McLoughlin House: Washstand from the Steamship S.S.Beaver

MPF Conservation conserved several objects for the McLoughlin House in Oregon City, Oregon (which is part of the Fort Vancouver NM); this page documents the Washstand from the Steamship S.S.Beaver, located on the first floor of the McLoughlin House.

Right, the washstand during assessment in the McLoughlin House.

This primitive, functional washstand served the captainIt originally came from the S.S.Beaver, the first steamship to operate in the Pacific Northwest. The Beaver was built in Blackwall, London, and sailed to Fort Vancouver in 1835; the Beaver shipwrecked in 1888 near Vancouver, BC.

This primitive, functional washstand served the captain’s quarters upon the Beaver. As the washstand is created from red cedar and pine, both indiginous to Oregon, MPFC surmises the washstand was created in Astoria and installed in the ship during the second half of the nineteenth century.

A short essay, the Beaver, the first steamship on Puget Sound, arrives at Fort Nisqually on November 12, 1836, is available through Historylink.

It is thought that the washstand may have come to the McLoughlin home via the family of Dr. William Fraser Tolmie, shown above, as have a few other pieces. On the inside of the door a signature in pencil (enhanced so it could be seen in an image) thought to be his has survived, shown right. Above, the only image of Dr. Tolmie that MPFC could find.

Condition Issues

The following were in evidence:

  • Dirty exterior varnish with areas of unprotected wood.
  • Dull and degrading exterior varnish.
  • Dirty interior cabinet.
  • Degrading drawer skid causing splintering and gouging.
  • Degraded hinge and knob screw bores, accounting for the loose knob and loose door.
  • Splintering and open grained bottom (which sits on the floor.)

We were to stabilize the door and repair/conserve the finish.


The door was removed from the case. All hinge bores were filled with soft wood picks and hide glue, allowed to cure, then rebored. The door was resecured in its original position.

Drawer frames and degrading drawer skids were selectively scraped to remove splintering. The skids were sealed wiht a hard wax so the drawer skids would be sealed from the nvironment and the drawers could transit without binding when operated.

Drawer knob screw bores were treated as the hinge bore holes.

The interior of the stand was thoroughly cleaned.

The degraded bottom was cleaned and splintering end grain was reglued. The entire bottom was covered with an inert warm hard wax until the end grain could not accept more viscous material. (This wax will not migrate during seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood due to humidity.). The bottom was carefully scraped with neoprene scrapers until sealed and burnished.

All surfaces were thoroughly cleaned to remove pollutants stuck in the historic varnish.

Finally, the entire cabinet, inside and out, was treated with an encaustic wax rub, and polished to a proper historic patina.

Above, before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.
The stand does angle, as it was meant to stand against a ship’s hull.

Above, before treatment, left, showing dirt, and after treatment, right.

Above, before treatment, left at the McLoughlin House,
and after treatment, right, in our studio.

Above, before treatment,left, and after treatment, right and below.

Items MPFC treated as of this date from the McLoughlin home are:

Return to main page of the McLoughlin House.