ROCKLAND, Maine — The Farnsworth Art Museum announced that the Homestead will reopen to the public on Thursday, June 27, for three tours daily, Thursdays through Sundays. The reopening follows an intensive three-year restoration process which has included replacing the aged asphalt roof with more historically accurate cedar shingles, and stripping and repainting both the residence and the carriage house. Tours will take place at 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. and will be limited to 10 persons per tour. Those wishing to attend must make same-day reservations in person at the Museum Street lobby desk.
Since the Homestead’s public closing in fall 2010, several projects have been underway. In addition to repainting the property and replacing the roof, the curatorial staff has undertaken a reassessment of the building and its contents, bringing in outside specialists to assist. These specialists include Robert and Jill Burley, a father and daughter team from The Burley Partnership, an architectural firm in Waitsfield, Vt, that specializes in historic preservation. The Burleys have been involved in a similar assessment of the Olson House, a National Historic Landmark which also is owned and operated by the Farnsworth. David Barquist, curator of American Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has offered his expertise on the Homestead’s furniture, silver and ceramics. John R. Burrows, of J.R. Burrows & Company in Rockland, Mass., has examined the Homestead carpets, confirming that nearly all are original to the house. Burrows is preparing an estimate for reproducing these carpets so that the originals can be preserved. Among those who provided expertise for the complete revitalization of the tour program, in addition to Mr. Barquist and Mr. Burrows, are Jane Nylander, historian, Portsmouth, N.H.; Richard Nylander, historian, Portsmouth, N.H.; Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., state historian, Maine Historic Preservation Commission; and Ann Morris, director, Rockland Historical Society.
One of the exciting discoveries made during this first phase of the restoration was that beneath an 1870s carpet in the entry hall of the Homestead is an original 1850s oilcloth. These oilcloths were a relatively expensive floor covering, made by printing each oil-based color of the design with separate woodblocks, covering the finished design with varnish, then allowing the oilcloth to cure in specially designed and warmed warehouses for as long as five years. This curing process, along with the varnish layer, made them exceptionally durable. Painting conservator Nina Roth-Wells removed what was a badly yellowed original varnish layer and replaced it with more durable contemporary varnish. This restoration revealed the oilcloth’s original brilliant colors. There will be ongoing restoration at the Farnsworth Homestead, all directed toward preserving the home of the museum’s founder Lucy Copeland Farnsworth and her family, one of the many American treasures the museum is celebrating in its 65th anniversary year.
All visitors to the Homestead will be provided a pair of booties (shoe covers). No high heels or bare feet are permitted on the tours. Wear comfortable shoes. The Homestead is not wheelchair accessible. For information regarding the Farnsworth Homestead, visit the museum’s website at farnsworthmuseum.org/