance and repair of the National Historic Landmark’s collection of furnishings, documents, and paintings.

The auction is the result of a plaster, paint and woodwork study conducted in 2008 by historic paint analyst, Matthew Mosca, whose report indicates that the interior of Major William Croghan’s Kentucky home was more similar in appearance to the great Federal homes of the East than previously thought. With wall and floor covering renovations now underway, the site’s Acquisitions and Collections Committee is making recommendations for the deaccession of approximately 6% of the collection.

The items to be sold have been selected because they are dated outside Locust Grove’s period of interpretation (after 1822) or were made in regions that were not likely to have provided furnishings for this house. Other pieces are considered to be of inappropriate quality for the relatively wealthy Croghan household, and some have deteriorated to the point that they do not represent their appearance at the time they were made.

Following our Collections Policy, which states: "Out of scope material, items that have been replaced by more appropriate samples or items whose condition has deteriorated beyond museum quality may be deaccessioned, or removed from the collection, by recommendation of the committee and approval by the Board of Directors," items to be considered for removal from the collection were first reviewed by the Collections and Acquisitions Committee before being voted on by the Board of Directors.* The items to be sold include furniture, ceramics, silver, textiles, and decorative objects.

The auction will begin at 7:00 pm in the Locust Grove Visitors Center, with previews on Sunday, September 27, from 10-4:30 as part of our Antiques Market event (admission to the site is $6 on that day); and before the sale on the 29th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, with no admission fee. Auctioneer Walt Robertson, of Swinebroad-Denton of Lexington, will conduct the sale.

*In accordance with the Ethics Policy of the Historic Locust Grove Board, our Board members, staff, and committee members from the Collections and Acquisitions Committee and the Restoration Committee will not be eligible to purchase any de-accessioned items at this auction.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New rooms open!

We're through the plastering stage, almost fully re-painted, and we've been able to get more rooms furnished and open to the public. The walls still need wallpaper, which will be ordered soon; the floors need rugs, which are being chosen; and we are de-accessioning (removing from the collection) the furnishings that have not been chosen for the new furnishings plan, but we have not yet acquired their replacements.

Our docents proceed on, with great flexibility and imagination. Visitors seem to enjoy this process, however messy.

As of today, the only first floor room that isn't on the tour is the dining room, which is being used to store the furniture that has been moved. Clark's room is only partially furnished, since we need to acquire some new pieces such as a more appropriate bed. On the second floor, the bedrooms have been repainted and are brighter and finer.

The room formerly called the ballroom (now the "great parlor" - get used to it!) is getting its final coats of verdigris paint (it takes 4-5 coats in all). The wallpaper has been removed, and will be replaced by a newly, authentically reproduced paper done by woodblock process in horizontal sheets. It's fine custom work, and it may take a while. All these rooms are open.

The third floor is much the same, but the "nursery" is not accessible - furniture storage again.

Friday, July 3, 2009

NOTE: The main House at Locust Grove will be CLOSED to visitors from Monday, July 6th through Friday, July 10th. The site itself will be open - the grounds, gardens, Visitors Center with the Museum Store and Exhibit Gallery will all remain open. Admission will be free. Visitors can see a film that gives a tour of the 1790s House in place of the usual guided tour. Closing is necessary because of the re-restoration work - plasterers will be working on the main hallways of the House during this week, and all the doors will have to be blocked. We will re-open the House on Saturday, July 11th.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pictures on Facebook

If you'd like to see more pictures of the restoration work than you ever imagined, check us out on Facebook! Our Facebook team is way ahead of the blogger team in getting the word (and image) out. If you are not on Facebook, here's your excuse to finally check it out.

The House itself will be closed to the public during the week of July 6-10 because the plasterers will be working in the hallways, and the doors won't be accessible. The rest of the site is open, but we won't charge admission on those days.

More Images

Here's the room to the left of the main door on the first floor of the House, painted in the verdigris color (it looks a little blue in this image; it's really more green in person). This room was previously presented as the Family Dining Room; when re-furnished, it will become the Farm Office. Why? The paint shows us that this was a room designed to impress - impress the people who came to Locust Grove with business on the farm or with the Croghans. Tenants would pay rent here, deliveries would be made, daily orders given, and Croghan's surveying clients would meet him here (until he built a separate office on the site sometime after Clark moved in). There's a separate door to the outside, and this is the only room that has that. And the stair? We're assuming that the Croghans slept in the room above, which has the same color scheme as this.

