The Upper Stair Hall
Without question Adelicia and Joseph Acklen built their home as a statement of position in society and their aspirations. Belmont’s public spaces all are clearly evident of that passion.
The upper stair hall is no exception to that role. This space connects the very public Grand Salon with the private bedrooms of the family. However, the upper stair hall also provides access to the cupola used by the family and guests. This octagonal room on the roof could be opened for ventilation in warmer months while allowing for a view of Belmont’s gardens and the vistas from the high hill on which the Acklens built. We know there was a telescope in the room which meant it was also used for viewing the heavens. Thus the upper stair hall had a public function, and its finishes were consistent with the elaborate décor of the Grand Salon, the largest domestic room of antebellum Tennessee.
When financial commitments for restoring the upper stair hall and staircase came to the mansion staff we were thrilled. And ready to begin work!
Research into finishes of the stair hall told us the floor was originally marbelized, the columns and pilasters had been painted white and portraits hung on the walls. The free flying staircase leading to the cupola had been stabilized in the 1990s, but its finishes needed to be corrected. Again, research was needed. What was revealed was a mahogany stain on newel posts, balusters and handrails. All treads and risers had been grained to appear as though they were oak.
This restoration of historic finishes was made possible by generous supporters. The upper stair
work was made possible by a number of donors who followed the lead of Bill Freeman. Mr. Freeman made a generous donation in memory of Gary Cunningham a former President of the Belmont Mansion Association Board of Directors. Both gentlemen understood the importance of not simply saving Belmont Mansion but seeing it once again represent the period in which it was built.
When visitors from Kansas contacted staff about supporting the restoration of Belmont Mansion it was a most unexpected event. These new friends, Ann and Steven Tanner, had been impressed by the in-progress restoration of the Central Parlor, witnessed during their
tour. A conversation ensued about the multiple ways in which supporters could engage with Belmont Mansion. Ultimately, it was the restoration of both the cupola staircase and the Grand Stair to complement the restoration of the upper stair hall which they decided would be their contribution.
If it were not for these generous donors we would still have plain white walls, decades-old red “church” carpet and layers of black varnish to view. These are gifts for which we are deeply grateful.
We invite all to come and view the restored staircases. They are like no others in the city!
The above images document the restoration work as it occurred on the upper stair hall and upper stair case.