Pope Estate gets wall covering
August 18, 2005
Last week, volunteers at the Tallac Historic Site began the complicated process of covering the walls of an entire room of the Tevis-Pope Estate in historically accurate fabric. This particular fabric, or wall-cloth, is appropriately named “Mr. Pope’s Toile” and features a motif styled after the springtime courtship of 18th century ladies and gents. The replication of this particular design was able to occur by a generous donation from Adolphus Andrews and his wife, Emily Pope Andrews of San Francisco, both of whom have donated in the past.
“Mr. Pope’s Toile” was replicated from a piece of the room’s original cloth which had barely survived after decades of sun and water damage. The replication process, accomplished by Brunschwig and Fils of New York, included scanning the old cloth and digitally separating the individual colors, followed by a series of hand printed, silk-screened reams on various types of cloth to insure the accuracy of the print. This wall-cloth makeover is not only surprisingly stunning, it also represents a fascinating art form from bygone eras.
Since the 1950s, pre-pasted vinyl wallpaper has been readily available in thousands of patterns, making our most difficult challenge the process of matching those pesky seams. Most of us don’t know, however, that papering walls is actually a custom that dates back several centuries, when it was an inexpensive substitute for those who could not afford the lavish textile wall coverings of the elite. Even in the early 20th century, we see families like the Tevises and the Popes showing off their wealth by decorating the rooms of their summer estate with ornate wall-cloth.
The process of hanging the cloth has not changed much over the centuries. The bare wood planks of the walls are first covered with a thick, felt-like material, and then large sheets of muslin are hung to provide a smooth, light-colored background. Unlike our modern day wallpaper, no glues or pastes are used to adhere the wall cloth to the structure. Instead, neat rows of tiny brass tacks are pushed into place every two inches along the seams. Not only did each room have a different wall cloth, but originally, no two rooms had the same style of brass tack.
Visiting the Tevis-Pope Estate within the next few weeks will allow you to view this intricate process and chat with the volunteers who have already spent close to 100 hours on the project. The Pope Estate is at the Tallac Historic Site, three miles north of the “Y” on Highway 89.