Wren’s Nest Conservation Update – Joel Chandler Harris Bedroom

Written on March 31, 2009 at 4:26 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

The most distinctive room in the Wren’s Nest is Joel Chandler Harris’s room.

Esther LaRose Harris, his widow, insisted that his room remain “unmessed with” (don’t worry — it’s a technical term) if the Wren’s Nest were to become a museum.

Joel Chandler Harris's Bedroom, More or Less Unmessed with since 1908

So, the bedroom remained more or less the same for the past 100 years.  The artifacts are cataloged, and Miss Nannie dusts in there from time to time, but that’s really about it.  For better or worse, it’s rare to have this sort of preservation in a monitored setting.

When it came time for IFACS to start cleaning the room, we had one major concern — the matting on the floor.

Rugs and Matting in Joel Chandler Harris's Bedroom

The matting is original to the room, but it’s beat up, dusty, falling apart, and detrimental to the surrounding artifacts.

Our solution was this — buy a similar matting, distress it, and place it over the original.  This would preserve the original matting much better, not to mention the surrounding artifacts.

After snooping around inside the room, the IFACS folks made a glorious discovery — there’s additional original matting under the top layer!

Matting in Joel Chandler Harris's Room, Before and After

On the left side, the top layer of matting has been rolled up to reveal even more original matting in pretty excellent condition.  On the right side, you can see how the top layer was falling apart.

So, instead of buying anything new, IFACS merely rolled up the top layer and stored it safely.

Matting on the floor of Joel Chandler Harris's Room, Now Clean

In person, you can even see the faded pattern on the “new” matting.  The pattern looks a little bit like it was modeled after some of the enemy spaceships from Space Invaders.

10 Comments to Wren’s Nest Conservation Update – Joel Chandler Harris Bedroom

  1. Rachael says:

    Do you know what the matting was for, anyway? I’ve always wondered. Also, I gotta say, JCH’s choice of rug placement really does not jive with my slight OCD.

  2. Saddleshoos says:

    THis looks amazing! Keep up the good work!

  3. griftdrift says:

    That’s pretty cool. I have to say that when I visited I was fascinated by this room. It almost feels a little naughty to peer into a bedroom that’s virtually unchanged since the last occupant left this plane.

  4. David says:

    Good to hear-that room is very cool, good to hear it’ll be looking a little sharper!

  5. lain says:

    Thanks, y’all!

    Rachael, I’m not exactly sure what the matting is for. I’ve heard it was (a) for insulation in the winter, (b) for comfort in the summer, and (c) for the same reasons hardback books come with dust jackets.

    Griftdrift, I feel the same way. It feels a little intrusive.

  6. Harvin says:

    What an intriguing discovery! Glad to see that the project went well for all parties.

  7. […] there. (I wrote a story about The Wren’s Nest renovations a few months ago.) Most — except Harris’ bedroom. The one stipulation about turning the home into a museum had nothing to do with segregation, as […]

  8. SUMMER says:


  9. Gerald Selden says:

    Superb restoration !!!!!
    Gerald Selden
    Antique Lighting by Regloh,Inc.

  10. […] Anne Victorian mansion, marveling at the intact furniture and decorative accoutrements found in the author’s bedroom or trying on period mustache wigs in the mansion’s lavatory. Designated a National Historic […]

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