Cleaning House – Behind the Scenes Slideshow

The January clean is complete! Tudor Place re-opens for tours on February 2, at 10:00 a.m. Here is a slideshow of photos taken during the clean…

We’re Cleaning House! (Part I)

Every January Tudor Place is closed to the public for the entire month. It may seem quiet on the outside, but the inside is buzzing with activity! Right now our Collections and Conservation staff is doing an extra thorough clean and assessment of the historic house and objects on display. The rugs are pulled up, furniture is pulled out, ladders are climbed to reach the highest parts of the ceilings and light fixtures, etc. Basically, it is our version of “spring cleaning.”

This year we thought it would be fun to share some of the projects that are going on inside the house while the gates are closed….
Cleaning the Historic Marble in the Foyer:
Director of Architectural Conservation, Cynthia Silva explains how she is cleaning the historic marble floors…. “After testing a number of surfactants the most effective product was chosen to complete the cleaning of the marble vestibule floor, this was a pH neutral gel formulated to remove soiling from marble and limestone. In order to better control the cleaning, a work area approximately 3×8 feet was taped off, the marble was then dampened with a sponge and an even thickness of gel cleaner was applied to the marble. Because the gel required a dwell time of 30 minutes to achieve the desired result, plastic sheeting was placed over top the work area to prevent drying. After 30 minutes, the surface was agitated with a soft bristled brush to help loosen and lift the now softened dirt and grime. The floor was then sponged with clean water to completely remove the product. Once all sections of the floor are completed the marble will be assessed for any additional spot treatments required to minimize the appearance of stubborn stains.”


The below photo shows the contrast between the gel-treated edges and the center of the floor pre-treatment…

Next:  Taking apart the Drawing Room….

There’s no place like (a historic) home for the holidays!

Home for the Holidays: Celebrate the Season at Tudor Place!

Once again Tudor Place has decked the halls this holiday season.

This year there is a 1930’s theme. In 1932 the Peters came home for a family Christmas. Owner Armistead Peter, Jr. was joined by his son and daughter-in-law, Armistead Peter 3rd and Caroline, their daughter Anne, and Caroline’s mother Suzanne Bartlett. The house will be decorated with historic Christmas decorations they may have used in their celebration of the holiday.


No 20th century Christmas would be complete without a Christmas tree in the corner of a room, but that doesn’t mean chopping down a real one! All the trees on display will all be artificial, but that is still historically accurate. First produced in Germany, but later in the U.S.A., artificial trees were already popular by the early twentieth century. In the 1890s, German trees made from green-dyed goose feathers attached to wire branches wrapped around a wooden dowel trunk were in fashion. The first American-made feather trees were sold in 1913 through the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog. They did not shed needles like real trees and they could be used for years. One of the highlights of the holiday display in the Parlour will be a c.1910 feather tree from Germany decorated with original ornaments. The Tudor Place tree will be hung with an unusual assortment of period ornaments including two goldfish, a bucket, two owls, a seal, a frog, an ostrich, a stork, a turkey, a wild boar and a pig. Come for a tour or a holiday program and see if you can find them all!

This holiday season we are offering Wreath making, Gingerbread Workshops, Chocolate tasting & teas, and more!  Go to for schedules and to find out how to register.


Other Historic Houses that are “dressed up” for the holidays:
Woodrow Wilson House -1920’s theme –

Sugar Shakers and Handkerchief Holders: A Collection of Unusual Silver

We have a new exhibition in the visitor center! Tudor Place has one of the finest domestic silver collections in the country.  Within that collection are 24-piece sets of flatware, impressive tureens and serving dishes, tea and coffee services and bonbon dishes galore!

The collection also contains many unusual and rare objects that are little used, if even recognized today. The new exhibition in the Visitor Center highlights a selection of these fascinating items. Whether you wish to hold your handkerchief,  lift sardines from a can or fasten your button in style, this exhibition has the perfect instrument for the task.

The exibition will be up through December 31, 2009.  Below are some highlights:

1. Bonbon Server
Silver; Gorham, Providence, RI; c.1900
This ‘giant spoon’ form was inspired by the
heavily ornamented ‘Dutch’ silver of the
turn-of-the-century. The intricate scenic decoration
was stamped of thin sheets of silver making
‘Dutch’ silver very inexpensive.

17. Candlesnuffer
Silver Plate; French; 1826-1850
The open scissors are placed either side of a
candle wick and then closed.
The flat section pushes the wick into the box,
extinguishing the flame.


24. Angel food cake cutter or breaker
Silver and base metal; American; c. 1910

Found in the Attic V: Just in time for the PGA Tour Championship

Tees from the 1920’s! Slightly different than the golf tees of today, apparently these tees will help you win championships (or so the Walter Hagan box says). The Reddy Tee box even goes as far as to give you 12 reasons (see below) to use their tees. While I doubt either one of these tees have the magical powers necessary to improve my game, Mr. Armistead Peter 3rd must have believed in them – at least enough to save them for future generations.

Although golfers were making their own tees for years, The Reddy Tee was the first commercially marketed tee.  Prior to tees golfers would make piles of dirt or sand to elevate the ball.


Tee, Golf; Box and Contents

Paper, celluloid; Nieblo MFG. Co., Inc; New York, USA; c. 1924

Box top – “The NIEBLO MFG. CO., Inc./ 38 EAST 23rd ST./ NEW YORK CITY”

U.S. Patented. May 13, 1924 – June 16, 1925 – Canada Patented – 1924/ Great Britain No. 220,866 — Other Patents Pending.


