If the Walls Could Talk

Wallpaper is part of the story of a house and the people who lived in it. The historic Anaglypta and Lincrusta wallcoverings in the Morgan House are part of the story of the late 19th century Morgan family.

The Morgan House near downtown Oshkosh at 234 Church Avenue was built in 1884 by John R. Morgan, co-founder of the Morgan Brothers Company. It is one of three former homes belonging to the families from Oshkosh’s earliest lumber manufacturing days that still exists today.

The Winnebago County Historical and Archaeological Society (WCHAS) acquired the home in 1987 and began extensive efforts to restore its original wooden doors, floors, carvings, and wallcoverings, in addition to 1880s furnishings and fine art. It now serves as a house museum.

Most recently, WCHAS has undertaken a significant project to preserve the historic Anaglypta and Lincrusta wallcoverings in the Morgan House. Over the years, extreme temperature changes and humidity caused the unique wallcoverings to crack and pull away from the walls.

These deeply embossed wallcoverings brought the ornate plaster work so loved by wealthy Victorians to those of more modest means. Lincrusta is a thin version of embossed linoleum mounted on canvas or waterproof paper that can be painted or glazed. Anaglypta is its more cloth-like and less expensive cousin. (Notable installations of Lincrusta included six staterooms on the Titanic.)

The wall preservation work at the Morgan House is being done by Conrad Schmitt, a Wisconsin-based company that specializes in historic preservation.

“These beautiful wallcoverings are magnificent and illustrate how the Morgan family spared no effort to showcase their beautiful Victorian home. These are truly a treasure and keystone in our efforts to preserve the historic Morgan House,” shared Winnebago County Historical and Archaeological Society President Randy Domer.

To stop further damage and to meet future warranty standards of the conservation, the Morgan House will also become climate controlled. A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system will help preserve the house’s historic documents and textiles for years to come.

The project, made possible with $50,000 in grants from the Community Impact Fund within your Community Foundation and an anonymous donor, is expected to be completed in time for the Morgan House’s re-opening in early June 2023. Complimentary tours are available every Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm and last about 20-30 minutes. No reservations are required.

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