Fairfax Family Ledger
This ledger contains the financial records of William and George William Fairfax. Including the furniture acquisitions that George…
The front parlor was a site of formal entertainment, featuring fine furnishings and architectural elements. More than thirty years have passed since the room was last completely restored. New forensic analysis of the architecture and significant documentary discoveries have combined to reveal more about the appearance and evolution of the room than was previously known.
The rediscovery of a ledger kept by the Fairfax family of Belvoir plantation provided documentary evidence of the original furniture in the room, furniture that was purchased in London and given by George William Fairfax to his close friend George Washington. While none of the original pieces survives, the curatorial team worked to replicate the Fairfax-Washington furniture based on comparable period examples. The original upholstery fabric—a highlight of the room—is documented as being a silk and worsted wool damask dyed “Saxon blue,” a bright and vibrant color that curators worked to replicate.
The last comprehensive conservation of the room’s paneling occurred more than half a century ago, and the current work addressed problems identified in recent years. Earlier restoration efforts used techniques that prevent the paneling system from expanding and contracting in response to natural seasonal changes in humidity. They also obscured small details of moldings that made the room a showpiece.
During the course of the work, the architecture team removed several panels for conservation, thereby providing access to the earlier architectural features predating the current paneling (installed between 1757 and the early 1760s). In addition, the architecture team reanalyzed the previous generation of paint analysis and determined that the room was painted a cream color during George Washington’s life rather than the current blue. At the conclusion of this project, the room was repainted cream using hand-ground pigments replicating the original. The architecture team also addressed needed repairs to the ceiling and windows, as well as conserve the mantel, overmantel, hearth, and floors.
The restoration of the Front Parlor was made possible through the generous support of The Founders, Washington Committee for Historic Mount Vernon; the Dr. Scholl Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. James S. Reibel; the Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; Richard and Susan Ammerman; Mr. Paul Neely; Mr. Harold B. Smith; and hundreds of donors from across the country.