Tag Archives: Parlor

The Missing Pieces

St. Louis Star-Times article from 1941. Click to view larger version.

St. Louis Star-Times article from 1941. Click to view larger version.

Part of what makes the Campbell House Museum so special is its collection of thousands of original furnishings and personal items left behind by the Campbell family. CHM’s originally-furnished interiors are nearly unparalleled in the United States – it’s a special place. But it’s important to note that we don’t have everything. In fact, we’re missing quite a bit. Large pieces of furniture, beautiful works of art and countless papers, books and knick-knacks have left the halls of the Campbell House over the years. The big reason? An auction of the house’s contents that happened in 1941.

Hazlett Campbell died without an heir in 1938, leaving behind a sizable family fortune and an 11,000 square foot townhouse full of beautiful things. While the money was eventually split between distant family members, the house posed a larger issue. Cousins who had inherited the interior furnishings and fixtures of the building opted to auction them off through local auction house Selkirk’s. At this point, the story becomes familiar. A dedicated group from the community banded together, raised funds and purchased back hundreds of items as they passed across the auction block. Most of what you see on tours of the Campbell House today is only here due to the dedication and financial support of these fine folks. But they didn’t get everything. While many of the pieces that “got away” did so because of the group’s financial constraints, others were allowed to be purchased by others because they didn’t neccesarily fit with the foundation’s vision for the Campbell House Museum (still two years away from opening to the public). In the years since, few items have left the house and some have even returned. Here are some of the things that got away…

Click the gallery below to view the slideshow.

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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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See our Ceiling?

Detail of the Sistine Chapel.

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the unveiling of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

What does this have to do with Campbell House? Not much, but it’s the perfect flimsy excuse for us to toot our own horns about the spectacular ceilings in this house, particularly those in the Parlor.

During the restoration (2000-2005), painters removed up to 40 layers of paint and wallpaper from the walls and ceilings in the house, and what they found on the first layer of plaster was replicated for us to enjoy today.

Though we had clues in the 1880s photographs and in the background of Virginia’s large portrait that hangs in the Parlor, the tedious and time-consuming “strip everything off the walls” method was the only way we could know for sure what the Campbells’ original patterns and color schemes were throughout the house.

Here are a few images of painters from Master Artisans working on the Parlor’s ceiling during the restoration. Click on the images for a larger view:

Detail of the Parlor ceiling during Restoration. You can see the layers of paint the artists are in the process of carefully peeling away along the edges.

The motif from the previous image repainted on the ceiling.

Scraping away more old paint……

An artist working on the intricate design in the center of the Parlor.

The completed design.

As always, thanks for reading, and check back tomorrow for information about our upcoming Holiday Historic House Tour!

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