The Partial Observer: Drapery Project Results Revealed

Hyde Hall Board of Trustees Chair Gilbert Vincent, Executive Director Jonathan Maney, Rabbit Goody and Catherine Nark discuss the original draperies in 2019 at Thistle Hill Weavers. (Photo provided)

The Partial Observer by John Aborn

Drapery Project Results Revealed

The early days of Hyde Hall were uncertain. There was no initial funding or plans for its recovery, and the structure was nearly demolished in the 1960s. However, the building was miraculously saved by a small, devoted group of friends. Over the last 60 years, support has grown, and Hyde Hall staff, its Board of Trustees, its supporters, the Clarke family, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have worked tirelessly in their efforts to ensure the historic site’s future.

The mansion is one of the finest examples of neoclassical country houses in the United States and remains a rare example of Anglo-American architecture. It tells the story of wealth and power in early America, but it also represents more than 200 years of our local history. In 19th-century Central New York, Hyde Hall connected many aspects of our area’s fascinating agricultural, economic and social history.

Executive Director Jonathan Maney and members of the Board of Trustees drafted plans in 2017 for the dining room drapery project that would develop into a six-year odyssey and grow to include local artists, craftspeople, and textile historians.

Decades ago, the dining room was an empty shell. Today, the room is teeming with artifacts and boasts a majority of the original furnishing, historic china, family portraits, and a reproduction of the first carpet. The draperies, however, were absent. Fortunes changed when the Humes family of Cherry Valley generously donated the original red worsted wool draperies to Hyde Hall. With the originals as a model, Rabbit Goody and her team at Thistle Hill Weavers were able to reproduce more than 100 yards of figured damask wool material.

There are no photos or illustrations of how the draperies were installed in the 1830s and therefore the team needed to rely on other sources. Evidence in the room, period examples and illustrations, and the original garniture were used in order to piece it all together. The project required extensive research, investigation and experimentation to complete the final look. Using the talents of Wayne and Catherine Nark of Cobleskill and designs from Janet Rigby and the late Jill Maney, the team was able to devise a plan of how to install the draperies as they would have most likely been in the period.

In late October, at the tail-end of the 2022 season, Rabbit and the Narks installed the elegant draperies in the dining room. This achievement underscores significant momentum at the site but it also tells us something very special about our community; it shows that our region is extremely attractive to scholars and artists, and this community project is a source of local pride for Otsego County and Central New York.

Hyde Hall is extremely grateful to everyone who contributed to this project. It could not have happened without our generous donors and supporters, and the talents and hard work of our area’s scholars and historians. The draperies are unlike anything else in the country and there are no surviving examples that remain in America. Visitors can enjoy the floor-to-ceiling continuous draperies, reproduced in the French style, when Hyde Hall opens on May 27.

John Aborn is the marketing manager of Hyde Hall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Prove you're not a robot: *