Do you know who the couple was and what they did?
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Weil were a Jewish couple who lived on Park Ave in an apartment that housed the room you see in the Museum today. The Weil family was and still is a prominent banking family.
After Mr. Weil passed, Mrs. re-married a man by the name of Raymond Worgelt, who donated the room to the Museum in 1970.
Alavoine was the firm that the Weil's hired to decorate the room. The firm manufactured furniture and woodwork out of offices in NY and Paris.
What is the most important object in this room?
Every item there is very special but one of the most intriguing ones is the bar that is concealed in the corner of the room. It has etched glass walls that salute France, and it is hidden because of Prohibition, which forbade alcohol consumption in the United States from 1919 to 1933.
How difficult is it to move an entire room from a house into a museum?
Very difficult! It's done by a whole team of curators, conservators, and technicians. Rooms are disassembled, pieces are labeled and numbered, and everything is very carefully packed for the move.
Then, once the room arrives, it has to be re-assembled, and decisions are made about things like new wallpapers or upholstery, of the old ones are too worn to be displayed. Oh, and lighting has to be installed, and labels need to be researched and written. It's a really laborious and time-consuming process, but fascinating and well-worth the effort!
Yup, definitely worth the effort!
Yes indeed! And we're lucky to have so many good historic interiors here.
What is the least important object in this room?
Take a close look, what do you think the least important object is?
I'm going to guess the carpet?
That's a really good guess! While I like to say that everything in the period rooms are important (they are my favorites in the Museum) the carpet here is a replacement. The original carpet was patterned and the Museum hopes to replicate the original carpet eventually when funds and time are available!
This is so much fun. Thanks!
You're welcome, so glad you're enjoying it. You're asking great questions!
The "tooth" work along the crown molding, is that wood or bronze?
That molding is all very fine wood with metallic paint applied.
Ah, metallic paint! Thanks for checking.
The rest of the family's apartment was decorated in a way that was more typical for affluent NYC-ers of this time: historical styles borrowed from 18th century France, etc. But they invited the design firm to do something new and different with this study!
Very interesting! Thanks so much for your help.
How do you donate a room to a museum?
In this case, the curator went to visit because the family wanted to donate some Japanese figurines. The curator was not interested in the figurines and instead asked about what was happening to the woodwork, and it was to be thrown out for a re-model. So rather than have it thrown out, the museum carefully removed the paneling and transported it here.
That's so cool!
Every case is different obviously, but usually rooms are donated because the building or house is being demolished or in disrepair.
This room is beautiful!
What was it used for? How did it get here?
It certainly is. The Worgelt Study was a room for the owner and his friends to hang out in. If you look closely, you may spot the bar concealed in the back. This room dates to the Prohibition Era.
Dark days... I'm so glad we can drink again haha
The family wanted to donate some Japanese objects, but the curator was more interested in the study, which the family decided to donate.
Oh cool! I didn't realize you could donate a whole room!!
At the time, Art Deco
was considered a very forward-thinking style.
What is the stepped object near the bar?
That is a radio cabinet with a 1940s addition of stepped compartments resembling a skyscraper. This form was seen as being quintessentially American, and more specifically from New York. The setback silhouette of early 20th century skyscrapers was a direct result of a 1916 New York City zoning resolution that prevented buildings above a certain height from being built, thus blocking sunlight from city streets. If you are interested, you should check out the Paul Frankl “Skyscraper” table from the 1920s on view here at the museum!
Where is the hidden bar?! It's living up to its name!
If you look in the corner of the room, you will see an open door leading to a little bar alcove. When the door was shut, that part of the wall would have looked like panelling. This was during prohibition when alcohol was technically illegal (although the wealthy were not usually penalized).
I found it! Thanks!
What does it mean when a room is donated? Do you replicate the room exactly in its original form in the museum?
This usually means that the interior panelling of a room is donated. Decorative woodwork is generally not structural-- it can be taken apart and reassembled like a puzzle in a new location. Museums do try to replicate the exact same dimensions of the original room, although sometimes there are small changes.
If you look in the "Weil-Worgelt Study," for example, everything in that space including the furniture is original except the carpet! This is not the case in every period room. most rooms are filled with objects that are from the correct time period but are not original to the room.
How should we think about Art Deco style in the interior as being influenced by the Depression? The juxtaposition of Art Deco opulence and the Depression always struck me as odd.
This room, and the height of Art Deco, are decidedly pre-Depression, which explains the discrepancy. The Weil-Worgelt study could perhaps better be described as "Art Moderne" which is the earlier, French term for the style we now call Art Deco. French design was very rooted in traditional craftsmanship. The country was very slow to modernize and move to industrial manufacturing. They also wanted to use luxury design to revive their economy after WWI.
So Art Moderne was really handmade crafts?
It's more of a stylistic designation, although it does place an emphasis on fine materials and masterful construction. The style was almost exclusively an urban one.
In the period rooms, were the pieces acquired from the rooms themselves or were they pieced together to match photos?
It depends. In some cases, like the Weil-Worgelt Study, the entire room, including the panelling inside and the furniture, were acquired together. In other cases, like the Mid-Nineteenth Century Parlor and Library, the rooms were furnished based on our curators' knowledge of the styles you would see in a room of that style at the time.
Tell me more.
The Weil-Worgelt Study demonstrates a conservative interpretation of the Art Deco style of the 1920s. It was donated to the museum by Mrs. Weil's second husband, Raymond Worgelt. This study is also a reflection of its time, as you can see a concealed bar in the corner with etched glass walls. This hidden bar defied Prohibition, the period from 1919 to 1933 during which alcohol consumption in the United States was forbidden.
How long does it take to install period rooms?
The exact length of time may vary, but the process is usually the same: first, each piece is labeled and numbered when they are removed from their original location, then they are reassembled here like a puzzle.
Of course, a single room doesn't take as long as a whole house. Some installations also require more actual construction than others.
The Weil-Worgelt Study and the Gilded Age Reception Room, for example, are both entirely original.
In the Cupola House, on the other hand, only the wood trim in original. The rest of the house was recreated based on meticulous notes and measurements from the original building.
Amazing! Thank you!
I wanna smoke cigars in this room even though I don’t smoke cigars.
I think that's the right reaction! Called a study, a room like this was a man's space where he spent time alone and sometimes entertained guests. Notice there is even an ashtray built into the console table at the center of the room.
Dating to the Prohibition era, this room even includes a concealable bar! You can see it in the corner across from the other window into this room!
Are the walls and objects in the period rooms original to the houses?
The answer to that is, it depends! Some rooms, like the Weil-Worgelt study are entirely original, in the walls, floors, and furniture. Most are a combination of original elements and objects from our collection appropriate to the time period.
An extreme example in the other direction would be the Cupola House. Only the wood trim is from the house itself. The rest of the architecture was meticulously recreated based on measurements and the furniture comes from our collection.