Just when we’re starting to think we have this whole “restoration of a 163 year old house” thing figured out, something comes out of the woodwork and makes us realize we don’t know quite everything there is to know about the Campbells and their beautiful home. In this case it was a cabinet originally located in the Butler’s Pantry hall. This area has always been a little bare, not much more than a breezeway providing access into the dining room from the kitchen. If you’ve been through the house in the last few years, you probably haven’t even noticed the area because it’s been blocked by a screen with the enclosed space used for storage.
A few months ago, two of our volunteers were doing some cleaning and organizing in the Campbell House basement when they found part of a sturdy cabinet that was obviously from the mid-19th century, which was curious. The kicker was that, once the decades of dust was wiped off, they could see beautiful faux-wood graining that perfectly matched the original faux-graining found in the CHM pantry. Some more digging uncovered a glass-paneled cabinet door and another slightly larger solid door. After doing some examining, the cabinet was found to have a swing-out doorstop attached to its top which just happened to perfectly matched a worn down patch at the top of the kitchen door (coincidentally, we usually have a tough time getting that particular door to stay open) and its base was cut precisely to fit on top of the baseboard that runs the length of the hallway. It was a “holy cannoli” moment, to say the least.
Our best guess is that the cabinet was broken apart and removed from the hallway in the 1960s, when the Butler’s Pantry was converted into a small catering kitchen used by the Museum for parties and special events. The idea of tearing out an original part of the house in order to put in a modern kitchen might sound a little jarring to us today, but attitudes toward preservation have evolved a lot over the past fifty years. Heck, you should see some of the wallpaper they put up in this place pre-restoration (#yikes.) Regardless, the cabinet was broken up, taken down to the basement, and has been hanging out there ever since.
That is, until last week. Though some framing for the cabinet had to be reconstructed, we had the important stuff: doors, hardware, trim, and the original faux graining. The space that has for so long sat empty has finally been reunited with its original fixture, and we can’t wait for our friends at Master Artisans to restore the original graining and recreate the delicate design on the newly-constructed portions of the cabinet. Click through below to check out the finished product!