The Parlor

The parlor (or parlour) in 18th century homes was considered the best room in the home.  Think of it as a representation of the family's wealth. Upon the arrival of a guest through the front door, waiting for the master of the home would have taken place in this room.  A family would showcase their best furnishings, paintings and textiles here so as to flaunt their wealth at the guests. Of course, the room designation was taken to the extreme during the Victorian and Guilded ages with highly ornate decorations and considerably higher ceilings than our seven foot ones.  It would have also held reception for parties and major events such as weddings or funerals. Below is a portion of the floor plan found here. I have added bubbles representing photos taken recently showing the general appearance of the room's features as we've taken possession. The previous owner hired an interior decorator to "decorate" the home.  In this room, they painted over all the wood that had patina a dark green to match the wallpaper.

Photo 1.
Viewing west at the east facing interior wall.  The door leads to the former kitchen now the living room.  The center chimney is to the right in the photo, a more recently covered column is on the left.  

Photo 2.
Facing northeast, the formal fireplace is seen along with the wood paneling.  The doorway in the center just to the right of the fireplace is a closet.  To the far right is the entry and the cubby hole on the top left of the fireplace is a nook for possibly linen or dishware for guests.

A closer view of the cubby hole.  The dental molding seen atop of the paneling is a modern addition.
The cubby hole with the door open.
This image was taken from within the cubby hole showing how the paneling is attached.

Photo 3.
Viewing east at the west facing interior wall.

Photo 4.
Viewing southeast at the north facing interior wall.  Visible are two columns covered with boards.  Note the baseboard heating unit.  The area just under the window has major damage from water leakage.  I haven't yet gotten to it and I am scared to.  It's my personal belief that the wallpaper is holding the plaster wall together.

The door seen above leads to the outside.  When we were taking a tour of historic homes with our Realtor, we came across this room and our Realtor told us that it was referred to as a Coffin Door.  References are not easily found online but the name seems to be just.

As it were, in the 18th century, families of the recently deceased tended to their loved ones in preparing for a funeral.  This room, being one of the best in the home, would've held the viewing with the recently departed in their coffin surrounded by perfuming florals with lime no doubt near by.  After dressing the loved one in their best, at the completion of the viewing, the coffin was sealed and it was time to leave.  As one dares not stand an occupied coffin upright, the only form of egress for the coffin would've been horizontally.  The main entrance was a very tight turn to allow the passage of a horizontal coffin and thus was not possible.  A doorway was created allowing the ease of passage of a horizontal coffin directly into the parlor.  Hence the name, Coffin Door.

While having structural work done to our sill below the parlor, the crew discovered that the coffin door was more plural.  There are two doors that make it up; the exterior and interior.  The exterior was the actual door and the interior was taken off and used as the platform to carry the occupied coffin in and out as well as used as a table during the viewing.

Photo 5.
Viewing southwest at the north facing wall.  A better view of the coffin door.  A gap in the wallpaper can be seen below the window and just above the baseboard.  The plaster beneath the wallpaper has spalled and cracked the paper as the plaster is "pushing" its way out.

A closer view of the bulge in the wall.  The yellow discoloration is from the previous owner's attempts at sealing the wallpaper with rubber cement of course, discounting the fact that the plaster no longer is attached to the wall.

An additional view of the damaged area and bad repair.

Photo 6.
A closer view of the door seen in Photo 1 on the east facing wall.

Photo 7.
The fireplace.  Though this was a parlor, the fireplace had the arm to cook off of as well as a baking oven.  Being the best room in the house, the lintel over the fireplace was hand carved.  No other fireplace had this level of decoration.

A closeup of the carving over the fireplace.

Photo 8.
The closet door to the right of the fireplace.

Detail of the hinge of the closet door.  The screws used on the left half of the hinge are more modern than the nails on the right.  

Here is an overall view of the parlor room's floor.  Since this was the best room, and from the reference book mentioned in a previous post (Antique Houses: Their Construction and Restoration), I am assuming the floor boards are of pine at this time.

The nails used are long, hammered through the board and bent to secure the nail from popping out.

An overall view of the ceiling.  Made of plaster, one can see the waves created by the lath structure above.  Seams running vertical in this photo I suspect are the location of the beams for the second floor.  It would make sense to have a plaster ceiling in the parlor.  The room needs to be dressed up for any formal occasion.  Other rooms have a mixture of plaster and drywall.  I suspect that those rooms may have been done at a later date and previous owners placed drywall as a way to formalize another room.

If you have not seen enough of the wallpaper, here is a view of it up close.  Just in case you wanted to create a desktop image on your computer: