November 27, 2022

Harris, Catron Interviewed for Article on Belmont Staircase

The horseshoe staircase at Belmont, home of Gari Melchers.

The horseshoe staircase at Belmont, home of Gari Melchers.

UMW Museums Executive Director Scott Harris and Belmont Assistant Director and Curator Joanna Catron were interviewed for an article in The Free Lance-Star about the restoration of the “horseshoe staircase” at Belmont.

Some stories are quick turnarounds I can share mere hours after learning the details.

Today’s story—about the removal and restoration of the “horseshoe staircase” at the front of Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Falmouth—is not one of those. That’s partly due to COVID-19 delays, but also because of having to digest more than a century of history.

The staircase was likely commissioned in Philadelphia around 1850. The company doing the restoration, Keswick-based Stokes of England, has done work for Prince Charles, the sultan of Oman and Patricia Kluge.

In an earlier column, I mentioned that a restored steamboat pilothouse in the Northern Neck had been voted one of Virginia’s most endangered artifacts. That brought a message from Scott Harris, the executive director of museums at the University of Mary Washington. He said the horseshoe staircase railing at Belmont was among the first artifacts to get that designation a decade or so ago.

I joined Harris and Joanna Catron, the assistant director and curator at Belmont, to examine the staircase. The wrought-iron railing was most likely installed in about 1850 by Joseph Burwell Ficklen, the owner of the estate at that time. Read more.