The Réveillon Wallpaper of the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden

The Phelps-Hatheway House in Suffield, CT is home to incredible 18th-century wallpaper that tells the history of Connecticut during the American Revolution and the lifestyle of its inhabitant, Oliver Phelps, through its intricate designs. Explore the wallpaper’s story and learn how you can be a part of the important conservation project to help the wallpaper remain a beautiful resource for visitors to observe the ways we display wealth and status, examine colonial era trade and commercial exchange, as well as consider land and real estate speculation and Indigenous people’s land rights.

In 1788, Oliver Phelps purchased a center chimney house in Suffield, CT, from Shem Burbank who built the center chimney structure in 1761 where he and his wife Anna Fitch Burbank raised nine children. A budding land speculator in the tumultuous years after the American Revolution, Phelps commissioned the addition of a large wing from which to entertain potential clients. The rooms are decorated with five distinct handblocked French Louis XVI wallpapers by Jacquemart et Bernard with wood blocks made by Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and presumed to have been printed between 1791-95. The wallpaper, found in the north wing, covers two wide halls, a sitting room, dining room, and two second floor bedrooms.

From the stylish new rooms, Phelps peddled a vision of American expansion to New Englanders looking for a new life in the west. Phelps’ attempts to sell significant amounts of Seneca Nation land as part of Connecticut’s Western Reserve proved unsuccessful. Within a decade, Oliver Phelps’ fortunes had collapsed, but the wallpaper endured. Today, it is the largest collection of 18th-century wallpaper in place in the world.

Painting of Oliver Phelps, image from the collections of Connecticut Landmarks.

Four rooms at the home in Suffield currently contain the original wallpaper. When highway construction threatened the house, one room was dismantled and reconstructed at the Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum, where it is still on view today as the Federal Parlor.

Image by Carl Vernlund

Connecticut Landmarks is honored to be recipients of a Save America’s Treasures grant from the Historic Preservation Fund which will be used to stabilize and conserve the 18th-century Parisian wallpaper collection at the house.

While the wallpaper at the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden is in spectacular condition given its age, regular wear, light, and weather changes have impacted it over more than 200 years. We are glad to be able to take proactive steps to holistically care for the paper before it deteriorates. This project will allow us to work with experts from Studio TKM Associates to assess and document the condition of the paper, analyze key color and design elements for conservation, and stabilize the paper in place so that it will continue to be a resource for scholars and a treasure for visitors over the next two centuries and beyond. The full scope of expected work can be found in the RFP for conservation services, and we will continue to update as work progresses, as education is a key component of this project.

This grant was awarded by The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Connecticut Landmarks was one of 58 projects in 26 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia that was awarded Historic Preservation Fund support totaling $25.7 million from the National Park Service.

Established in 1977 and authorized at $150 million per year through 2023, the Historic Preservation Fund has provided more than $2 billion in historic preservation grants to states, Tribes, local governments and non-profit organizations. Administered by the NPS, Congress appropriates from the HPF to support a variety of historic preservation projects to help preserve the nation’s cultural resources and history.

Phelps-Hatheway’s wallpaper is exquisite in design, rich in history, and a wonder of permanence. Connecticut Landmarks is excited to have the rare opportunity to preserve a piece of the past to inform and delight visitors to this beloved property for many years to come.

Stay tuned to our website, social media pages, and print media for conservation progress. Book a tour of the Phelps-Hatheway House to see the beautiful wallpaper for yourself and learn more about the lives and experiences of Shem Burbank and Oliver Phelps.

With your generous support, we can meet our goal of $150,000 to match the grant funds needed to inspire future generations through the history and design of the wallpaper. The stories we tell are made possible by the structures we care for, and stewardship of our properties is possible because of staff, volunteers, contractors, and donors who help protect places where people can find their home in history.

Donation Progress

Check back here for updates on our progress towards reaching our donation goal. You can also follow along when visiting the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden with our fundraising thermometer on the fence.