Published in the July 12, 2017 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The town began the challenging process of preserving Centre Farm’s famous mural this week.
The Historical Commission hired Studio TKM Associates, a firm that conserves works on paper for institutions that lack conservation facilities of their own, to remove the historical wallpaper located inside Centre Farm, 567 Main St. The project took two days to complete.
“The Historical Commission has been in the lead of this process from the beginning,” said Historical Commission member Roy Sorli in an email sent to the Villager. “This wallpaper, we believe, is the last artifact that we know was owned by Captain Bancroft, the second owner of the farm. We have been told that it was hand painted in France and imported for the captain.”
Voters at a Special Town Meeting in June 2014 voted 534-27 to purchase the seven-acre Centre Farm for $1.55 million, which included $1.4 million to purchase the property as well as an additional $825,000 for repairs.
Nearly two years after voting to acquire Centre Farm in order to save the property from development, voters at the 2016 April Town Meeting authorized the selectmen to put the property out to bid for residential use. Voters instructed the selectmen to put the historic circa 1785-1810 farmhouse and its seven acres out to bid as one unit, holding true to the original intent of the June 2014 Special Town Meeting vote. The deed restrictions put in place last year will prevent the property from being subdivided, the buildings from being razed and the building’s exterior from being altered.
Nearly three years after the town purchased the 1785 Rev. Joseph Mottey House, Lynnfield residents Steven and Kelly Migliero submitted a bid earlier this year to purchase Centre Farm for $935,000. The selectmen voted unanimously to award the bid to the Miglieros.
The custom-made dining room wallpaper was hand painted in France between 1820-1850 and depicts a foxhunt. Few examples of this art remain in existence today.
“The import of items like this was rare,” said Sorli. “This is a unique relic from the 19th century, a successful sea trader’s reward for a job well done. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to save it.”
Studio TKM Associates began the effort to remove the mural on Monday. In an interview with the Villager, Studio TKM Associates Partner and Senior Conservator Lorraine Bigrigg said “wallpaper is one of our areas of specialty.”
“This paper represents a ton of history when there was a penchant for scenic murals,” said Bigrigg. “The wallpaper was hand painted. We are trying to determine whether it was stencils or some kind of pattern book they took the images from. It looks as though the paper was installed on the walls first and the scenes were painted on top of the paper on the wall. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the scenery and Lynnfield itself.”
Bigrigg said the process to remove the wallpaper is very extensive and complicated. She said Studio TKM had to “surface clean to remove all of the loose dirt and grime that have accumulated over the years.” She also said the team had to remove the adhesive from the wallpaper in order to “slowly release it from the wall.”
“It’s incredibly fragile,” said Bigrigg.
After the wallpaper gets removed, it will be air-dried and will be carefully packed up so it can be stored.
“We will go back to the studio and we will remove any large chunks of plaster from the back of it,” said Bigrigg. “We will number everything after its dry. We will devise a numbering system for each of the panels so they will know the sequence of it when it needs to get rehung.”
Studio TKM Associates Partner Deborah LaCamera said removing the wallpaper is the first stage of preserving the historic artwork.
“After we remove it from the walls, it will require a labor intensive studio conservation treatment,” said LaCamera. “We will clean, consolidate and line the paper in order to allow it to be remounted in some way so it can be enjoyed again. Right now, there is no funding for that. As funding becomes available, we can move on to the next step.”
Sorli said the Historical Commission has discussed areas where the wallpaper can be rehung after it gets restored.
“We have discussed keeping it for the library, and alternately giving it to the Cooper Hewitt Museum, a Smithsonian institution, which has a wall covering collection,” said Sorli, who is also the archivist of the Historical Society. “Wherever it finds a permanent home, it is a significant reminder of Lynnfield’s past.”