The original woodwork of the great arcaded dating to the ca. 1852 alterations showed sanded paint – paint with sand thrown against the wet paint. This was also found on the window frames. Little original exterior woodwork survives. The use of sanded paint and the stucco finish of the walls would have given the house an overall appearance of having been made of sandstone or limestone. Note the sand particles in the original paint layer (F-1).
Clifton was sold to the City of Baltimore in 1895 when Johns Hopkins University moved to its present location. The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks altered the house to serve as a clubhouse for the Golf course that had been fashioned from Hopkins’ landscaped property. The interior was changed and the decoration covered over.
The Main Stair Hall is entered from under the Tower. The decoration executed for Johns Hopkins in 1852 was involved elaborate trompe l’oiel decorative panels on a pink ground. All of the woodwork was dark walnut. The staircase was illuminated with painted and stained glass. The original decoration was executed in water soluble distemper paints and much of it was lost when overpainted by the Department of Recreation and Parks.
A detail of the decorative panel shows the corners articulated with the head of Mars flanked by lion heads.
The Dining Room may be the most extraordinary room in the Mansion. The room was drastically altered in 1966 when the wall on the right was removed. The ca. 1852 decoration is seen, still partly covered with lining paper.
The decoration of the Ceiling creates the effect of being under an elaborate arbor covered with flowering vines. The plaster ceiling was damaged by the nailing up of furring strips when a dropped ceiling was installed in 1966. The plaster ceiling now will require re-attachment to new joists since the original ceiling structure is failing. This is one of the most challenging aspects of the renovation of Clifton. The decorative painting will be conserved and restored.
Detail of the decoration of the walls: the central panels are grained to emulate yellow pine boards, with black arabesque corners. The central panel is flanked by panels of stencil decoration bordered by dark oak graining “boards”. The surface was covered with a lining paper that was adhered with water soluble adhesive. The lining paper was then painted in oil. The lining paper is removable which will permit the conservation of the wall decorations, which were painted in oil paints.
The detail of the corner shows the extraordinary quality of the decorative painting: note the knot in the “wood” and the elegant corner detail that may have been executed by a talented sign or carriage painter.