Building VCU’s President's House

James W. Allison Papers (1891, 1893-1896), Architects’ Correspondence
This online collection of correspondence is from the papers of James W. Allison, a late 19th century wealthy Richmond businessman. The collection includes over 100 documents - letters and a few telegrams - concerning the construction in 1894-1896 of what is today VCU’s President’s House, 910 W. Franklin Street. Fully 104 of the documents are from the hands of the architects that Allison hired to design his mansion. Much of the correspondence includes replies to questions by Allison during the construction of his house. The letters also describe the selection of such elements as fireplace mantles, gas-and-electric fixtures, decorative tiles, and scenic wallpaper.

Soon after the Civil War, James W. Allison (1833-1898) established the seed and fertilizer firm of Allison & Addison with Edmund B. Addison. By the 1890s the company had expanded greatly and become one of the most successful fertilizer producers in the South. The earliest letter in the collection is from Allison to his wife, Minnie Clemens Jones Allison (1870-1927). It notes their intention to construct a new house. A year later they chose the site on W. Franklin Street, at that time Richmond’s most fashionable residential neighborhood. At the time of his death in 1898, Allison left an estate of nearly one million dollars.

In 1938, the Allison family sold the house to Richmond Professional Institute (RPI), the forerunner to VCU on the Monroe Park campus. The building was used as the residence of the head of RPI for thirty years. Since 1968, when VCU was formed, it has served as the main offices of the President of the University. James W. Allison, Jr. (1894-1979) donated the collection of his father's papers to VCU Libraries in the early 1970s. They contain original architectural drawings, correspondence, and other materials. The James W. Allison papers are a valuable resource for those interested in late 19th century architectural history. These documents are housed in Special Collections and Archives at the James Branch Cabell Library, VCU Libraries. For more about the collection, see the finding aid for the James W. Allison papers.

The Architects: Percy Griffin and T. Henry Randall
Allison chose the New York architectural firm of Griffin & Randall to design his house. Both partners boasted fine architectural pedigrees. Percy Griffin (1866-1921) graduated from the architectural school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1884 and then worked in the office of H. H. Richardson. T. Henry Randall (1862-1905) had also worked for Richardson after attending Johns Hopkins University, MIT, and the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris. Randall, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, was the partner who decided on the Colonial Revival design of the house – making it one of the first of that style of houses built in Richmond. It pre-dates other early Colonial Revival houses on Monument Avenue by some 10 years.

The correspondence also details the demise of the firm. In 1895, Griffin and Randall decided to part ways in the middle of the construction of the Allison house. As the letters indicate, Allison was forced to choose which architect he wanted to oversee the completion of his house. Randall, who was the senior partner and who had the most influence over the building’s design, was selected.

For more information about the architectural history of the house, see Ray Bonis and Melissa A. Zimmerman, “The VCU President’s House, 1896-1996: From the Colonial Revival to the World Wide Web,” The Styles of Virginia Architecture: Abstracts of the Fourth Annual Virginia Architectural History Symposium, 1996 (Richmond: VCU School of the Arts, 1996).

Editorial Note
The following transcriptions of correspondence from the James W. Allison papers, were prepared during the spring 2006 semester in History 691, “Topics in Documentary Editing and Scholarly Publishing,” taught by John Kneebone, in the graduate program of the VCU Department of History.

Each document has been given a title, consisting of the names of the author and the recipient and the date of the document. The editors followed a conservative transcription policy. Words in the transcripts are spelled as they are in the original documents. Textual notes follow the procedure of italicizing editorial comments within square brackets, described by David L. Vander Meulen and G. Thomas Tanselle, “A System of Manuscript Transcription,” Studies in Bibliography, 52(1999):202-213.

A provenance note in brackets follows each document. Most of the documents are signed autograph letters (ALS) but a few are documents recording texts of telegrams. Because changes in letterheads reflect the dissolution of the architectural partnership of Percy Griffin and T. Henry Randall, texts of letterheads appear in the provenance note. It was James W. Allison’s practice to preserve the letters in their envelopes, on which a summary of the letter’s contents was docketed. The docketed notes on the envelopes are reported in the provenance note.

