After more than two years of intense forensic investigations, documentary and material culture research, conservation, and restoration, one of Mount Vernon’s major bedchambers, the Chintz Room, is now on view.
The restoration of the Chintz Room was a collaborative effort, in which Mount Vernon staff consulted with more than 40 museum curators, conservators, and professional craftsmen to accurately interpret the full body of evidence for this space. In the process — even as we sought to accurately reflect the room’s use and purpose in 1799 — we discovered more about the early history of the mansion, Revolutionary legends, and eighteenth-century fads, than we ever anticipated.
Naming the Room
Understanding how the Washingtons and their household knew and used this room began with identifying the name they gave it. A diligent search of George and Martha Washington’s papers revealed that they rarely referred to any of the second-floor bedchambers by name, but three key documents offered three different names for this space. A 1796 memo written by Washington’s farm manager, William Pearce, while the family was living in Philadelphia, described it simply but precisely as the “the room over the small dining room.” The inventory taken after George Washington’s death in 1800 listed it as the “Fourth Room” encountered by the appraisers on that floor. But the inventory taken after Martha Washington’s death in 1802 provided a more descriptive sobriquet, calling it the “Chintz Room.”
Although this inventory was taken two years after George Washington’s death, knowing that the contents of each room in the house remained almost identical to the 1800 inventory, and that the appraisers of the 1802 inventory were family members and close friends, both suggested that “Chintz Room” would have been a name used by the Washingtons during their lifetimes.