The room next to the Ballroom is now a lovely soft pink, with white woodwork. This was known until recently as the Withdrawing Room - it will now be presented as the best guestroom in the House. This is more a change of name than a re-interpretation, since this is about what we've always said.

The re-restoration gives us a chance to re-think the uses of the rooms and how we present life on the site. Docents will start training next week to learn the new interpretations and the stories that we want to emphasize now. It's hard work, but exciting, because we're getting closer to the people who lived here and the world they inhabited daily.

It's nearly July!

Yes, a blog is supposed to be timely. It got away from us. Things are happening fast here!

The electricians have done the rewiring, we have some new lights, and are awaiting more. The plasterers and painters are working, and some rooms are finished. The wallpaper is mostly chosen, some is still under discussion. The image here shows the verdigris paint sample that will be used in one of the rooms - there will be four rooms with this brilliant green glazed paint, with different undercoat paints (the gray shown here).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We Begin!

The Restoration Committee met, and made some decisions about the wallpaper. We're waiting for some additional samples before making it final and announcing the choices (everyone is asking!).

The work begins on Thursday, April 30, with electricians coming to upgrade the lighting controls and add lighting to stairways and the main hall. Re-plastering comes next, then painting, wallpaper, and some re-arrangement of the furniture so that the rooms tell different stories about life in the House from 1809-1822.

We will remain open throughout unless it becomes impossible to safely accommodate the public, so the docents and public will be stepping around workers for some time to come.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Right now, it's all about the wallpaper. The Restoration committee has already decided about the paint colors, generally simply following the evidence, but several of the rooms were papered, and that's a harder decision.

All that we know about the Croghans' taste in wallpaper is that they chose a very expensive, figurative "arabesque" paper made by the French firm Reveillon for the "ballroom" - see the picture here. So we're looking at other Reveillon papers as well as similar papers made by other firms.

Everyone who has looked at the wallpaper samples that we've collected has an opinion! All different! Harmonizing, contrasting, large figures, latticework, small prints, blue, gold, green, rose. Borders are an option too.

The rooms that will be papered are the entrance hallway on the first floor, the first-floor northwest room (Clark's room), the first floor southeast and southwest rooms (Dining Room, Parlor), and the second floor southwest room (Ballroom).

The Restoration committee will meet next week to sort it all out. To see some of the papers under consideration, you can go to Adelphi Paper Hangings, which is one of the most authentic manufacturers of reproduction wallpaper. The texture of the paper is wonderful - it's hand-block printed, and has a velvet, matte surface that makes the colors very rich. We will also have our "ballroom" Reveillon paper replaced using the same process for a more authentic look than the reproduction that we currently use (which is now more than 40 years old).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Come see our project!

To learn first-hand about the restoration project, come on Saturday, April 11, anytime between 10 am and 1 pm, to talk with project Chairwoman Gwynne Potts. She'll show you around and describe what we're working on right now, and give you background on the work to date.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Renewing Locust Grove

Locust Grove is beginning an exciting new project - we are re-restoring the interior of the 1790s home of William and Lucy Croghan. With support from a preservation-minded foundation, we have researched the paint and other finishes of the rooms of the main house, and are just about to begin repainting, papering, replacing rugs and other textiles, and re-interpreting the use of rooms of the house.

We intend to use this blog to update the Locust Grove community and the public about this process as it develops over the next few years. We welcome your comments and will respond to your thoughts.

The process is overseen by a committee, which includes:
Gwynne Potts, Chair
Lee Robinson
Nancy Lee
Clifton (Andy) Anderson
Roberta Dickson
Richard Jett
Carol Ely

The research was done by Matthew Mosca, an expert on paint and finishes, who has done work on many significant historic structures. His report, which we received in November, advises on probable finishes in the rooms on the first two floors of the House. The Committee reviewed the report, made some decisions in cases of ambiguity, and is proceeding with repainting, to start in the next few weeks. We're also looking at appropriate period wallpaper, since many of the important rooms in the House were indeed papered, as we've long thought.

More information here soon!

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