The Georgia Suite at Anderson House has been through a number of reincarnations since Lars and Isabel Anderson moved into the house in the spring of 1905 and made it their winter residence. When the Andersons lived in the house, Lars used the Georgia Suite as his private study which he called the “Cypress Den” after its cypress walls and woodwork.
After Washington’s social season was over around Easter, the Andersons would close up Anderson House and return to one of their other homes. During the course of the year, Lars would periodically return to Anderson House without Isabelle. When he returned without her, since the house was closed up, with sheets covering most of the furniture, he would stay in the “Cypress Den” and sleep in the small bedroom on the mezzanine level which connected to the area where the current Night Manager of Anderson House has an apartment rather than staying in his bedroom which was where the Virginia Suite is currently located.
After Lars died in 1937, Isabel oversaw the gift of Anderson House and its contents to the Society of the Cincinnati. In 1939, Anderson House, with virtually no permanent staff, opened to the public as a historic house museum. During World War II the United States Navy occupied Anderson House, put all the furnishings into storage, and used the house for offices.
After the war, Anderson House was once again open to the public. The Cypress Den was used as the office of the Building Superintendent. A fire alarm control panel was installed in the cypress paneling just inside the door of the suite. The panel remained there, long since abandoned, until the recent renovation.
In the mid 1980s the Georgia Society took over the Cypress Den and named it the “Georgia Cantonment”. It was initially furnished with a hodgepodge of scrounged items. In 1989 – 1990, under the leadership of Georgia Society President Arnold Barrett and his wife Marquin and General Ward LeHardy and his wife Judy the Georgia Society undertook a proper furnishing of the Georgia Suite and the small mezzanine bedroom.
In 1994 the library at Anderson House underwent a major renovation. The library staff needed a place to work. The furnishings in the Georgia Suite were put into storage and the library staff moved in with a very limited number of books and documents. They worked in the Georgia Suite for the next two years. In 1996 the library renovation was complete and the Georgia Suite was set back up.
By 2015 the Georgia Suite was showing its age. The furnishings were faded and worn. The Persian carpet in the suite was dark which, combined with the cypress paneling and no drapes, contributed to the dark, heavy look of the room. The cypress woodwork had dried out and in many places was bleached out from the sun. All of the woodwork in the suite, including the floors, badly needed to be finished.
Georgia Society President Robert “Bob” Davidson, Sr. took on the challenge. Under Bob’s leadership and later under President, Vincent Martin III, the Georgia Society raised over $85,000 to renovate the Georgia Suite. The General Society provided the funds for the restoration of the woodwork. Georgia Society Vice President, Terry Honan, a retired engineering and construction executive, and his wife Claire Honan, an interior designer, agreed to manage and execute the renovation; a project that took over two years. Terry managed the construction aspects, coordinated with the General Society and handled cost control while Claire selected all the furnishings. Claire, through her business connections, was able to purchase all of the furnishings at wholesale resulting in a very substantial cost savings.
David Logan’s Vintage Buildings, Inc. of Winchester, Virginia, that had done other restoration work in Anderson House, was contracted by the General Society to restore the woodwork in the Georgia Suite. David and his team of craftsmen, refinished the cypress walls, trim, floors, repaired the shutters and made them operable again, rebuilt the area at the suite entrance removing the small closet and added matching wainscoting, removed the carpet from the stairs going to the mezzanine and refinished the stair treads, fabricated and installed a period appropriate handrail on the stairs and installed a cypress door and frame at the mezzanine closet which had no door.
There were a number of electrical issues in the suite. The lighting was insufficient and the fixtures, where they did exist, were not appropriate for Anderson House. There was not a ceiling light at the bottom of the stairs nor above the stairs going up to the mezzanine bedroom. A ceiling fixture was added in the entrance, a hanging lantern was added over the stairs with switches for it installed at the top and bottom of the stairs, new wall sconces were added in the bathroom and in the mezzanine, a new ceiling light was installed in the bathroom, receptacles and switches were relocated and the surface mounted conduit was removed and replaced with wiring in conduit embedded in the plaster.
Since the main suite had not been designed to be a bedroom, creating a furniture layout was difficult due to the four large windows and the location of the fireplace. If the bed were located against the front wall, there would have been two small spaces on either side of the bed, neither of which would have been large enough to make a good seating area. Keeping the bed on the end wall meant that the bed was in front of a window which was not aesthetically pleasing.
The solution to the window behind the bed was to build a ten foot high, eight foot wide, five panel, screen that would cover the window. A local Georgia artist was contracted to paint a scene of coastal Georgia on the panels. Terry built the panels out of mahogany paneling and delivered them to the artist in north Georgia. However, shortly after starting the mural, the artist had a series of health issues and had to give up the project.
Since the mural was to be a focal point of the room, the loss of the artist was a significant setback but one that ultimately proved to be quite fortuitous. After a lot of searching for a solution, Claire proposed to install a Zuber wallpaper Revolutionary War scene, “The Capitulation of Cornwallis at Yorktown” on the panels.
