The American Empire Dining Room
The American Empire furniture, influenced by designs of the French Empire, became grander, larger and heavier. Fitted (wall-to-wall) carpet was in vogue and this carpet is reproduced from a fragment of a carpet of the period. It shows how strips of carpet were sown together to form a fitted carpet.
Wallpaper was very popular at this time. This is a reproduction of a hand-blocked design of the period. The curtain treatment is a simplified copy of one published in advertisements of the New York cabinetmaker, Joseph Meeks.
Notice the hanging rail around the top of the room. This was used to hang the heavy mirrors and pictures that were so popular at this time without having to damage or put nail holes in the plaster walls
The coal stove has a definite French design but is topped with the American eagle, which shows the rampant patriotism of that day. The fireplace surround is actually slate that has been faux marbleized. Candlelight was still the most common form of lighting as can be noticed by the chandelier that is pressed tin. Whale oil lighting is beginning to have a major influence.
The marble-top serving table between the windows is typical of the kind of piece the Meeks shop produced. It fits into the popular pillar and scroll (or swirl) design of the day. Be sure to note the "petticoat mirror" at the bottom of the server.
The dining table is a New Hope piece also in the pillar and scroll style. It is set for dessert with oriental motif china, leaded crystal and silver. The six Greek revival side chairs were acquired originally to be stylistically harmonious with the room. Later the swirl and fiddle back arm chair and matching side chair, which were original Parry possessions, were purchased.
The sideboard, from Delaware County, Pennsylvania, is very unique and compares in many details with Duncan Phyfe's own sideboard. Notice the drawers for silver and the hidden plate cupboards.
The portraits are of Benjamin Parry and his son Oliver and were done in 1826. These were a Christmas gift to Jane Paxson Parry, Benjamin's wife. The portrait of the two girls is titled "The Lewis Sisters" by an unknown artist. Notice the slight imbalance between their faces and the rest of the painting. This is a typical problem with paintings during this time especially those of children. The portrait actually consists of a pre-painted background on which the girls' faces were added at a later time. These girls represent two of Oliver and Rachel's children who were about this age during this period.
The Spode luncheon set is of the period, as is the Chocolate set on the serving table which was made in Belgium by Cappelmans. The Spode is of English manufacture, as are the wine bottles in the Sheffield stand on the console table. The silhouette is of President Martin Van Buren.
This room was the original kitchen when the house was first built and before the old colonial kitchen wing was added to the building. If you look closely you can notice that the entire fireplace wall is 3-4 feet thick. This is because the original deep walk-in cooking fireplace is still behind the existing fireplace.