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Restoring Ardrossan

Autumn 2017

David Wren’s new book Ardrossan: The Last Great Estate of the Main Line tells the story of the Montgomery family of Villanova, Pennsylvania and their 38,000 square foot estate, designed by Horace Trumbauer in 1912. Barbara Eberlein had the great privilege of assisting the original owner’s grandson, Robert Montgomery Scott, in restoring the estate to its original splendor.

Ardrossan Estate, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Ardrossan Estate, Villanova, Pennsylvania
This glorious residence has 50 rooms for the Gilded Age lifestyle of the early 20th century. It is the only surviving major house by Trumbauer still owned by the original family, holding the original contents and collections intact. It is home to one of the most important collections of antiques and art featuring many portraits by Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, Thomas Sully, Sir John Lavery, Augustus John and Charles Willson Peale.
Ardrossan Ballroom
Ardrossan Ballroom
Eberlein Design Consultants’ comprehensive restoration of the interiors of Ardrossan was conducted over a nine year span, one room at a time. By the late 1980s this architectural triumph had fallen into disrepair. Barbara Eberlein worked with the client and a team of craftsmen to renew the building, the furnishings and the art with a curatorial eye, stabilizing and preserving the collection. The client’s specific directive: “Make her the beautiful old lady that she is.”
Barbara Eberlein and Robert Montgomery Scott
Barbara Eberlein and Robert Montgomery Scott
The house had suffered from years of roof leaks that damaged the ornamental plaster and the original wood floors. Time and heavy use nearly destroyed precious furnishings, while unfiltered sunlight reduced fragile textiles to shreds. Working with curators and conservation experts from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to properly document original materials and techniques, the Eberlein team had new textiles woven, furniture frames rebuilt, walls reupholstered, porcelain collections repaired, limestone walls and moldings restored, carved oak ornament and paneling re-hydrated and repaired, and a comprehensive restoration program implemented for plasterwork, gilding, leaded glass and trompe l’oeil painting.
Photograph of Living Room c.1914
Living Room c. 1914
The living room is detailed in English Oak paneling with Corinthian pilasters flanking the marble fireplaces which are executed in carved green and white marble with elaborately carved swags inspired by Grinling Gibbons. The original valances were reproduced, and the carpet woven on special looms accommodating this grandly scaled room. A collection of 18th, 19th, and 20th century family portraits by artists including Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, George Healey, and Charles Willson Peale enrich the walls.
Photograph of Living Room present day
Living Room today
Extensive research was done through interviews with family members, combing through early 20th century letters describing the house, studying original photographs and- astonishingly- renderings of each principal space by Mrs. Montgomery perfectly executed in petit point. Throughout the house needlepoint sofa covers, designed and stitched by the original owner, were removed, cleaned, stabilized and re-applied to the Chippendale- style frames.
Petit point of Living Room
Petit point depicting Living Room made by Mrs. Montgomery
The original silk damask wallcovering in the library had deteriorated dramatically. New wall fabric was woven by a small mill in France, in cotton for additional dimensional stability.
Library Wallcovering Before and After
Library Wallcovering Before and After Restoration
In the oak paneled dining room with exuberant carvings (above), thirty Queen Anne chairs were carefully restored along with the original needlepoint seat covers each with a unique floral design. Porcelains and silver were brought back to their original luster.
Photograph of Dining Room c.1914
Dining Room c.1914
Dining Room today
Dining Room today
In the library, furniture frames were rebuilt, refinished, and reupholstered in Spanish linen. Ornate silvered sconces were cleaned and rehung and highlight portraits by George Romney and Sir John Lavery.
Library today
Library today
The restoration of the ballroom was one of the most complex challenges involving myriad craftsmen and artists. Many of the original textiles were reproduced by small mills in Europe and the Georgian furniture originally selected by designers White, Allom & Co. in 1912 was restored.
Ballroom Game Table and chairs showing deterioration
Ballroom game table showing deterioration
Ballroom today
Ballroom today
Drapery was reproduced using the original pattern and executed in a heavy silk for longevity and luster. The Aubusson carpet now reveals its magnificence having been cleaned, blocked and damaged areas rewoven by artisans in England.
Ballroom sofa and rug detail
Ballroom petit point upholstered sofa and repaired Aubusson rug
The beautifully detailed plaster walls, badly damaged by leaks over the years, were restored. Gilded plaster ornament, which had been dulled by water damage and smoke, was refreshed to an age-appropriate state.
Ballroom fireplace today
Ballroom fireplace today
The house is furnished entirely with original pieces from the estate. They were found in varying states of repair but final product seamlessly blends old and new to renew this architectural icon. The third floor guest suites were once servants’ quarters and are richly appointed with English antiques from the family’s collection.
Third floor guest bedroom
Third Floor Guest Bedroom
The distinctive geometry created by the dormers form dynamic volumes ideal for flowing wallpapers. These rooms are a veritable kaleidoscope of architectural idiosyncrasies celebrating the spirit of the Gilded Age on the Main Line.
Third floor guest bathroom
Third Floor Guest Bathroom
David Wren’s book is the first of its kind to chronicle the history of the Montgomery family and their estate.
Book cover, Ardrossan: The Last Great Estate of the Main Line by David Wren
Ardrossan: The Last Great Estate of the Main Line by David Wren
“It has been such a pleasure to contribute to David’s masterful book. What an extraordinary tribute to this great estate!” -Barbara Eberlein
Third floor guest bathroom
See all the photos from this exciting project in our Portfolio.
Don’t miss the book signing and lecture hosted by the ICAA of Philadelphia at the Union League on November 13th. More information on the ICAA Philadelphia website.
Barbara Eberlein founded Eberlein Design Consultants Ltd in 1984. She was formally educated in the classics, history and art, an education that has served her enduring passion for design. She approaches the creation of interiors with the knowledge that, one day, these too will become part of the fabric of history.
Barbara Eberlein with
Barbara Eberlein with “Ham” the inimitable Ardrossan pig

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