The project took 12 years of research and restoration. Eight of the 18 seats around the formal dining room table are original chairs provided by the Acklen family.
“Entertaining was such an important part of 19th century life, and the dinner was the apex of entertaining,” said Belmont Mansion Executive Director Mark Brown. “The room was open before, but we decided we wanted to do a French décor paper in there, which no one makes anymore so it required custom printers. We have replaced missing cabinetry, the fireplace, ceiling plaster work, one door, its frame, one window and its frame.”
In 1890, the formal dining room was divided into three dormitory rooms for the women’s school. It later became the YWCA room. By the 1970s, the formal dining room was the janitor’s closest, two bathrooms and the college infirmary for Belmont College. Most recently, it housed the mansion’s gift shop.
“It was a very exciting evening, and it is exciting to see that project completed,” Brown said.
The formal dining room will have its grand opening 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27 with Brown answering questions on the restoration project over almond tarts, finger foods and hot cider. The event is free and open to the public.
Also underway in the Belmont Mansion are restoration projects on the school room and trunk room along with Acklen’s upstairs master suite, which is scheduled for completion in spring 2012. Some 250 photographs were taken and digitally reproduced onto new wallpaper to produce a replica of the original wallpaper, which was French scenic papers depicting a panorama of Telemachus in search of Ulysses.
In addition, award-winning author Tamera Alexander has penned the first of three novels that include Acklen as a main character and the mansion as a setting. Alexander hosted a book signing Nov. 17 for A Lasting Impression, a historical romance novel. A Lasting Impression, Alexander’s eighth novel, debuted in the top 20 on the national Christian bestseller list. All proceeds of the novel sold in the mansion’s gift shop go to support the Belmont Mansion.
The Belmont Mansion also was included in the Spring/Summer 2011 edition of Winterthur Portfolio, an academic journal of American material culture.