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Billiard Room Reveals Hidden Treasure

When thinking of floors in old houses, most envision heavily sanded, brightly varnished boards covered with Oriental rugs. Keep dreaming, Adelicia and Joseph Acklen would have been appalled at such a thought. Bare wood floors were rarely seen in houses such as Belmont. Carpeting of elaborate patterns stretched wall to wall in most rooms. Decorative painted floors such as the marble pattern found in Belmont’s Grand Salon could also be seen.

An alternative for heavy traffic areas was a floor cloth. An easily cleanable, impervious surface functioned well in certain rooms. Floor cloths were most often utilized in halls and dining rooms. Belmont currently has two reproduction floor cloths replicating 19th century patterns. One is located in the formal dining room, where small scraps were located. The other, original to the house, has been reproduced for the stairwell.

We considered ourselves lucky to have evidence of two floor cloths installed in the 1850s. This alone was a significant find. Then came January of 2020, when exploratory demolition took place in Joseph Acklen’s billiard room. Presently the room is approximately ½ of the original size due to an 1890s alteration. This dividing wall merely covered original elements. An early 20th century floor overlaying the original was also removed.

Seen here is a strip of the floorcloth between the 1890 wood floor and the partially demolished dividing wall.
Seen here is a strip of the floorcloth between the 1890 wood floor and the rumble of the partially removed 1890 dividing wall.

Visible beneath the dividing wall, threads of what may have been a floor cloth remnant came to light. Study of these threads led to a decision to remove the 1890 baseboard. Once the baseboard had been cleared away it became obvious the 1890 “new” wall had been laid over the existing floor covering – a floor cloth.

The texture of the base material, plus the painted pattern, pointed firmly to the 1850s. The floor cloth remnant which runs under the “new” wall, is 8” wide and 12’ long, supplying much evidence. The painted pattern revealed multiple colors representing bouquets of flowers with a 12” repeat. Such patterns were incorporated in the production of Brussels parlor carpeting of the period. Research revealed a similar pattern which was indeed a period carpet. In a room where cigars played a daily role in the use of the space, falling ash and embers would quickly have ruined a true Brussels carpet. We are thrilled to add this document to the history of Belmont’s billiard room. This sample is simply lying in wait for the day when it can be reproduced to once again cover the entire floor.


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