The following silent emendations have been made. The formal elements of the letters—address, date, salutation, and closing—have been standardized in their location on the page (at the left margin) only. Words broken or hyphenated at line ends in the documents have been restored. Ampersands and other symbols representing the word “and” in the documents have been standardized to “&.” Superscripts have been dropped to the line. To facilitate possible future online access to the transcripts along with the document images, the transcriptions mark page changes with square brackets and an italic statement of the image number online.

The editors are identified by their initials following the provenance note for each document that they edited. The editors are: Amy Adams (AA), Mary Bezbatchenko (MMB), David Carroll (WDC), Candi Caudill (CEC), Taylor Coble (TOC), Teresa Doherty (MTD), Thomas Hanna (TMH), Alyssa Holland (AGH), John Kneebone (JTK), Mary Richie McGuire (MRM), Jessica Munsch (JBM), Kay Peninger (KCP), Laura Ping (LJP), Vicki Rogers (VR), Suzanne Shepherd (SS), Arthur Striker (APS), and Morgan Thomas (MT).

Copyright
This material is in the public domain in the United States and thus is free of any copyright restriction. Acknowledgement of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries as a source is requested.

Pages

Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 April 3 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 April 3
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing issues with paints and stains and details of fireplaces., April 3rd ‘95 James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 1st at hand and its contents noted. The sample for the staining of Black Walnut has been sent to Peters. The color and character of the stain is right, but a little too dark. In the case of the Ash and Cypress doors, he may have to use a different stain to get the same effect, and we have no objection to his using a filler in the case of the latter if it is so transparent that it will not make the staining muddy and dull as he did in the case of the Black Walnut samples which he sent us. We have directed him to send us a sample of Black Walnut stained with "Dexter Mahogany" in order that we may be certain that he understands it. The staining of this wood both in the case of the doors and of the stair-case is of too much consequence to have any mistake made about it. In regard to Newman's contract for the hardware, as we wrote you before, almost everything except the small latches & hinges and the silver plated work for First Floor has been changed in the present list from that originally specified in order to make a more satisfactory job throughout and keep the final cost within the contract price. All the "Bower-Barff" finish has been taken out, and brass (Boston finish) with black porcelain knobs, has been substituted. The change in the inside blinds from four to five folds make a large difference in the cost of the work. Consequently it would be of no advantage to have Mr. Griffin go over the list when we have the original before us with which to compare it. The base-board was originally white pine in the Attic, and we overlooked the fact that it had been changed to oak. Its finish will therefore [will canceled] be the same as the doors, if you like the idea of staining the oak that color. As a rule we stain the oak its own "antique" color whatever the doors may be; but when we last talked the matter over with Mrs. Allison we understood that she preferred the base and doors to be alike. It will be best probably to wait until the finish is in place before this question is decided, so that we can see the effect of either. We are of course very much disappointed with the result of using "Eurika" paint; but as we simply took the word of the manufacturers who certainly should have known all about it, and who were ready to stake the reputation of their paint upon the result of two coats, we do not see why you should "visit their sins upon our heads," now that we have found that more will be required to do the work. Mr. Randall did not wish to use the paint for the very reason that he had never seen it used on woodwork, our experiences with it being entirely confined to the "Eurika Metalic" paint which is the best in the market and has the highest recommendations from engineers and architects. He inquired about it from a number of practical men but found no one who had used it. He then called in the agent of the "Eurika" paint, and received from him this assurance of the value of the material over other paints. Now if he had, on the contrary, struck it out of the specifications and substituted ordinary white lead paint, we would have had to put on four coats instead of three, and the cost to you would have been greater than it will be now with this extra coat. In regard to the enamelling, you must remember that there is no paint in existence that will give the same effect without rubbing that enamelled work has with it, while the difference in the cost is about double, as the latter requires five coats and a great deal of labor in the rubbing. In other words your painting inside was not "enamelled" work at all, but simply what is known as "enamelled paint" which has a certain amount of varnish in it for its lustre, but requires no rubbing whatever, and is not supposed to give anything like the same result as the regular "enamelling". We suggested the additional coat, the