Thursday, October 7, 2010

carving the past

Several months ago I wrote a little bit about my trip to Philadelphia ~ including tours of Bartram's Garden and Woodford. Well, I held back on telling you about a visit to one truly amazing place: Mount Pleasant. Built between 1762 and 1765, the mansion is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the United States. Its perch high above the banks of the Schuylkill River lends it a commanding presence, and its elegant interiors are a testament to the skills of an extraordinary colonial craftsman.

We had the great fortune to have been shown around Mount Pleasant by Chris Storb, a conservator for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a key player in the recent restoration and conservation of the house. As a master woodworker, Chris has been tasked with bringing the mansion's fine interior details back to life ~ repairing and recarving damaged and missing fragments, and in the case of one parlor frieze, completely recreating a piece. We were engrossed by Chris's description of his method and process. Using antique woodworking tools, he tries to capture the spirit of the 18th-century craftsman. Like any artist, each woodworker has his own "hand" and style of working. This makes restoring a piece very complicated, as any new elements need to be true to the look of the original. When we visited, Chris had just sketched out his design for the parlor frieze onto a board and was preparing to carve it. Below, you see the piece in process, and here you may see it finished!

Interested in learning more about Mount Pleasant and its restoration? Well, late last week I received an email from Chris to say that he had ventured into the world of blogging ~ In Proportion to the Trouble. His voice is a welcome one, and I look forward to following his adventures.

This one I think deserves a hearty huzzah!

(top image: mine; bottom images: Chris Storb)

P.S. You may also follow Chris's work at Mount Pleasant on flickr!


Blue said...

Beautiful piece of carving. Interesting that each craftsman has his own "hand" - obvious, when one thinks about it.

I shall bookmark his blog. I've already looked and will read more when home tonight. Thank you for the link.

pve design said...

I really need to illustrate Mount Pleasant and visit it too! I love Chris's work. There is something so therapeutic about carving and creating history.

Style Court said...

Yes, thanks for sharing! You know I love that display of tools.

home before dark said...

You had me at the tool lineup. Like Blue, I'll bookmark and return to read more. I'm headed outside to rebuild a stone wall. Not as many tools required, but still a reverberation of the past with each hit of the hammer and chisel.

ps: could we have a wedding countdown clock here so we well wishers can be "one in the moment" with you and the second toothbrush owner? My WV for today: blast!

The Down East Dilettante said...

ah, Mt. Pleasant--makes me weak at the knees---although my absolute favorite Fairmount Park house, stranded in the middle of the zoo, is the impossibly tiny 'Solitude' of the Penn family---

Wonderful post, and love the blog

Janet said...

I am so glad you are all enjoying this link. Chris's new blog is so full of thoughtful, interesting information about a wonderful house ~ I wish there were more like it out there.

hbd ~ hmmmm. . . let me think about this countdown idea! Could be fun. Perhaps we'll start with something on tuesday. All wedding, all week!

machinery said...


Thanks for spotlighting the new adventure and for all the kind comments here.


Laura Casey Interiors said...

That must have been a fantastic visit! So satisfying to hear all the behind-the-scene details.