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Tom Watson's "Hickory Hill"

Hickory Hill

“Hickory Hill” is the home of Thomas E. Watson, (1856-1922). Tom Watson was a famous lawyer of his day, a prolific writer, publisher and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Watson was a statesman and leader of the Southern Populists. He ran for President on the Populist Party ticket in 1904 and 1908. Watson served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1890-1892 and the U.S. Senate from 1920 until his death in 1922.

Watson purchased the house he would christen “Hickory Hill” in 1900 and completed its extensive renovation before occupying it in 1904. It was a home for a southern gentleman and was the center of Watson’s private and public life. The house was closed to the public after Tom Watson’s death in 1922. It remained in the family as a private residence until it was painstakingly restored by the Watson-Brown Foundation and opened again to the public. The result is a handsome monument to a man who put his mark on an era.

LMD was contracted to reproduce the wallpapers for the house using a wealth of evidence that included photographs, fragmentary evidence and the oral history from Watson’s grand daughter who was the last family member to live in the house. As is often the case, the real treasure trove of information was in the attic. But this time it was not in a box or trunk but pasted on the base boards and trim of the room. The grand children had been given the end rolls of the wallpapers by the grand parents and told to “Go play in the attic.” They did so by pasting the different strips of wallpaper all over the rooms. Subsequently the walls were removed leaving only pieces and scraps. It was disjointed evidence but enough for LMD to piece together a wealth of beautiful designs.

A total of 20 wallpapers were recreated by LMD for Hickory Hill and 12 came from “the treasures in the attic”.

The Entry Hall

Tom Watson 1920

Photo Courtesy of the Watson Brown Foundation

Entry Hall circa 1920

Photo Courtesy of the Watson Brown Foundation

The Entry Hall is always an important area in any formal house and Hickory Hill’s entry was even more important since, in addition to the fragmentary evidence that was gleaned from the house, there was a period portrait of Tom Watson standing in front of the beautiful wallpaper in the hall.

The bouquets of roses seen in the photos were lovely but the tracery of gold metallic frames would have been impossible to recreate with accuracy if there had not been fragments remaining in the hall to guide the way.

As seen in the final beautiful wallpaper there were four different bouquets of roses in elegant gilded frames with a secondary pattern in the field. The interweaving of the sprays of white flowers help soften and connect the different elements of the design.

Although it is not visible in the first photograph used as reference, another one was subsequently found that showed the matching frieze and bold ceiling paper that originally completed this handsome suite of hall wallpapers.

Hall Evidence

Photo Courtesy of the Watson Brown Foundation

Hickory Hill Rose Frieze

 

Hickory Hill Rose

Serendipity

The restored Entry Hall is a gracious beginning to the tour of Tom Watson’s “Hickory Hill”

Hickory Hill Entry Hall

The Parlor

Ceiling Fragmentary Evidence from the Attic

Photo Courtesy of the Watson Brown Foundation

Frieze Fragmentary Evidence from the Attic

Photo Courtesy of the Watson Brown Foundation

The West Parlor is located to the right of the Hall and the papers used there were recreated from relatively complete fragmentary evidence found on the baseboard area in the attic play room.

The Classic Medallion wallpaper used on the Parlor walls has bold stripes and swags in a style that shows the interest in the flat style and textural effects that were starting to evolve in the early Twentieth Century. The bold fleur de lis is a classic motif done in a more graphic way.

Classic Medallion

Classic Medallion Frieze

The frieze has a lighter, simpler background while still incorporating the medallions, swags and ribbons seen in the sidewall but in this design the stripes are horizontal instead of vertical.

The ceiling paper has a delicate graphic rococo feel and tops the room in an elegant fashion with a golden yellow color. It was customary for a ceiling paper in a suite to done in less colors than in the sidewall design. As was the case in all the papers there is a heavy use of metallics and pearls for an elegant shimmering effect.

The Classic Medallion Ceiling Paper

The finished Parlor has a soft elegant glow that complements the adjacent Entry Hall welcoming everyone to this Southern Gentleman’s home.

Tom Watson’s Parlor

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