CRLA NP: Imperial (Not Monterey) Furniture

MPF Conservation had the privilege of conserving the historic Imperial furnishings for the Superintendent’s Residence at Crater Lake NP.

Imperial is NOT Monterey!

The NPS bought the Imperial line from Montgomery Ward in Portland, Oregon, a stone’s throw from where we are located now. The line is made of mahogany, and characterized by heavy iron strapping, with a painted finish similar to Old Wood in the Mason line. Rottenstone was used as a grain filler and a dusting agent to impart an old west dusty ambiance. Imperial is a beautiful line, and the hammered ironwork makes the line special, very different from Mason’s furniture, where the painted finish is the star of the line.

We highlight many of the Imperial pieces here: Superintendent’s Imperial Furniture Collection.

There is only one true Monterey line, made by Mason Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles, example right from the Oregon Caves Monterey collection.

However, the craze for Mason Monterey sparked a series of other companies to create similar lines, notably Imperial, Del Rey, Brown & Saltman, and Coronado (shown below). Many were not painted elaborately.

After a century of history of these fabulous lines, more people are coming to call the various lines “Monterey,” as in a genre of Western furniture that is reminiscent of Mexican, Dutch, and cowboy lines.

We use the term in our search features because people search for information and images, and they often don’t know the name of their manufacturer. By using the genre, they find more out about their own collection.

But to be clear, Imperial is NOT Monterey!

Disclaimer: The Imperial Finish is too Shiny… But there is a Reason!

Regarding the finish: We came to this project at the eleventh hour after another restorer had applied a layer of oil to the painted finish of the Imperial furniture, nearly causing irreversible damage. We were already involved in the upholstery, but after questioning the oily finish on the upholstered pieces, the first restorer backed out, and we inherited the project.

We quickly removed the inappropriate topcoat he applied, which had already created condition issues with the historic finish on several items. However, we were able to repair and protect the original finish with a layered wax treatment known as mechado.

This finish should not appear shiny! As we were called in at the eleventh hour for the finish issues, and the opening of the Crater Lake Science and Learning Center was looming, we ran out of time to apply the final rottenstone dusting which would have added the “old wood” dusty appearance. We are waiting for the NPS to place an order to have us dust the pieces.

Disclaimer: Rope!

The rope shown in the images is not right for the Imperial furniture.

The image right shows a detail of the historic waxed hemp lariat (on the mirror). In all but two instances (mirrors and the small corner bench shown below), the historic rope was used only for decoration. A previous restorer threw away the historic rope, making it necessary to replace the rope. Unfortunately, as we only discovered this with a few weeks to spare, we had to suspend efforts to backorder the proper rope and make do with jute rope from the local tack shop, which we burned and waxed to make it look older.

Again, we would like to replace it with proper hemp rope but the NPS needs to produce an order for us to do exactly that; the lariat rope is all wrong!

For details on these items, visit the Superintendent’s Imperial Furniture Collection.

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