A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2003 - December 2006
Trail End blueprints (Trail End Archival Collection)
State Historic Site
(WSA & Hoff collections, TESHS)
WE ARE TRYING to get together an organization that is more modern in their ideas, sober and thoroughly reliable. We have engaged a designer to take charge of our Interior Decorating Department, one whom the writer knows to be a thorough artist, expert colorist, but not a salesman. What you really want on your work is to have the decorations you have purchased executed in a thorough and artistic manner.
So said George W. Laier of the firm Beaton & Laier in 1913, at a time when the Kendricks were despairing of their home ever looking the way they wanted. Through the combined efforts of Laier, interior designer D. Everett Waid, Charles Lindner and other primary contractors, however, Trail End eventually became a well-decorated home with harmonic flow and consistency of style from room to room. By examining a few of Trail End's rooms – the Foyer, Drawing Room, Dining Room and others – as well as the materials and furnishings used therein, we get a good insight into the design and decorating concepts and techniques utilized throughout the entire house.
When it came to decorating Trail End, color was a tool that could not to be ignored. Color could add drama, whimsy, lightness or freshness, depending on what colors were chosen and how they were used. In the foyer, color plays an important role. The ruby red rugs with their brown and gold geometric border, the red draperies and portieres, the gold and green hand-stenciled ceiling, the rich brown woodwork – all combine to give Trail End’s main entrance a richness that is missing from the white-painted rooms found in many of today’s homes.
The foyer is not a sterile room; it is one of warmth and comfort – an inviting place to enter and be with friends. While the original design specifications don’t mention specific colors, they do note the foyer ceiling’s treatment was to have a warm, rich, aged appearance:
Main hall ceiling [is] to receive a frescoed decoration to imitate stucco work ... to be painted with an enamel gloss and glazed with old ivory glazes and wiped out with cloths to an antique ivory finish. The prevailing color of the old ivory will be warm colors rather than cold.
Furniture is also an important decorating tool. While most of the furniture in Trail End is original to the house, it doesn’t all date to the 1910s. Over the years, the family purchased additional pieces and added them to their collection. Included in this category is the Empire love seat near the entrance door. Several items have been in the foyer from the beginning: the slant-top desk, the curved mahogany plant stands and the “Shakespeare” clock all appear in the 1913 room portrait.
DRAWING ROOM IMPORTS
While most of the furnishings and finishes in Trail End were made in America, a few were imported. The mahogany for the beams and wainscoting in the drawing and dining rooms, for example, came from Honduras. It was then machine-tooled by the Lindner Manufacturing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The “piano finish” was attained by the application of multiple coats of paste wax.
European imports in the drawing room include the Italian Pavanazzo marble surrounding the fireplaces and the French silk damask wall coverings stretching from wainscoting to ceiling. There is a tall brass and glass lamp from Russia, while the silver tea service is English. A large floral study over the fireplace was painted by Raoul de Longpre, a 19th Century French artist renowned for his exquisite paintings of roses, lilacs and peonies.
One of the home’s most impressive imports is the massive hand-knotted Persian carpet overlaying the drawing room’s hardwood floor. As rug salesman A. J. Miller put it in 1911, "You are getting, without question, a most unusual, exclusive and pleasing rug." Made by nomadic Bijar weavers of northern Persia (Kurdistan), the rose and blue rug – already an antique when Mrs. Kendrick purchased it – contains roughly five and a half million knots. Its purchase price was the same as a typical three bedroom house in 1911: $3,125.
With eight fireplaces, two vestibules, twelve bathrooms, a kitchen and a butler's pantry all needing tile and/or marble work, the selection of the proper tile company was essential. After rejecting bids from firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Paul, John Kendrick hired F. M. Hamling of Omaha to complete the job at a cost of approximately $4,000. While the Hamling Company crew did the actual work, they had to coordinate their efforts with the architect, interior designer, woodwork manufacturer, general contractor and the decorators in order to match styles and colors. Everything then had to be submitted to the Kendricks for review, as noted by Hamling manager William Nollmann in 1912:
The selection of tile for the owner's room, according to my notation, was a gray shading to an old rose, but on taking this up with Mr. Henderson [interior decorator] he advises either a plain white or light cream. ... In regard to the green tile in north and south vestibules, I suggest we take this up with the decorator, and if he has any suggestion to make will be pleased to submit it to you.
In mid-1912, before the project was completed, F. M. Hamling unexpectedly died. The firm was quickly reorganized by William Nollmann as the Omaha Marble & Tile Company, and the Kendricks were reassured that their job would indeed proceed: "Mr. Hamling left a complete record of this job in the files, and same will proceed just the same as tho he were here, as all information has been taken and a careful record kept."
The tile work was completed in late 1912. By early 1913, cracks had begun to appear in several areas of the house. While the Kendricks questioned the workmanship, William Nollmann was adamant that the cracks were caused by shrinkage of lumber used in the floors:
It is very evident that the cracks were not produced by faulty construction or workmanship on the part of the tile setter, as the cracks have gone through the center of tile showing that there was a perfect bond between the cement and tile. If this was not the case, a crack would have appeared in the joints, and tile would drop from the wall.
Nollmann was apparently correct in his evaluation. In all the years since the tile was set, none has dropped from the walls. Several of the original cracks, however, continue to widen as the house settles.
