Campbell House: Reception Room

MPF Conservation assessed several items in the the Amasa B. Campbell House (hereafter referred to as the “Campbell House”), a lovely museum in Spokane Washington, over two days; this page covers the Reception Room.

The Reception Room as seen in images appears overwhelmingly salmon pink, but when you are standing in the room it is a relaxing balance which combine with the lovely green carpet and the ornate cream-colored carved ceiling (image below).

The upholstered shot silk moire walls with gold and silver threads create a shimmering effect, suffusing the salmon tones with a golden light, shown above and below.

The fabric wall covering is showing signs of deterioration, left. Warp thread is breaking because of the deterioration of the lime and sand walls.

After examination we advised the Campbell House to preserve the fabric walls before they fray beyond repair.

While we were there, the lush velvet draperies were removed to be cleaned and small repairs done in the large workroom on the property, images shown below. These are normally over the top of the beautiful lace curtains seen right and in the manner of the black and white image above right.

A valance (shown below) crowns each window’s full velvet drapes as shown in the black and white image right.

Click on the previews of the longer images shown below.

The velvet on the draperies is problematic with losses of pile and degradation of its base woven warp and weft. They are heavily embroidered, shown above.

The Campbell House is tasked with a decision to conserve the historic drapes or to replicate them, in which case the historic drapers can be shown in a museum exhibit.

Right, a glimpse of the beautiful sculpted ivory-colored ceilings.

Below, images of the gilded and marble fireplace and mirror, also shown in other images throughout. The fireplace and mirror appear to be carved wood, traditionally gilded, and shows little overpainting. We can see gesso only on the top cap. It appears that the piece was first silvered, then gold leaf was applied over the top of the silver leaf. The luster still asserts itself despite its age!

The beautiful mirror that sits over the fireplace.

The decorative gilt moldings mimic architectural wall applications during the reign of Louis XIV. The components are not milled wooden elements attached to the wall, but a component system created by the Bakelite company.

Bakelite was developed by Leo Baekeland in New York in 1907. It has a number of properties, such as the ability to be molded quickly, decreasing production time. The moldings are smooth, strong, stable, and scratch and heat resistant. They are polymerized surfaces, not plastic.

The components are traditionally coated with gesso and bole then layered with gold leaf and burnished. Like the fireplace, it appears these were covered in silver leaf then gold leaf.

The system has anchor points at the center acanthus leaf, shown left, and corners, shown above and below. The large acanthus leaf design affixes to the walls and the decorative moldings fit into the mortise within the acanthus mount. This allows the moldings to float above the wall fabric without compressing the cloth and creating indentations or shadows.

Sometime during the 20th century a cosmetic reparation effort was made by a well-meaning but unskilled painter. S/he painted over the degraded gilding using an opaque paint. As the finish continued to degrade, the infills and overcoatings have become disparate from the original causing the surfaces to appear spotty and lifeless.

Proper attention is necessary before the Bakelite degrades and cannot be repaired nor regilded.

Above right and below, an example of the furnishings and light fixtures in the Reception Room. Below, two historic images. I am not sure why the canape looks like it is warped and leaning.

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