Behind the Wallpaper

Written by: Denise Doring VanBuren, First Vice President General and Editor-In-Chief
September 7, 2016

It’s exciting to share the inaugural edition of new blog installments that will regularly focus on the American Spirit magazine. This entry goes “behind-the-scenes” of a feature from the latest issue!

In addition to editing our Society’s publications since 2004, I was, coincidentally, involved in a story that is contained within the September/October issue, i.e., the replacement of the New York State Room’s historic wallpaper in the DAR Museum, and so I volunteered to give you a peek behind the paper.

I’ve restored two historic homes and have steamed, scraped and cursed my own fair share of multi-layered wallpaper through the years — but never imagined that I would someday spend the better part of a year studying wall hangings and their history. But it is customary in New York for the immediate past State Regent to serve as the Chair of our State Period Room, where it was obvious that the damaged wallpaper needed to be replaced. It was also obvious that we needed to replace it with a paper that elicited the same “wow!” reaction from visitors that the former paper had done since the 1970s.

Curator of Furnishings Patrick Sheary, State Regent Martha Crapser, State Regent’s Project Chair Patrice Birner and I (the “Wow Team,” as we called ourselves) studied and browsed, then studied some more. Fortunately, the only firm making wallpaper via Colonial methods was located in Sharon Springs, a small community in upstate New York. Adelphi Wall Hangings is the premier historic papermaker in the United States and has papered rooms at the White House, Colonial Williamsburg and the Smithsonian Institution. As you will read in the story, we ultimately selected a hand-painted Arabesque, complete with 23-karat gold accents.

If choosing the wallpaper that would need to last for another 50 years was intimidating, then raising the money to commission it was downright scary. We produced a short video about the project, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OgBbwwDs5w, which helped us to raise awareness and funds, as we needed roughly three times the amount of the typical State Regent’s Project in our state. In addition to Mrs. Crapser’s meeting honorariums and product sales, we pledged to raise at least $500 in honor of each of our Honorary State Regents — virtually all of whom had served as Chair of the State Period Room — as well as our Founders and Honorary Presidents General. In the end, our generous Daughters and friends helped us to collect more than $150,000 to commission what one expert has since called “the finest wallpaper in the world.”

We now have a stunning paper that is historically accurate, made in our own state and more than a little bit over the top. And so, it elicits that same “wow” response we’d set as our over-arching goal. I hope that you will read the full feature story when our issue arrives in your mailbox —  Courtney Peter did a marvelous job of describing this project. But better yet: come see for yourself our beautiful new wallpaper, all of the DAR Museum and your magnificent headquarters complex in Washington, D.C.!

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