Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers based her recreation of the Hyde Hall Main Staircase carpet on a surviving fragment of a documented damask Venetian carpet from the 1830s. Although this type of carpet was very fashionable during the first half of the 19th century, very few examples survive. Using a fragment of a damask Venetian border from her private collection, Rabbit was able to determine thread count, scale, and weave structure when designing the Hyde Hall stair carpet.
The strong colors shown in the photos are typical of American and British carpets in the 1830s.
In the Clarke Family Papers are numerous bills and receipts that show us how many yards of carpet were ordered for the Main Staircase (84 yards). From that figure we determined that the halls closest to the staircase were also carpeted and we ordered enough new carpet from Thistle Hill Weavers to cover these areas. We will be able to cover the stair treads all the way up to the Billiards Room on the 3rd floor and the halls contiguous to the staircase. We will not use a binding on our stair carpet as George Clarke did not order enough of it to use on his carpet—nor was it standard practice during this period.
The Clarke Family Papers provided invaluable research information for this wonderful project. We have the original bills for the “flat” style polished brass stair rods that have survived in our collections. We will use these stair rods to help secure the reproduction damask Venetian carpet once it is installed this spring. The bills show how wide the carpet was (27”) and also the space between the mounts. All this matches perfectly the width between the screw holes in the mahogany treads and risers of the Main Stairs where the carpet rods were once attached.
To ensure authenticity, we have reproduced as closely as possible the style, colors, fabric, and design of damask Venetian stair carpeting available to George Clarke, the builder of Hyde Hall.
Preparing for the New Main Stairs Carpet
Before the new damask Venetian carpet is put down this spring on the Main Staircase at Hyde Hall, the treads, risers, and banisters must be cleaned.
Using a solvent designed to dissolve nearly two centuries of crusty wax and dirt, Hyde Hall Caretaker and Site Interpreter, Timothy Walker began work on the Main Staircase. His goal was to reveal the grain of the beautiful mahogany while preserving as much of the original finish as possible. After the initial cleaning, Tim will go over the surface of the wood with tung oil and then polish it with a hard conservator’s wax.
Tim is proud of his work. As with all the restorations at Hyde Hall, the beauty of the house and its many details are being revealed for everyone to admire and enjoy. The addition of the colorful damask Venetian carpet on the Main Staircase will bring us closer to the way Hyde Hall looked in its 1835 heyday, when it was one of the most grand private homes in America. While elegant, Hyde Hall is also distinguished by the early high-technology innovations that remain evident in its central heating systems, plumbing, lighting, and cast iron construction details.
More to come soon on these fascinating features!
– Jonathan Maney, Executive Director