Upham Mansion Gets New Upstairs Look

The newly renovated bedroom at Upham Mansion | TriMedia

It’s out with the old and in with the new at historic Upham Mansion.

Thanks to generous donors, the North Wood County Historical Society was able to add new wallpaper to an upstairs location formerly known as the “Toy Room,” with a few surprises in the process.

Cracks were uncovered during renovations. Submitted Photo.

The room is located off the gallery room and was originally a bedroom and part of a suite used by many Upham family members over the years. Silvery striped wallpaper replaces the 40 year-old plain wallpaper that had been designated for the museum spaces after NWCHS purchased the home in the 1970s, and the new furniture arrangement reflects its original purpose. A donation from the late Bill Rebholz, a volunteer, allowed the project to move forward.

To get started, the society connected with Historic Preservation architect Jen Davel at the Wisconsin Historical Society to find out what the best practice would be for wallpapering, and SDS Painting Company from Stevens Point was later hired to do the work, with great results.

“It was determined to leave all the former wallpaper up (some of which was rather structural at this point!); use an oil based primer and then put up the new vinyl wall covering,” said Kim Krueger, Coordinator.

The society found four layers of wall coverings while making its initial preparations.

“The oldest was a vertical, striped pattern with floral motif and silver pinstripes. This wallpaper would have been impossible to find and most likely would have had to have been re-created, which was way beyond the funds we had,” said Krueger. “We looked around to find a paper that would best reflect the look of the earliest paper, but we also had to think about what dates we wanted to interpret within the Upham family history. We chose the 1910/1920s era as this would have been the time Governor Upham was still alive.”

While the society had the funds to complete the work, it was prepared for surprises.

“Projects like wallpapering take a lot of prep work, and in the case where the project is a room in a 138 year old house – you never know what bits of extra prep work will need to be done!” Krueger said. “One wall used to have a sink, and plumbing bits were exposed. At some point a medicine-cabinet and mirror had been removed from the wall, leaving a big hole. There was also a huge crack in the plaster wall due to the house’s settling.”

The plaster wall needed to come out and the sink’s leftover plumbing had to recede into the wall so that there would be a smooth surface to work with. “Bob, the fearless and skilled SDS Painting worker, had this wall out and new wallboard up in no time!” Krueger said.

While working on the east wall, which includes a chimney block, the workers found two beautiful iron-grated air vents. “This would have been a part of a long-since-removed gravity or ‘octopus’ furnace heating system which had been located in the basement,” explained Krueger. “Heated air rose through heat ducts and cold air returned via return air duct. Upon finding the ducts in these two rooms, we knocked on other walls and found other covered grates in the house as well.”

With this room completed and revamped, the society will turn its attention next to the main upstairs gallery, part of the suite including the newly re-wallpapered west bedroom, to replace the same worn-out wallpaper and address the cracks. After that, the parlor and library will undergo the same renovations.

Upham Mansion can be visited Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1:30-4 p.m. Tours are just $2 (12 and under are free). Visit www.uphammansion.com for more information on the mansion.

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