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From Fragments to Finishes: Recreating Clara Barton's Wallpaper

Although no images of Clara Barton's Seventh Street rooms have been found, photographs of early Red Cross disaster relief sites show how she enriched her personal quarters with patterned textiles to create a refuge from her stressful work. Even these short-term living spaces were made cozy with a multiplicity of carpets, coverlets, desk drapes, and patriotic curtains bearing Stars and Stripes. Textiles and wallpaper fragments found in her Seventh Street rooms show a fondness for naturalistic colors and patterns of leaves and flowers. They also illustrate the variety of wallpaper designs made possible by the technology of her time.

Advances in metal cylinder printing in the introduction of steam-powered machines with efficient systems for feeding color two cylinders in the 1840s produced a wide array of finely detailed wallpaper patterns common in the housing of all classes by the mid-nineteenth century. Patterns such as the blue hexagon design in Miss Barton's front hallway or the green floral in the rear hallway used skillful shading to create the illusion of carved stone relief. The foliage pattern replicated from Room 10 typifies a popular approach of arranging leaves or flowers in series to create naturalistic stripes. Geometric patterns such as the maroon and cream design in Room 12 modified a diamond grid, or "diaper," pattern with contours and centered decorative motifs. The economical wood grain pattern at the end of Miss Barton's hallway suggests that the space may have served as a closet before the door to her small parlor was installed to create a private passageway

Conservators at EverGreene Architectural Arts digitally restored each pattern from 150-year-old wallpaper fragments or rolls found in the third-floor rooms and attic, adjusting for discoloration and designing infill segments to fill gaps. EverGreene also created silkscreen stencils to apply metallic ink in wreath pattern for the ceiling of Room 9. Master paper hanger Jim Yates and his team then installed the replica wallpapers as they would have been installed during Clara Barton's time, with seams lapped. Fragments of Civil War era wallpaper exposed during General Services Administration (GSA) investigations were preserved beneath protective acrylic for visitors to view alongside the wallpapers replicated from these fragments.
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