19th Century Saratoga Springs Rooms Refurbished at Brooklyn Museum

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Milligan House Parlor. Courtesy of the Brooklyn MuseumThe Parlor and Library of the Colonel Robert J. Milligan House of Saratoga Springs, New York, have been conserved and refurbished for the first time since the two rooms were installed in the Brooklyn Museum in 1953 as a part of a group of late nineteenth-century American period rooms.

In addition to repainting the rooms and laying bold tartan carpeting on the Library’s previously bare wood floors, the Museum has restored and installed the Parlor’s original chandelier and decorated the rooms with a select group of recently acquired objects and several furnishings original to the rooms but not previously on view in Brooklyn. The two rooms have been on public view throughout their facelift, which was completed on March 28, 2014.

The house from which the rooms come was built by Robert J. Milligan in 1854-56 and is still standing in Saratoga Springs. The rooms illustrate two of the diverse revival styles popular in interior decoration in mid-nineteenth century America: in the Parlor, the Louis XV Revival style, first developed in mid-eighteenth-century France and emphasizing curvilinear silhouettes and the realistic depiction of nature; and, in the Library, the Gothic Revival style.

The walls of the Parlor, painted gray since first installed, now sport a reproduced nineteenth-century French wallpaper and Rococo Revival lace curtains of a similar design. The previously bare walls of the Library are now covered with an ashlar faux stone design that contrasts with the colorful Scottish tartan design of the carpet. Popular interest in tartan patterns was inspired by Queen Victoria’s refurbishment of Balmoral Castle in Scotland in the 1850s.

The Parlor was first installed with a modern re-creation of a Rococo Revival chandelier, but it has now been replaced with the original chandelier by Cornelius and Baker of Philadelphia, thanks to the discovery of an exact period duplicate of the chandelier’s long-missing central female figural group. To reflect changing ideas about children during the late nineteenth century, a rare child’s chair by John Henry Belter has also been added to the Parlor. In the Library, a pair of mismatched walnut Gothic side chairs and a rare marble top center table with cast iron bull’s legs have been added.

The Milligan Parlor and Library were a 1940 purchase that included much of their original furniture and objects, along with many of the bills of sale for the furnishings of the house. The latter provide unique and important documentation about the makers of the contents of the rooms.

Period rooms were first installed at the Brooklyn Museum in 1929 and have been augmented over the years. They consist of seventeenth-, eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early twentieth-century rooms, all from homes in the Eastern United States, ranging from two Dutch farmhouses  from Brooklyn to a lavish twentieth-century Art Deco library-study from a Manhattan apartment. The Brooklyn Museum was a pioneer in the presentation of period rooms, which continues to be an important focus of the decorative arts collection.

The refurbishment of these rooms was organized by Barry R. Harwood, Ph. D., Curator of Decorative Arts. It has been made possible with support from the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation.

Keep up to date on Brooklyn Museum news @bklynmuseumnews

Photo: Milligan House Parlor. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum (provided).

2 thoughts on “19th Century Saratoga Springs Rooms Refurbished at Brooklyn Museum

  1. Stacy Pomeroy Draper

    Not only are the Milligan Parlor and Library originally from the Capital District, but some of the furniture is also connected here. The Louis XV Revival parlor suite was made for the Milligan’s by Elijah Galusha, cabinetmaker in Troy, NY and is documented by bills, unusual for Galusha who rarely marked or labeled his work. The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy has the largest collection of Galusha’s work, much of it documented by bills and receipts in the Hart Family Papers. Betsey A. Hart and her husband Richard P. Hart were the builders of the RCHS historic house, now known as the Hart-Cluett House, where many of these pieces are on view. Over 60 documents related to purchases Mrs. Hart made from Galusha’s shop help to fill out the picture of this important 19th century American furniture maker’s work. The house is open for tours the second Saturday of each month or by appointment. The book, The Marble House in Second Street, Biography of a Town House and Its Occupants, 1825-2000, provides additional information on the house and its furnishings. For further information, please contact Stacy Pomeroy Draper, Curator, RCHS or visit the RCHS website at http://www.rchsonline.org

  2. Stacy Pomeroy Draper

    An additional update – The next Saturday house tour on April 12th is focused on Galusha’s work. See below for information. Reservations may be left at 518-272-7232 x12 or spdraper@rchsonline.org
    Marble House Tour – Collection Focus
    Saturday, April 12, 2:00 pm
    $10 per person, $5 RCHS members
    This tour of the Hart-Cluett House focuses on the construction and decorative techniques of furniture made by Elijah Galusha, a well-known 19th century Troy furniture-maker, by looking at examples of his work in the Hart-Cluett House. Reservations encouraged.


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