Zuber wallpaper is world famous for its woodblock, hand printed wallpaper. After several months of discussions with the Zuber office in New York and lots of number crunching to see if the Georgia Society’s budget could stand the $22,000 price tag of the finished product, everyone agreed that the Zuber scene would be a stunning addition to the Georgia Suite and that it should be included.
In addition to the challenge of paying for the Zuber, another challenge was mounting the eighty square foot screen behind the bed. To avoid having fasteners in the cypress walls or the visible portion of the window frame, a wooden frame sitting on the floor was built to support the bottom of the panels and an eight foot bracket was built and supported off the top of the window casing to support the top of the screen. Similar wooden brackets were built and installed on the top of the window casing to which curtain rods were attached resulting in no fasteners in the cypress walls for the curtain rods. Terry built everything in Alabama and drove it and the silk drapes in a rental truck from Alabama to Anderson House. A contractor, Bobby Wright, flew up from Alabama and spent several days helping Terry assemble and install the screen and hang the fourteen foot long, silk drapes.
The Georgia Society contracted with John Nalewaja and Jim Francis of the Scenic Wallpaper Co. in New York to hang the Zuber. They have been installing and restoring scenic wallpaper for more than thirty years. The installation is a tribute to the skill of their installers.
The wallpaper was manufactured in Rixhein, Alsace, France by Zuber & Cie. Zuber, which was founded in 1797, is the last company in the world to produce woodblock, hand printed wallpaper.
In 1834, Zuber first produced the “Views of North America”. The 32 panels show views of New York Bay, Boston Harbor, West Point and the natural bridge of Virginia. Jacqueline Kennedy had the “Views of North America” installed in the round diplomatic reception room, the first room she restored in the White House in 1961.
In 1852, Jean Zuber took advantage of a nationalist wave sweeping the United States and republished “Views of North America” as “The War of American Independence”. He added foreground figures from the American Revolution to each of the scenes. West Point became the “Capitulation of General Cornwallis at Yorktown”. The peaceful scene at West Point was transformed into a battlefield and Yorktown had mountains.
The scene in the Georgia Suite was hand printed using the original, 1834 and 1852 hand carved, pear wood blocks. It took two people several weeks to organize the 1,690 pear wood blocks required to hand-print each panorama. Next, it took four people a month to hand brush a base dégradé surface – the rich graduated color background characteristic of a Zuber mural. After that, it’s was balletic rhythm of building layer upon layer of overlapping designs and colors, 2,030 unique paint formulas, mixed from formulas which are as old as the woodblocks. Eight months later, the panorama was complete and shipped from France to Anderson House.
The Zuber collection of over 150,000 hand carved wood blocks, which were made between 1797 and 1852, when the company employed 50 in-house woodcarvers, has been declared a French Historic Monument. Once a block is worn out it is retired, along with its design. Zuber wallpaper was so respected that King Louis Philippe honored the company’s founder, Jean Zuber, with the Legion of Honor.
With the selection of the Zuber, attention turned to the selection of carpet, drapes, furniture, linens and accessories. After several buying trips to Atlanta and looking at over a thousand fabric samples and hundreds of paint colors, the color scheme was settled upon. A large Persian carpet was purchased, drapery fabric was selected, purchased and shipped to the seamstress to be made into beautiful fourteen foot long silk drapes and valances, the fabric for chairs and a sofa was purchased and shipped to the manufacturer, and material was purchased and sent to the seamstress to be made into bedding.
A tall Edwards & Roberts linen press which holds a large screen television, an English mahogany silver table, a English Georgian bachelors chest, an English antique parquet tea table, antique bedside tables, a new king size bed and end tables were purchased. The queen size bed that had been in the main suite was modified to reduce the height of the mattress and it was moved into the mezzanine bedroom.
An armoire was built for the bathroom to provide a place for ladies to hang their long dresses and a small marble top cabinet was also built for the bathroom. Lamps, art and accessories were purchased. Georgia artist, Jo Farris, was commissioned to paint a picture of the Georgia Society’s headquarters in Savannah, the Harper Fowlkes house.
Claire Honan painted and donated a still life painting featuring a Cincinnati Eagle. Georgia Society member, Jan Burroughs, made two silk embroidered pillows featuring the Society crest. Ellen Clark provided books from the Anderson House library and past Georgia Society President, Peter Wright, donated books from his library to fill the book shelves on the mezzanine balcony. The staff at Anderson house, especially Joseph Wong, Katherine Hill and Jack Warren provided invaluable assistance throughout the project. The restoration would not have been possible without the generous donations of the forty-nine Georgia Society members and the families of deceased members who gave the funds for the project.
October 26, 2017 was a hectic day. Flowers were purchased and arranged, champagne was iced down and numerous last minute details in the suite were ironed out. The General Society was having its fall meeting and the Georgia Suite was finally complete and being shown off for the first time. The members and their wives at cocktail party that was taking place in the second floor gallery of Anderson House made their way into the Georgia Suite to see the restoration.
The project that had started two years before was complete. The Cypress Den, the Naval offices, the Superintendent’s office, the Georgia Cantonment, the temporary library, the Georgia Suite has been reincarnated once again.