Historic Zuber Wallpaper Conservation Project Underway at The Carolina Inn
Scenic French wallpaper also at White House, Greenbrier Resort and Mint Museum
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (August 4, 2008) - The Carolina Inn will begin a two-week conservation project to restore its scenic wallpaper, "Vues d'Amérique du Nord," or "Scenes of North America," that was first printed in 1834 by the French Company Zuber et Cie, and originally installed at the historic hotel in 1946. The public is invited to watch the work in progress from August 4 through August 15.
Popular since it was first introduced in 1834 and still produced today using the original printing blocks, the wallpaper is based on prints of five early American scenes, including the port of Boston, the bay of New York, a military review at West Point, Natural Bridge in Virginia, and Niagara Falls. Production of the five complete scenes, totaling 32 panels, requires 1,690 wood blocks and 223 different colors. As a result the wallpaper was (and remains) very expensive to make. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the wallpaper has been hung in elegant homes and hotels, especially in the South. Today it can been seen in the Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House, the Louisiana Governor's Mansion, the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and the Mint Museum in Charlotte.
The Carolina Inn's scenic wallpaper and the famous black-and-white checkerboard terrazzo floor in the original 1924 ballroom (now called the Old Well Room) are the only architectural elements that remain of the extensive remodeling done by well-known interior designer Otto Zenke in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
For many years a rumor has persisted that First Lady Jacquelyn Kennedy tried to buy the wallpaper from the Carolina Inn to use in the White House. Though Mrs. Kennedy did spend $12,500 - an enormous sum of money in 1961 - to remove a set of Zuber panels from an historic house in Maryland and install it in the Diplomatic Reception Room, no attempt was made to buy the Inn's panels. In fact, the first lady never visited Chapel Hill, though President John F. Kennedy did give a speech on the University of North Carolina campus in October of 1961, which may have led to the creation of the myth.
When the wallpaper was first installed in 1946, the hallway in which it hung led from the Carriage Porch on the east side of the building to the original 1924 lobby. The hall was only large enough to accommodate three of the five scenes (the port of Boston, Natural Bridge in Virginia, and Niagara Falls). In 1970 the lobby was moved to its present location on the west side of the Inn, and today the Carriage Porch hallway leads to the Carolina Crossroads Restaurant and Bar. Over the years the wallpaper has been exposed to all sorts of changing conditions, including heavy cigarette smoke from the 1950s to 1980s, being left uncovered during two major renovations of the Inn, and previous attempts at cleaning.
As part of an effort by the University to maintain the historical integrity of the Carolina Inn, Etherington Conservation Services in Browns Summit, N.C., was selected to undertake a museum quality conservation and restoration of the Zuber wallpaper. The work, which will be done on site from August 4 to August 15, will include cleaning and stabilizing the surface, in-painting the areas of loss, and restoring the original rich blue hues to the now-faded sky.
The Carolina Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America. It is one of only four historic hotels in North Carolina built before 1925 and still in operation.
"Even with its elegance and renowned service, the Inn is far more than an ordinary four-diamond hotel," says Dr. Kenneth Zogry, the Inn's historian and author of The University's Living Room, A History of the Carolina Inn. "It is an important site in the history of the University and the state, and it is gratifying to see that it is being cared for and preserved for future generations to enjoy."
Once the conservation and restoration are completed, a protective rail will be installed to prevent contact with the wallpaper. Information placards will also be installed to identify the historic significance of the wallpaper and enhance the guest's appreciation of the artifact.
About The Carolina Inn
Recognized as one of America's "cultural resources worthy of preservation," The Carolina Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with elite status as a AAA Four Diamond Award Hotel and Mobil Four Star Award-Winning Dining at the Carolina Crossroads Restaurant. From the day it opened in 1924, the 184-room Inn has played an important role in the life of the University of North Carolina and the Chapel Hill community. And it has long been one of the most popular sites in North Carolina for special events, weddings, business meetings, and academic conferences with over 13,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space. In addition to having a rich cultural history, The Carolina Inn is architecturally significant, blending elements of antebellum Southern plantation houses with Georgian and neoclassical features often found in the Northeast. The original front of the building was modeled after the Potomac River front of Mt. Vernon. The Carolina Inn is one of more than 30 independent, upscale and luxury hotels, resorts and golf clubs in the United States managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts, the fourth largest independent hospitality management company in the country. www.carolinainn.com