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.

The NPS bought the Imperial line from Montgomery Ward in Portland, Oregon, a stone’s throw from where we are located now. The line was 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. Imperial is a beautiful line, and the hammered ironwork is much more beautiful that Mason’s furniture, where the painted finish is the star of the line.

To clarify, Imperial is not Monterey. 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, notably Imperial, Del Rey, Brown & Saltman, and Coronado to create similar lines, not all painted elaborately. After a hundred years of history of these fabulous lines, more people are coming to call the various lines “Monterey,” as in a genre of 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!

Note 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 if 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 damaged the historic old finish. However, we were able to repair and protect the original finish with a layered wax treatment known as mechado.

The finish should not appear shiny! As we were called in at the eleventh hour for the finish issues, we were unable to finish 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 historic rope was to be reused, especially as it has no structural use, and is only decorative. However, the same restorer mentioned above apparently lost the historic rope, and again, discovering this last minute we had to make do by using lariat rope from the local tack shop. It is completely inappropriate.

Again, we would like to replace it with proper hemp rope but the NPS needs to produce an order to do exactly that.