The Wallpaper By Larry Lass

Friends of Cordelia replaced the 1883 wallpaper in the Spring of 2009. Cordelia’s oral history, depending upon who is telling it, suggests the wallpaper was ordered from Finland, or Sweden, or from England. The border was not the typical 4 to 6 inch high found in 1883, but supersized for a large auditorium or meeting room found in big city buildings. It took 10 rolls of plain blue paper and 100 feet of border to cover the walls. The original quantity of paper was small and may have been left over from another project, or sold as surplus paper at Shields’ hardware store. If paper came from Shields, that would explain his gift of $5.00 and why it was available for the 1948 restoration.

In 1991, when Friends of Cordelia started restoration of the building, the wallpaper was showing its age. Several tears and water marks made restoration necessary. The original paper was not archival rag and was falling apart and browning. The glue was wheat based and coming off the muslin liner. Large sections were coming loose. The wall corners had torn free because of repeated wall shrinking and swelling. Northern Flickers had pecked through the walls looking for nesting sites. Restoration efforts to prevent further wall leaning had damaged the paper. It was going to be a big job to replace and Friends of Cordelia were unsure of the long term status of the building and land.

South west corner showing damaged paper.

South east corner showing damaged paper.

Northern Flicker damage.

Wallpaper damage near rod.

Wallpaper replacement was a lengthy process which started in 2006 with a lot of research on the web, and reading. Larry Lass consulted with local historical preservationists and paper hangers. He found prior to the use of plaster walls and sheet rock, wallpaper was attached to the wood ship-lap walls using a muslin liner to prevent tearing and pulling free as the wood walls shrunk and swelled with the weather. The muslin was tacked to the wall on the edges, shrunk tight with warm water and sized with a glue paste. A liner paper was attached over the muslin, and the wallpaper was attached to the liner.

If you would like more information on historic wallpaper restoration, the online book by the National Park Service called History of Wallpaper Styles and Their Use was packed with good information. The project also relied on information and suggestions from Robert Kelley of Paper-Hangings.com. We are grateful for his words of wisdom. The muslin liner cloth was purchased from Rose Brand, a company specializing in flame retardant fabric, theatrical draperies and production supplies.

The liner paper came from Paper Hangings.com. The wallpaper paste came from Sherwin Williams in Moscow. In the spring of 2008, a section of the border pattern was removed by Wil Smiley, and Larry Lass sent it to Adelphi Paper Hangings of Sharon Springs, New York, a company specializing in reproducing historic wallpaper. They traced the color patterns of the border and the pattern was carved into 4 pear-wood blocks for printing. Historically pear wood was used for printing wall paper. It is easy to carve yet durable enough to allow printing. The new paper and ink are archival quality.

Friends of Cordelia trimmed 150 feet of border at their January 2009 meeting. Thank you to Doug and Diana Pals, Nancy Ruth Peterson, Neil Martin, Steve and Andrea Fountain, Terry Peterson, Connie DeWitt, Jeanette Johnston (also furnished cookies and rice pudding), Linda Edwards, Carol and Larry Lass for helping to cut out the wallpaper border.

Cutting the border with a hobby knife.

Neil Martin and Doug Pals

Jeanette Johnston

The cement facing covering the chimney brick was patched and the lath under the chimney was covered with muslin. Larry Lass started the process on March 19 and finished on April 9.

Damaged chimney.

Repaired chimney

The wood trim was labeled and removed from the windows, ceiling and wains coat on April 16.

Larry Lass removing trim.

Larry Lass removing more trim.

On April 18, the paper was removed by cutting 4 to 5 foot squares and pulling the muslin liner from the wall. It took about 30 minutes to remove the paper. Bird holes in the wall and broken wood were repaired and nails were added to help strengthen the walls. No writing was found behind the liner, and there were no additional tacks or tack holes, which suggested the paper we were removing was the original, installed in 1883. Closer examination of the border showed some areas where additional paper had been glued, suggesting the 1948 restoration had been a repair rather than a replacement.

Linda Edwards removing the old wallpaper.

Nancy Ruth Peterson and Neil Martin

Nancy Ruth Peterson tackles the last section of old wallpaper while Linda Edwards and Loreca Stauber look on.

Loreca Stauber and Nancy Ruth Peterson remove the last pieces of old wallpaper.

On April 18 and 19, the new muslin liner was installed by stapling the edges to the wall and trimming excess. We completed stapling the new muslin on the east and west walls on the 18th. On the 19th, the north and south walls were covered with muslin. The stapling of muslin on the east and west walls was quality checked on April 25 and the muslin was shrunk with hot water to tighten the cloth. Prior to complete drying, the cloth was sized with a 10% solution of glue and water colored with a blue dye to insure all areas were covered.

Stapling down muslin.

Steve Fountain showing his hand crossover technique while stapling down muslin.

Neil Martin checking alignment while Steve Fountain staples.

Loreca Stauber stapling muslin while Nancy Ruth Peterson checks alignment.

The stapling of the north and south walls was checked on April 25 prior to shrinking the muslin. Robert Kelley suggested we tack only the edges of the muslin, but in removing the old paper we found tacks scattered in a grid every 18 inches. Tacks were added to the new muslin using the same grid pattern.

Steve Fountain helping Larry Lass staple last piece of muslin on south wall.

Larry Lass using a tack hammer to add tacks at 12 to 18 inch intervals.

On April 26 the dilute glue was rolled onto unsized walls and seam edges were resized to insure coverage.

Cam Johnston shrinking the muslin with hot water.

Larry Lass rolling dilute glue to sized muslin.

Wil Smiley took over the final finishing process and papering. Wil covered the lower walls with paper and protected the pews. He covered the seams and tacks with a filler and primed the walls with a white paint.

Applying white paint to edges of muslin.

Liner paper up on South wall.

The blue-gray paper was cut to length and hung on the wall. The border was then attached. On Saturday, May 16 at 1:30, Wil finished the papering. We started to reattach the woodwork at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, May 17, was our first summer concert.

Blue paper hung on north wall.

Finished border on the front of church.

Linda Edwards nailing trim.

Neil Martin nailing trim around windows.

Special thank you to Doug and Diana Pals, Nancy Ruth Peterson, Neil Martin, Steve and Andrea Fountain, Terry Peterson, Connie DeWitt, Jeanette and Cam Johnston, Linda Edwards, Steve Fountain, Neil Martin, Loreca Stauber, Carol Lass, and Larry Lass for their long hours working on the project. Thank you to Wil Smiley for hanging the paper and the high quality of workmanship on the project.

New wallpaper installed.