Edwards Place- a restored mansion in Springfield, Illinois

 

Edwards Place- a restored mansion in Springfield, Illinois

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Edwards Place is one of several historic properties in Springfield, Illinois, associated with Abraham Lincoln. Formerly the home of the Edwards family, its furnishings include a mid-nineteenth century settee on which the future president is said to have sat while courting Mary Todd,  related by marriage to the Edwards family,  who  became the future president’s wife in 1842. Since 1913, the house has belonged to the Springfield Art Association, who  began a major restoration in 2014, aimed at presenting the principal rooms as they were in the 1850s, a time when Lincoln was a regular visitor. We were brought in to the project by our U.S. partners Belfry Historic Consultants, and asked to reproduce two wallpapers which were discovered  beneath modern drywall at an early stage of the project.

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Although large pieces of each paper survived, their condition gave rise to difficulties when it came to understanding how the papers had originally looked. The more elaborate of the two patterns combined trophies and floral swags contained within moiré-effect stripes, highlighted with gold details, but the block-printed colours had faded so much that the outlines of the pattern could only be seen by transmitted light – against a window or on a light-box. One tiny strip of overlapped margin, which had remained protected from discolouration, gave some indication that the pattern had been printed in shades of grey distemper against a satin-finish  ground in pale duck-egg. We produced a range of samples around this theme – both digital and screen-printed – before the clients settled on one which seemed most appropriate. Gratifyingly, the subsequent discovery of another large piece of this paper in better condition showed that our suggestions and the clients’ choice had been surprisingly accurate.

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The second paper was a simpler affair – a two-colour damask, block-printed in off-white on a beige ground and with the kind of intense ultramarine accents which were hugely popular in the 1850s and which seem utterly bizarre to modern taste. This too has a satin ground – so much easier to make in these days of gloss-finish water-based acrylics than in the days of distemper, when the only way to produce a shiny surface was to buff the painted paper laboriously with talc and a smooth stone. The contrast between a pattern in matt distemper (or acrylic) and a satin ground is pleasing, and was widely exploited in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Perhaps the effect is due for a come-back in these days of ubiquitous matt-ness and ‘chalk-finish’ paints.

In the front formal parlor, an original section of wallpaper dating from the 1850's discovered during the renovation is preserved behind plexiglass for visitors. Now known as the Edwards Place pattern, new wallpaper from this remnant was replicated using a computer and manufactured for the project. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

A Roman bust of Diana, goddess of the hunt, is displayed atop an 1850's era square grand piano made by E. N. Scherr of Philadelphia on display in one of the home's formal parlors. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

Also, for the sitting room at Edwards Place, we supplied our ‘Edenderry’ pattern of oak leaves and acorns set in stripes. This is an Irish pattern of the 1830s, so slightly earlier than the restored décor of the other rooms – nevertheless it fits in very well.

In the Sitting Room, new oak-leaf patterned wallpaper covers the walls along with new carpeting, recessed lighting and other imporovements. An oil painting of Benjamin Edwards can be seen over the fireplace. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

For more on Edwards Place and its restoration, see

www.edwardsplace.org