Hamilton Grange Floorcloth Project
On September 17, 2011, the Hamilton Grange re-opened to the public. It had been closed for nearly five years, going through a move and an “extreme makeover” designed to make Alexander Hamilton’s* ‘Sweet Project’ look and feel as welcoming to us as it did to Hamilton and his family in 1802 when they moved in.
This is the most significant National Parks Service site in New York City.
This is the second move for the house; the first move occurred in 1889 across the street from the current site, loosing some architectural elements in the process. Now, located in Saint Nicolas Park, original details of the house such as the marvelous side porches have been restored to their 1802 form. These are accessed from a trio of floor level windows that can be walked through from the living room and dining room, which abut each porch. Another exceptional original detail is that the inside of the doors that access the living room and dining room from the entry halls are mirrored, reflecting the views outside the porches. In 1802, in the home’s original location, this view was the Harlem River on one side and the East River on the other.
In mid 2010, we were awarded the contract to make three floorcloths for the Grange - for the front and back entry hall and a side hall. The pattern is based on floorcloth remnant from the archive of the project’s architects and and is a version of a John Carwitham** pattern.
*Alexander Hamilton was the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, a Founding Father, and political philosopher.
**From John Carwitham’s 1739 publication, “Various Kinds of Floor Decorations.”
Here is a close up of our rendition of the pattern:
Here are a few photos of the floorcloths in production:
While we usually make “area rug” style floorcloths, that are hemmed and backed, the floorcloths for the Hamilton Grange are wall to wall. The two entry halls have an unusual arrowhead shape at each end, with angled doors leading into the dining and living rooms. We made the floorcloths in a rectangular shape, larger than the halls, so they could be positioned for pattern match, and cut to size on site when installed. Here are photos of the finished floorcloths.
The installation of the floorcloths, initially slated for early winter, took place in late June. Originally, local flooring installers were contracted to do the job, but for various reason we ended up performing the installations of the front and back entry hall ourselves, with assistance from Jeff, from the National Parks Service, while on a trip to New York. Jeff installed the side hall himself in late July.
Here are “before” photos of the front and back halls:
To the extent possible, the original floorboards have been used, and their position maintained. The floor, as no doubt it was originally, is somewhat uneven and pitched.
We used our heaviest grade canvas (#4 cotton duck, weighing 24 ounces per square yard) as the underlayment for the floorcloths. The canvas was laid in place and then stapled around the edges of the floor, and the excess was cut away. This was a somewhat tricky job, due to the fluting on the trim and the angles of the arrowhead end of the entry halls.
In order to fit the floorcloths, a template was painstakingly constructed of each hall by Jeff. The template was then placed on the rectangular floorcloth and the floorcloth was cut to exactly match the template.
If any clearance existed, the plan was to push the floorcloth under the baseboards, otherwise it was cut to the edge of the baseboard, so when it was initially placed in the hall, it wasnt a perfect fit.
At this point, the floorcloth was pushed into place and trimmed as needed. Once we had a good fit, it was glued to the edge of the underlayment to keep the edges from curling up over time.
For more information on Alexander Hamilton and the Grange, see the New York Times article on the reopening, published on September 15, 2011.
Update: On April 25th, 2012, we were awarded the the Lucy G Moses Preservation Award for our part in the Hamilton Grange preservation project!