Box back – “Twelve Reasons for The Reddy Tee

1. Less resistance – lengthens drive.
2. No sand on hands or grips.
3. Invisible tee – No mental hazard.
4. Tee to height you like best.
5. Sanitary! No sandbox required.

6. Clean hands – Clean clothes.
7. No lost time – Always Reddy.
8. White Celluloid.
9. No wet sand to chap hands.

10. Keeps sand off Tees.

11. Great service – Small cost.
12. Improves poor drive –
Makes good drive better.



Tee, Golf; Box and contents

Paper, celluloid; L.A. Young Company; Detroit, US; c. 1927-1942

Box proper right side – “Bring a new joy to your game – / SHOOT THE HAGEN BALL/ FROM A HAGEN TEE”

Box proper left side -“The British Open and American Profes-/sional Championships were won by/ Walter Hagen with Walter Hagen clubs/ and balls./ TRY THEM.”


Box back – “KEEP YOUR EYE/ on the/ HAGEN/BALL” Images of a golf club head lining up to a tee and ball – in a box below images: “The Hagen ball bears my name/ because it is built to my specifi-/cations and I play it exclusively./ It has every quality that a cham-/pionship golf ball should have. I/ won the British Open, P.G.A.,/ and other major championships/ with it and know that its per-/formance cannot be excelled. I/ know you’ll like it.” Signature: “Walter Hagen”

In the Garden: Groundnut – It’s what’s for dinner.

Groundnut Apios americana, twinning vine, herbaceous, tuberous roots used as food by the American Indians. Native to North America, purple pea flowers are fragrant in late summer. The raw roots are edible but tough with a milky juice and a pleasantly sweet turnip-like taste. The roots may also be eaten roasted or fried. It’s blooming on the South Lawn by the Japanese Tea House right now!


According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Biology Department:


“Early European explorers and colonists of North America often depended upon the groundnut for their survival. In the 1580s, colonists of Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina (the famous “Lost Colony” and the home of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World) sent samples of Apios to Queen Elizabeth I. In 1607, Captain John Smith of Jamestown (Virginia), wrote of the utility of this plant. The Pilgrims of Plymouth (Massachusetts) (1623) survived on groundnut when their corn supply was exhausted.”

More interesting info about the Groundnut here.

Found in the Attic – Part IV: Back to School… in 1898

Just in time for the “back to school” season we catalogued this unique pencil box from 1898! The pencil box is made of tin and ceramic and was found containing 20 ceramic pointed sticks (not writing utensils – we think they were for some type of game).

Upon closer examination, we could see it was more than just an ordinary pencil holder. The bottom half has a diagonal band and circular cutouts to display multiplication “answers” from aligning numbers on the central and bottom cylinder. A 4 inch/ 10 meter ruler runs the length of the bottom piece, and the lid has images of a female teacher and male students; one writing a multiplication problem on the chalkboard (no doubt getting help from his handy pencil box). Forget the abacus – any late 19th century child would be ready for straight A’s with this versatile school supply!

Tin, ceramic; S.A. Ilsley & Co.; Brooklyn, NY; USA; c. 1898 Marks: top & bottom ends – “Pedagogue/ Pencil Box”; near bottom – “PATENTED NOV. 1st, 1898”; bottom cylinder near seam – “S.A. ILSLEY & CO., BROOKLYN, N.Y.”Inside – .02-.21 – L – 14.8 cm.


History in Bloom

A gift that keeps on giving- – This Flamingo Plant (a.k.a Justicia carnea or Jacobinia carnea) was given to Britannia Peter in the mid to late 1800’s by an “admirer.” It still flowers and is blooming right now by the garage!

Found in the Attic – Part II: Music and Medicine

Late 19th Century Harmonica, with Box
A large F scale harmonica with 24 holes in excellent condition! The wooden core is flanked by metal on both sides, which is attached by screws and nuts on each end. There are fingerprints on the metal which may be from any number of Peter family musicians, but are more likely from an earlier collection exploration by the foundation.

Materials: Metal, brass, wood, textiles, paper;
From: Ands Koch; Germany

19th Century Scarificator
Brass 12-blade octagonal scarificator used for bloodletting practices. The device has a large lever on top to cock the steel blades and the side knob releases the spring-loaded rotary lancets to make shallow cuts on the patient. The top knob adjusts the cutting depth of the blades. The blades are grouped into two pairs of 6 blades, which alternate from left to right and overlap in the center. The scarificator measures approximately 3.5 cm high, excluding the lever and height adjustment knob.
The leather-covered wooden box is lined with burgundy velvet. A brass hook on the main portion of the box swings to catch in an eye attached to the top lid.
The scarificator is stained with possible smudged fingerprints. The lances are caked with an unknown substance and are beginning to show signs of corrosion.

Materials: Brass, steel, wood, leather, velvet
From: Unknown manufacturer

Found in the Attic!

While cataloguing boxes of objects stored in the attic, Collections Assistant, Joni Joseph made some interesting finds:

Buttons from 1800!
These three porcelain buttons c. 1800, are hand painted with images of a classical female profile. Our resident Jeweler y expert believes they would have originally on a man’s waistcoat, though they were found in a box of women’s objects. Further research is necessary to find out who they belonged to and how they got to Tudor Place…


Presidential Memorabilia!
The metamorphosis card is much like the current Scanimation craze in children’s books. We assume it is a political collectible since Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Taft ran for the presidency in 1912. Measurements: L – 12.5 cm, W – 7.6 cm; not terribly large – about the size of a postcard. The lined transparency was probably attached to a tab of some sort that extended through the half-moon cutout allowing the viewer to move it back and forth. This portion is missing. The lines really need to be in the correct spot to reveal the changing images.


Check back for more discoveries as the cataloguing continues…