Ongoing Restoration Projects – It Never Ends!

Painter Dave creates a wood grain design on the primed outer front doors. The magical mixture he uses for this is made from stale beer and Karo Syrup. The sugar content of both ingredients means the design is easy to manipulate and takes a long time to dry.

Painter Dave creates a wood grain design on the primed outer front doors. The magical mixture he uses for this is made from stale beer and Karo Syrup. The sugar content of both ingredients means the design is easy to manipulate and takes a long time to dry.

If you’ve been to the Campbell House more than once, you know that something is different on every visit. Some new bit of history has been discovered or a new artifact is on display or maybe new window dressings have been put up. Last week, painters completed the finishing touches on two very special projects here at the Museum, both involving doors. Giant. Doors. The first project was our outer front doors. The substantial, 9 foot outer front doors provided the Campbells and their ornate smaller inner front doors a barrier between the house and the city street. They’ve been hanging on their hinges for 164 years and counting and have experienced a wide array of temperatures, precipitation, soot, smog and pretty much anything else you can imagine in their lifetimes. Ten years ago, as the Museum’s restoration came to a close, these doors were restored with a faux-grained wood finish. A decade later, they were beginning to show their age and the time had come to restore the restoration (anyone who has lived in an old house for any length of time will understand this).

Carefully... carefully... those doors were heavy.

Carefully… carefully… those doors were heavy.

The other project was even more exciting. A generous grant allowed us to tackle a restoration project that’s been on the back burner for years, decades really. The Campbells’ elegant double parlor has a set of pocket doors leading into it, designed to smoothly slide open and closed for a “grand reveal” of the gilded room and its contents. The thing is, they haven’t opened and closed very smoothly for about 70 years. In fact, they were jammed solidly open. The grant allowed us to hire some woodworking professionals to come in, remove a portion of the door frame and pull the doors off of their tracks. What they found was unexpected, but not surprising. The wheel mechanism in the bottom of the door still worked perfectly – the problem was that a century and half of dust and coal soot had built up inside the wall and piled at the bottom of the door’s enclosure, creating a solid heap which the door was riding up and jamming itself on. After removing the clog, oiling up the mechanics and replacing the doors on their tracks, they’re back to working as well as they did when Robert and Virginia bought the house back in 1854. The painters that worked on restoring our outer front doors then restored the pocket doors’ faux wood grain finish – and they look GREAT! Click below to see the “GRAND REVEAL” through the Parlor pocket doors and click through the gallery below to see the two projects happen from start to finish.

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The View from Hazlett’s Room

The balcony as it appears today, sans enclosure.

Master bedroom balcony at the Campbell House Museum

April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring a beautiful garden along with… a lot of gunk on our roof and in our gutters. Once or twice a year we get up on top of the roofs of the Campbell House’s various built-out bays to clear out debris and do some spring cleaning. This was much easier when the Campbells were living here because their servants could have opened the windows and climbed right out onto the roof. However, as part of the Museum’s restoration in the early 2000s, all of the windows in the house were sealed tightly shut – making a relatively straightforward job a little more interesting (think really tall ladders, lots of climbing and steep roof slopes).

HAZLET~1

Hazlett Kyle Campbell lived in his family’s downtown St. Louis home for his entire life, from 1858 to 1938.

Today we climbed up to the balcony off of the master bedroom used by Robert and Virginia Campbell and, later, their son Hazlett. During Robert and Virginia’s lifetimes, full length windows opened directly onto the copper surface of the open air balcony, which was surrounded by a detailed wrought iron railing. Some time after the deaths of Robert and Virginia, their sons  enclosed the balcony with an elaborate copper roof and trellised wooden walls. While we can’t be entirely sure of why or even when (our guess is circa 1910) this was put onto the house, our best guess was that it was to provide some privacy to Hazlett Campbell, who became increasingly reclusive and mentally unstable as he grew older. Accounts from servants working at the house recall that Hazlett spent much of his time in the master bedroom, rarely venturing outdoors. By enclosing the balcony, Hazlett would have been afforded some privacy in an era when the houses of the neighborhood were being torn down and replaced by large hotels and commercial buildings. As part of Campbell House Museum’s extensive restoration in the early 2000s, this enclosure was removed to return the east side of the house to its 1880s appearance. Check out the gallery below to see how the use of the balcony has evolved over the past 160+ years.

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CHM Seeking Awesome Individual for a Unique Opportunity

carriagehouse

The Carriage House at CHM

Our rockstar Weekend Manager David is leaving his Campbell House gig and moving on to a new opportunity, and we need to fill his job within the next 60 days.

David is Campbell House’s Weekend Manager, and he works weekends — Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4:00 p.m. — but we don’t pay him anything.

Yes, you read that right.

We do, however, give him an apartment with paid utilities. The apartment is the top floor of our Carriage House, so YOU GET TO LIVE AT THE MUSEUM.

In all seriousness, the job encompasses being the boss over the weekend. You’ll open and close the Museum, give tours and supervise the volunteer docents while being a good steward of the grounds, house and property within. Outside of those hours, you have to mow the lawn, water the flower beds, and pick up trash as needed, and we may ask you to lend a hand at a special event here and there, but that’s about it.

The Museum is open by appointment only in January and February (except for an occasional pre-scheduled tour, we’re closed on weekends), so we’ll give you a few projects to accomplish at your leisure during those two months so you can earn your keep. (For example, we may have you paint the break room.)  Campbell House is our other home, and we expect you to treat it with the respect and seriousness it deserves. It is a national treasure, for crying out loud. We even have a plaque that says so.

The apartment is a 500-square foot studio with a kitchen and full bath. It was updated during the Museum’s restoration, so it has newer appliances, plumbing and paint. It has a full alarm system, and we cover your electric, water, trash and sewer. WiFi is also included, and you can use the washer and dryer in the main house.

If you’re a grad student or other adult with a flexible schedule that would lend itself to our weekend hours, send an email to Assistant Director Sam Moore (sam@campbellhousemuseum.org) with a resume or CV and few lines about yourself including why you think you’d be a good fit here. No phone calls or faxes. If we like what we see, we’ll invite you down to look at the apartment and check out the Museum.

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