In this week’s heritage sites moment, we take a look at the internal upgrades to the Belcourt House on River Lot 24 in St. Albert.
Once the contractors had completed their part of the conservation of the Belcourt House it was time for us to add the finishing touches and return it to the time when the Belcourts renovated the house in the early 1960s. One of the striking features of the house was the decoration and wall papering done by Mrs. Belcourt. There were many layers of wallpaper in the house, showing us different colour schemes and fashions over three decades of the family living in the house.
When the house was moved to the river lot in 1957 renovations took place to improve the house.
One change in the original structure was that the lath and plaster walls were removed and replaced with Masonite boards, this would have been an inexpensive and easy way to replace walls in poor condition.
The Masonite boards come with their own challenges as they are more flexible than the lath and plaster walls or drywall. When you come into the house you will notice the walls do not lie perfectly flat and the wallpaper shows small cracks as the walls flex. The Masonite walls were first papered with a plain lining paper and then a decorative layer of wallpaper. During the restoration of the house we had worked with historian and consultant Judy Lamour on a plan for furnishing the house that included the wallpapers. The wallpapers we have used are as close to the first layer of wallpaper that we were able to find.
Sourcing the wallpapers was time consuming and we found some wonderful small companies in the United States that specialize in collecting vintage wallpapers and found some similar papers. The main rooms downstairs, the stairwell, the second floor landing and one of the bedrooms have all been papered and they reflect the early 1960s interior decoration in the house.
Although the decoration took place in the 1960s the patterns that were used were from the 1940s and 50s – giving us an idea of what was available locally in St. Albert. When you visit the house you see just how many papers were used and combined to create some very unique decoration! Two of the bedrooms are partially papered and we are still looking for more papers to finish these rooms.
If you would like to have some fun sourcing vintage wallpapers check out the companies we used to bring the Belcourt House back to the time the family lived there in the 1960s.
Mrs. Ternan with children in front of the Belcourt house, ca. 1915.