Call it CSI: Mount Vernon. Preservationists preparing for a recent renovation to the second-floor bedroom belonging to George Washington’s step-granddaughter Nelly Custis uncovered a tiny fragment of wallpaper, revealing a long forgotten secret: In the mid-1770s, the bedroom was decorated with a dazzling floral chintz, the height of chic on both sides of the Atlantic at the time.
For the renovation, the Chintz Room, as it’s now called, reflects a redo undertaken around the time Washington retired. Aided by a forensic analysis of paint chips and another scrap of wallpaper found in the floor, conservators covered the walls with a handmade green paper and cream trim, complemented by bed fabrics and window treatments true to Nelly’s day. (The original fabrics, long gone, were likely made by Betsy Ross in Philadelphia.) Those more awed by history than by decor detective work can focus on the floorboards, which are the same that Washington trod after the room was added in 1758.
All photographs by Dan Chung.
This article appears in our June 2016 issue of Washingtonian.