Belmont Mansion has begun its next major restoration – the return of a painted floor to the Grand Salon. Joseph and Adelicia Acklen added the Grand Salon to their summer home, Belle Monte, as a statement of their place in Tennessee society, their aspirations, and, in particular, Joseph's political aspirations. They decorated it keeping with those aspirations. This year, a major element of that room is returning.
When this room was completed in 1860 it enclosed an open space that existed between the u-shaped gallery which ran along the back of the house. A pattern representing black and white marble blocks, with the white blocks being veined, was painted on a random width wood floor. This design covered the entire floor of the largest room in any Tennessee home in 1860.
When the house became a school the original floor was showing significant wear and subsequently was covered with a new oak floor. Two generations later another oak floor was overlaid on the school floor. This meant that now two layers of modern flooring covered the painted salon floor of the Acklens.
Seventy plus years have passed since the last floor was installed. Imagine the wear to that floor as frequently as this house is used for events. Don't forget to mention the tens of thousands of guests who arrive each year to view the mansion. By 2016, this last floor was beginning to fail structurally. Staff had two alternatives: overlay with yet another floor, or remove the two layers of oak floor to expose the original patterned floor for the first time over a hundred years.
The decision was made to remove all of the “modern” oak flooring from the historic space. The original floor is pine, a wood far too soft for the use this museum sees. So, the original floor is being covered to preserve it in place for future generations. A new hardwood floor of the same width as the original floor is being overlaid in such a manner that it can easily be removed in the future, if needed. Artisans will replicate the original black and white marbleized floor pattern on the new floor. We'll be basing their designs on the ones artisans created nearly 160 years ago and will leave a portion of the original floor exposed for viewing and future study. Additionally, the location of the Salon's fountain and the service stair will be indicated on the new floor.