Restoring Crater Lake NP Superintendent’s Imperial Furniture Collection

When we met the Imperial collection, it was in a large trailer waiting for us, and everything was a mess. It was both daunting and exciting!

On this page we’ve chosen pieces of the Superintendent’s Imperial collection, offering images of each item before treatment and after treatment, with some contextual images of where they are living now in the Superintendent’s Residence.

MPF Conservation designed the Interior for the Crater Lake Science & Learning Center to make the residency a welcoming environment. Shown below are pieces of Imperial furniture, as well as draperies, lighting fixtures, baskets for fruit and snacks, Fiestaware, vases, carpets and runners.

First, Disclaimers:

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.


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. The 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, but it is not right.

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

Imperial Collection Strapping Chairs circa 1930

The Imperial Strapping Chairs come with and without arms, and some still had their original strapping!

MPFC cut our new strapping, and wherever possible utilized the original nails to replace the strapping. They are shown after treatment right in the Dining Room with what might be a desk or vanity, and after treatment above in the fifth image.

Imperial Collection Side Chairs circa 1930

These carved back Imperial Chairs were historically darker than the other pieces. They tend to be used as extra chairs and so move about the rooms. The upholstery is compressed cotton batting over hogs-hair attached to solid core plywood; the showcover shown in the “before” images is a recent fabric from the seventies, not original.

Imperial Collection Vanity Bench circa 1930

This bench likely accompanied the Desk or Vanity with the ball feet shown below. They tend to be used as extra seating and so also move about the rooms where they are needed. The upholstery is compressed cotton batting over hogs-hair attached to solid core plywood. It is unlikely the showcover shown in the “before” image was

Imperial Collection Ladderback Paddle-arm Side Chairs circa 1930

Two of the Imperial Armchairs are shown in the Living Room, shown right.

They have fiber cushions, no springs, and sit atop flexible steel bands attached to helical springs and steel eyelets which anchored into the frame. These had an older showcover, though likely not original.

Imperial Collection Rope Bench circa 1930

The Imperial Rope Bench sits in the corner of the Dining Room in a nook one can imagine curling into and reading by the window. It sports a fiber cushion, no springs, and sits atop a rope bed.

MPFC was dismayed that the previous restorer threw out the perfectly acceptable historic rope; see note top of page.

Imperial Collection Prohibition Hutch circa 1930

Located in the Dining Room straddled by two Strapping Chairs, the Imperial Prohibition Hutch is an amazing piece of engineering and history. When alcohol was illegal, these pieces were made to store private illegal alcohol collections. To open, one reaches into the center drawer and pushes a discrete button which releases the pop-up hidden shelving perfect for alcohol bottles, as Mitchell is demonstrating right.

Imperial Collection Corner Cupboard circa 1930

Located in the Dining Room with a Strapping Chair, the Imperial Corner Cupboard sported both shelves above and cabinet doors with shelves below. Decorative elements installed on the cupboard were meant to mimic positions for hanging meats to cure.

As discussed in Interior, Period and Exhibit Design, it is shown full of colorful Fiestaware, chosen for its period-appropriate connection, and affordability for replacement.

Imperial Collection Dining Table circa 1930

The Imperial Dining Table is shown in several historic images, such as the one above left. The table can be shorter or longer depending upon pulling out the leaves, which slip beneath the table’s surface and pull out on long telescoping loafers to make it larger. It was in good condition but had issues with the extensions.

Also note they table often used to have strapping chairs around it, but now two benches sit on either side in the Dining Room, and strapping chairs can be pulled up as needed.

image 147

Imperial Collection Flip-Top Coffee Table circa 1930

The Imperial Flip-Top Coffee Table has the storage we all want in our homes! It mimics a dough rising table, but was never used for that purpose. In the storage unit before treatment it appeared a dusty grey, but the finish revived beautifully, and is not quite as dark as shown in the fourth image which shows the latch.

Imperial Collection Chest of Drawers circa 1930

We never saw where the Imperial Low-boy Chest of Drawers was placed, so it is likely it went into one of the rooms upstairs or perhaps into the library. Note the unusual drawer pulls. The finish, a bit darker than some of the other pieces, revived in a beautiful manner.

Imperial Collection Desk or Vanity circa 1930

A piece that may have been a Imperial Vanity, but also can double as a desk. Note the ball feet, which is a bit different than other pieces. Shown in the Dining Room where it now is located, with several strapping chairs.

Imperial Collection High-Boy Chest of Drawers circa 1930

We never saw where the Imperial High-boy Chest of Drawers was placed, so it is likely it went into one of the rooms upstairs or perhaps into the library. Note the unusual drawer pulls, and the ball feet, which matches the desk/vanity shown above. Again the finish revived in a beautiful manner.

Imperial Collection Bedside Table (taller) circa 1930

There were a couple of these bedside tables, and they were taller with small functioning drawers. The finish on each restored in a lovely manner.

Imperial Collection Side Table or Small Bench circa 1930

Bench or shorter side table? This piece could do double duty. The first image is after we conserved the finish, and the second and third are before treatment.

The Club Chair and Ottoman cushions are Spring-filled cushions. Above, a series of images showing the steps to making a spring-filled cushion, including the invaluable relic that is a cushion-stuffer! Steps 1-7 show the materials as they are stacked and wrapped toward the stuffing. Once they are placed in the stuffer, they are condensed so they may be able to be pushed into the waiting muslin envelope, or ticking. After they are stuffed, there is still a bit of wrangling to do to make the cushion crown properly, shown on the sofa in the last image.

Imperial Collection Drop Leaf Table Sofa circa 1930

The long sofa had a drop leaf table on the left-facing end, sturdy enough to carry most anything one might want to set on it.

It had three seat cushions, three back cushions, and two wedge-shaped end cushions, all historically accurate. Of the three pillows shown, the colorful center one was made from the material leftover from an earlier cushion showcover!

MPFC was dismayed that the previous restorer threw out the historic rope.

Imperial Collection Paddle-arm Club Chair with Ottoman circa 1930

The Imperial Club Chair had spring-filled cushion seat cushions and back cushions, and the Ottoman had a sturdy spring-filled cushion as well. It is shown with a lumbar pillow and side table in the image left.

Again, MPFC was dismayed that the previous restorer threw out the historic rope.

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