I Went for the Wallpaper

love Waterhouse Wallhangings, a company which has been manufacturing wallpapers based on historical patterns for decades, and will do anything or go anywhere to see their papers in situ, so when I saw an instagram post about a recently-completed restoration project up in Amesbury featuring their work I drove right up there despite the fact that I had just returned from another road trip and was fairly exhausted. The Amesbury house was where Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science faith and church, had lived for a time, and it was restored under the auspices of the Longyear Museum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, an institution which is charged with presenting and teaching all aspects of Eddy’s life. Towards this aim, the Museum owns and operates 8 historic houses (all in New England) in which Eddy has lived, and the Amesbury house is the latest restoration. I confess to knowing very little about Eddy and the Christian Science church, even though I’ve lived in fairly close proximity to three of her houses: the Chestnut Hill Mansion in which she died, which is quite close to Newton Center where I lived while I was in graduate school (now undergoing an extensive restoration), and the Lynn and Swampscott houses which are not far from Salem. My motivations for running up to Amesbury this weekend were exclusively materialistic: I went for the wallpaper, and not for Mary Baker Eddy. But when I got to this lovely little c. 1780 house and talked to the Longyear staff on hand for its open house, I came away very impressed with the overall restoration effort: it was almost as if they had pursued preservation as an act of faith. It is not a grand house, and Eddy did not live there for very long, but it was part of her story and thus no detail was spared to make it shine again. We could only see the shine, but an extensive and costly restoration, inside and out, preceded the decoration. I came for the wallpaper, but left with a great deal of restoration respect, and now I need to see more Longyear houses!

A wallpaper tour of the Bagley House in Amesbury, where Mary Baker Eddy lived for brief periods in 1868 and 1870:

Waterhouse has extensive archives of wallpaper prints, and can also reproduce from fragments, as you see here. The aqua floral paper that you can see in the larger bedroom above is “New England Floral”, the same paper we have in our dining room (below) and library. 

11 responses to “I Went for the Wallpaper

  • Paul Jalbert

    I grew up in houses where the rooms were wallpapered. I loved the many designs and character that wallpaper added to a room. When I sold my house three years ago, the realtor told me that wallpaper was a liability because nearly all buyers want painted walls only. I think that’s why there aren’t many wallpaper stores anymore.

    • daseger

      I completely agree with you, Paul. Even my husband wants to paint our dining room!

    • Katherine Greenough

      This is certainly lovely wallpaper and it looks brand new!
      I also like the original sample they show encased in a box.
      It’s true you don’t see wallpapered walls often now, although they were ubiquitous during my childhood. Clearly, no expense was spared to renovate this house!

  • fbradking

    Just exquisite, Donna! What a gallery you presented here. And I’m pretty sure you’ve seen the fully restored wallpaper in the Lee Mansion here in Marblehead, no? If you haven’t, contact Lauren McCormack, the director of the Mhead Museum. She’ll be pleased to take you through.

  • JoAnn Shupe

    Please ask your husband to choose a different room to paint. Based on the closeup of your mantle treatment, I’m sure the rest of the room is equally lovely and respectful of the color of the fireplace surround.

    That seems to be a curious fact with wallpapered rooms in the past. Amanda Vickery does a really good job with customers choosing papers in the past, and they just order an amount of paper by letter, and there doesn’t generally seem to be an issue with color or size of print. Today people instinctively understand that the wallpaper dictates (or should) the colors and style of furniture you are limited to in a room.

    • daseger

      Oh no worries, JoAnn: he knows that it is over my dead body! Yes, I’ve got to go back and read more about the history of wallpaper: I think there were fewer color options but it is interesting how people in the past would make choices that seem to clash with our modern tastes but not theirs.

  • Helen Breen

    Again, Donna, you find the most interesting places. Thanks for sharing. Who knew that so many homes associated with Mary Baker Eddy have been restored? Indeed, the wallpaper is beautiful. My favorite is the 9th (I think) one down with the painting of the sitting couple and the bluish vase in the right hand corner.

    Somehow, I believe that there is a great deal of money associated with her legacy so such effective restorations are possible.

  • fairlynch

    A beautifully restored house!

  • Pearl

    What a great post! Grew up in a house with amazing wallpaper. Really miss people having it because it gives so much character to otherwise boring walls. Everyone seems so worried about resale value these days. I say nay, they don’t know what they’re missing.

  • Gayle Weber

    My goodness these are just beautiful samplings! Makes me wonder if people now don’t seem to favor wall papers, because what they see is usually quite old, soiled and faded. The wonderful variety and grace and perfect dignity added to a room with fresh wall designs, surpasses a plain painted wall.
    Soo enjoy seeing these samplings! Thankyou~!

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