THE GOTHIC LIBRARY
The Trail End library’s layout and American Gothic design were patterned after one that Eula Kendrick had admired at a home in Virginia. The hallmark of Gothic styling – pointed arches – can be seen in both the chandelier and the wall panels. The diamond-shaped leaded glass doors add to the Gothic feeling. In September 1912, project manager John Gross of the Lindner Interior Manufacturing Company attempted to advise Mrs. Kendrick about her ideas for the bookcase doors, saying: "While this [diamond-shaped glass] gives a very pleasing and artistic effect, [plain glass] displays handsome books to a far better advantage than the leaded glass, which tends to obscure from view, the titles of the volumes." In the end, Eula ignored Gross’s advice, choosing to adhere to her original vision – one she shared with her husband: "Mr. Kendrick is very much pleased with the beam ceilings, and the gothic effect in the library is entirely satisfactory, and we are sure it will be a charming and livable room."
One part of that vision that did change was the type of wood used in the library. Early room specs called for the same mahogany as the drawing room. Plans changed around 1912, however, and the room was finished in a warm Golden Oak instead.
As indicated in correspondence, Eula Kendrick was not fond of the “clumsy” oak library furniture popular in 1913. Instead, she ordered an older-styled “ropetwist” mahogany table. The delicate piece is ornamented with a spiral edge and sharply angled spiral-turned legs terminating in mahogany balls gripped by three-toed brass claws.
The attention paid to details in the furnishing of Trail End was impressive. The effort made to match colors with textures with materials with lighting was appreciated by everyone, especially the Kendricks. In 1913, they expressed their delight to the design firm of Beaton & Laier, who responded as follows: "We are very glad to learn that you are well pleased with your furnishings. From all the reports that we get it is the finest home ever furnished in your section of the country."
Some of the home’s finest furnishings are contained in the dining room. Like the drawing room, the dining room contains the dark richness of piano finish mahogany. It is decorated in soft shades of ivory and blue with just a touch of Old Rose added here and there. The wall panels and ceiling canvas, with their fruit motif, were hand painted. The wood mantel is carved with fruit to match the canvas, while hand-cast plaster medallions and moldings complete the ceilings and walls.
Trail End’s dining room suite was manufactured by the Retting Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retting worked closely with Lindner Manufacturing to match the color of the tables and sideboards to the mahogany mantel and wall panels. The twenty dining chairs, fashioned in the Jacobean style, were originally covered in Florentine tapestry. Retting Furniture sent them to Omaha for upholstering in 1911-1912, but they were not delivered until the summer of 1913. The blue velvet portieres and draperies were delivered at about the same time.
Along with the chairs, the massive dining table and two large sideboards were ordered in early 1911. The smaller table in the corner is a miniature version of the dining table. It has a split top – one half swivels up so that the table can stand against the wall, taking up less space.
According to Manville Kendrick, the amily never ate in the kitchen; they took all their meals in the dining room. Every morning, until the time he moved out of the house, Manville ate his breakfast at the dining table – usually a steak, fried tomato and toast. As he noted in 1982, "I would defend any indication that she was snobbish, but I don’t think my mother planned for us to spend much time in the kitchen."
During their years in Cheyenne and Washington, the Kendrick family met many famous people: politicians, statesmen, and European royalty. As was the common practice at the time, they exchanged portraits with these people. At one time, the large wall above the bookcase in the second floor hallway was home to dozens of these large framed portraits. The original set contained photos of presidents Wilson, Hoover and Coolidge, Queen Marie of Romania, and many of Wyoming’s leading politicians such as Joseph Carey, Robert Carey and Nellie Tayloe Ross. There were U.S. Senators and political appointees as well.
Most of the portraits were autographed and inscribed with statements of friendship or affection. Eula Kendrick’s predecessor in the Governors’ Mansion, Mrs. Joseph Maull Carey, signed her 1931 portrait as follows: "With affection, your old time friend of many years, Louisa David Carey."
John and Eula weren’t the only ones who collected portraits. Both Rosa-Maye and her sister-in-law, Diana Kendrick, were recipients of similar photographic remembrances, many of which hang on the Gallery Wall today.
In most early references, the third floor space was identified as the “attic playroom.” As the building process continued, however, the name (and function) eventually changed to “ballroom.” Some even referred to it as the “assembly room.” Despite the architect’s 1911 vision, the ballroom was finished very simply. Leaded glass windows and an elaborate mantel were abandoned in favor of a more subdued approach.
A few frivolous touches remained: the stained glass windows in the south alcove, for example, and the four large “Tiffany-styled” verdigris chandeliers. The diamond-patterned swinging windows were a later change instigated by Eula Kendrick. As Lindner Interiors noted in 1912, "Your suggestion to use leaded instead of plain glass, is a great improvement, and we are enclosing herewith a copy of our shop drawing showing the glass panels according to your idea."
The rough-hewn Georgia Pine beams, the natural birch wood trim and the simple Maryland Maple dance floor all contribute to the simplicity of the room. The plain stucco ceiling, fairly unusual for an interior finish, was part of the design from early on. It was described in the 1911 plaster specs as follows: "Entire ceilings and walls of play room in attic to be finished in rough cast sand finish with pebble dash surface. Pebbles to be placed thinly on surface. All pebbles and sand to be washed thoroughly clean."