Vice President, Media & Communications
One of the Most Richly Furnished Bedrooms in George Washington’s Home to Re-Open May 7
MOUNT VERNON, VA – The Chintz Room, formerly known as the Nelly Custis Bedchamber – a space that more than one-million visitors experience every year during their visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon– will re-open to the public after being closed for almost two years. Years of research and restoration work have led up to the space’s restored debut on May 7. In celebration of this important re-opening, please join two of Mount Vernon’s experts for free behind-the-scenes talks about the Chintz Room on May 7 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Auditorium.
“Right from its creation in 1758, the Chintz Room was the finest bedroom on the second floor,” said Mount Vernon senior vice president, Carol B. Cadou. “The careful research carried out by Historic Preservation and Collections staff is breathing new life into this space. This room will give visitors a real taste of the vibrancy of the late 18th century.”
Investigation of the room by Mount Vernon’s architecture team revealed evidence that radically changes our understanding and interpretation of this space. Forensic analysis uncovered evidence for early repairs to the east wall that trapped a small fragment of the room’s first wallpaper. This fragment is one of the earliest-preserved wallpapers in Virginia, and its blue chintz or floral pattern was an important piece of evidence for the reinterpretation of the room by Mount Vernon’s curators.
Since 1876, the space has been interpreted as the “Nelly Custis Room,” but documentary evidence shows that during the Washington’s lifetime the space was referred to as the “Chintz Room.” In elite homes, the show stopper in the bedchamber was the richly-patterned textile that draped the bedstead, and the textiles in the Washingtons’ Chintz Room would have been no exception.
Mount Vernon’s curatorial staff discovered that the bedhangings were most likely those purchased by Washington in Philadelphia in 1774, made by none other than Betsy Ross!
Few of the original furnishings for this space survive, but thanks to the first president’s detailed records, curators are able to furnish the bedchamber with period objects and reproductions similar in nature to what the Washingtons would have used. An original crib, given to Nelly Custis Lewis by Martha Washington in 1799, will return to the room.
In England, the term “Chintz Room” implied a specific and distinctive decorating scheme inspired by Asian decorative arts, particularly the exuberant designs of Indian textiles, known as chintzes. Chintz rooms reached their height of popularity in the 1760s-70s, making the Washingtons’ Chintz Room at the cutting edge of fashion at that time. In choosing to furnish this room as a Chintz Room, the Washingtons linked themselves with England’s fashionable elite. Only a few instances of Chintz Rooms in early America are known.
The room underwent several changes during the Washingtons’ residency, and would have received a fresh coat of paint and new wallpaper by 1799. Microscopic analysis of 20 layers of historic paint revealed that the last color chosen by the Washingtons was cream, a color meant to be secondary to a patterned wallpaper. The remarkable discovery of a second wallpaper fragment beneath the floor provided the curatorial team with a direction for the room’s green verditer reproduction wallpaper.
Mount Vernon visitors are able to view the Chintz Room on a Mansion tour beginning May 7. Mansion tours are included in estate admission. Timed tickets (no additional charge) are required to tour the Mansion. For more information, please visit mountvernon.org/chintzroom.