rubbing and the varnish finish in your principal rooms merely because we saw that you wanted an "enamelled" finish; but that was never contemplated in the specifications; and in fact we do not think it at all necessary or advisable. We do not think that you have been [mislead any canceled] led into a mistake or into unnecessary expense from having used this paint; and we have on our part done all in our power, first to get reasonable assurance from the only authorities on the subject as to its qualities, and afterwards to assist you in making good an error that was based upon reasonable reliance upon those authorities. As you well know, the drawings and specifications for your house were not complete and were furthermore full of errors and inconsistances when the house was begun. The labor of making all the necessary changes, and in filling them out properly in order that you might have a suitable result with the least additional cost, has been very great; and has been accompanied by an amount of loss to us which you naturally can not realize nor estimate. The fault for your own loss, as well as for our own, can not be made up now except by patiently accepting the situation and as far as possible making good the defects at the lowest possible expense. No one appreciates more than [you canceled; next word interlined] we do the difficulties in a matter of this kind, and the serious disappointments that it provokes; but at the same time as the cause of this dates back to the beginning of the work and not to its present management, nothing is left for discussion except "the best way out of the hole." In regard to the fire-place facings and hearths, we think the small tile would answer very well for one or two; but of course they would not give the effect that the marble or large tile has. A very good hearth and probably the cheapest and best is blue-stone or slate (oiled). It looks well, and goes with any kind of facing. When oiled it is nearly black. It certainly is much preferable to the brick hearths specified, and should cost much less. We are now getting from Batterson & Eisele estimates for marble facings & hearths for Library and for some of the Bed Rms. These you can compare with the estimates for tiling, and select marble for certain rooms or for facings only, using slate hearths, and tiles elsewhere. Stowe & Nuckols have drawings of mantels. The trouble with "Rock Maple" is its shrinking and buckling. Ga. pine should make a better floor. The staining of Library will not look so dark when you see the whole wood work done. Your's truly Griffin & Randall [ALS, Griffin and Randall to James W. Allison, April 3, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled> New York.] [edited by TOC and TMH]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 April 8 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 April 8
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing finishes and issues with paint defects., James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Dear Sir, Your’s of the 4th and of the 5th received. We have written to Peters about the finishing of wood-work in your house and returned the sample for staining of Mahogany color for Black Walnut trim &c. Mr. Randall will be in Richmond in about two weeks and these questions can be settled then, or if Peters sends us samples of finish, we can decide most of the points in question at once. In regard to the "Eurika" paint, we can not agree with you in regard to the responsibility for its [next word interlined with a caret] defects being our's, while it obviously belongs to the manufacturers. It is not at all a question between the members of the late firm, who [several words canceled; next seven words interlined] in every variety of work or material take the word or the guarantee of the manufacturers, and never under any circumstances are responsible for defects in [next word interlined with a caret] such materials. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. [ALS, Henry T. Randall to James W. Allison, April 8, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled> New York] [edited by TOC]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 December 18 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 December 18
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing finishing bids., Dec. 18th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 16th received. Mr. Randall understood that you knew the difference between Purdy's and Stowe & Nuckol's bid on the Library finish, hence we did not send you the exact figures before accepting their estimate. Purdy's estimate was $550.00 for general finish and $95.00 for inside blinds. S.&N.'s bid was $296.90 for finish and blinds, and $26.00 for "cove and other plaster work made necessary to carry out the drawings as finally agreed upon". Their original estimate for finish of this room is $159.65 hence the total extra cost is $163.25. This amount is stated in their acceptance as correct, and the bid of $26.00 covers all the plaster work as quoted above. Our letter of the 16th was not posted on Saturday. We enclose it now. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled> New York.] [edited by MT]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 February 28 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 February 28
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing finishes in the library., February 28th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 27th received. We much prefer quartered oak throughout in your Library. The straight oak was suggested at first to Stowe & Nuckols when the old scheme was being considered in order to make the extra cost as low as possible. When the present scheme was being considered, we told them to bid upon quartered oak entirely; and only suggested using straight oak in styles & rails because we understood from them that you so preferred it. The straight grain is more effective but at the same time the other will make a more uniform job. Newman will supply the screw sash-fast at the same figure. The "Bower Barff" finish we intend to take out everywhere and substitute brass, except in case of knobs and hinges. We should like to hear from you as soon as possible about using tiles in Library & Bed Room. See letter of the 16th inst. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, February 28, 1895 on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled> New York. Envelope docketed: [image unavailable] –G.&R Feby 28. 1895. – Prefer all quartered oak in Library finish. Newman will finish Screw sash fasts without extra charge Will substitute brass for Bower Barff finish except in case of knobs and hinges. Answered March 2/95] [edited by CEC]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 12 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 12
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison concerning estimates for work in the library., Jan. 12th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 11th at hand, also the telegram preceding it. We note what you say in regard to the condition of the house and the progress the work is making. We are sorry that there has been no heat in the building and no sash, because we not only lose time; but the wood, brick and plaster work is getting saturated with moisture and is liable to show the result of it when it has become thoroughly dry. Purdy has sent in estimates for the Library work as follows; Mantel and panelling around it (as per previous estimate) $115.00 setting finishing same $37.00; trim for two doors, set & finished $23.00. Balance of work in room, including all panelling, shelving, seats &c. set and finished $375.00. This includes boxes for shutters, but no shutters. Inside [blinds canceled; next word interlined] shutters for room (Morslatts Patent) $84.00. In the Dining Rm. they agree to put in and finish the inside shutters for $155.00. The same patent shutter being used. You will propably find that Stowe & Nuckols figures for shutters are much higher that those given above. Furthermore the certainty of having the work properly fit and match in color and finish is another important item. We have just gone over the Hardware for the house and noted the changes in the plan and finish which will change the character and quantity of the hardware. We should advise your making a number of changes in the materials as called for that will reduce the cost and give a better effect. When we have received Newman's revised estimate, we shall send you samples and write you fully on the subject. We should advise hinging cellar windows at bottom with catch and chain at top, instead [over canceled] hinging at top with hook &c. The Butler's Pantry and Kitchen Dressers we think had better have hanging glazed doors as shown on scale drawing which you have, and not sliding doors as put down on Hardware list. Hoping to have this list of items satisfactorily settled, Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, January 12, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled; next two words stamped> 52 Broadway New York. Envelope docketed: [image unavailable] G.&R. Jan. 12 1895 Purdy’s estimates for Library work, mantel and paneling around it as per previous estimates 115.00 Setting and finishing same 37.00 [Balance of work in room canceled] Trim for two doors set & finished 23.00 Balance of work in room including all panelling, shelving, & set and finished 375.00 This includes boxes for shutters but no shutters. Inside shutter for room (Morslatts) 84.00 In Drawing Room they agree to put in and finish the inside shutters, same patent, for 155.00 Have revised list of hardware and and advise making many changes to correspond with changes made in plans. Hinge cellar windows from bottom Hinged Doors in Pantry and kitchen dressers instead of sliding.] [edited by AA]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 19 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 19
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing hinges for blinds and other dining room and library estimates., Jan. 19th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Dear Sir, We recived a telegram from Stowe & Nuckols asking us to send on hardware ("L" hinges) for outside blinds on your Extension. We find them in the Specifications; but when we looked over Newman's list of hardware and his estimate of April 5th '94., they had been purposely struck off by Mr. Griffin, and are therefore unprovided for in the contract. The "L" hinge is not used much south of New York, and while it is the strongest made, it is not so necessary in the city as it is in the country. Consequently we wrote Stowe & Nuckols to put up the outside blinds with ordinary hinges. The cost of these is very small. If, however, you prefer to have the "L" hinge as called for, we will order them here and have them sent on. The only reply that we have yet had from S.&N. to our request for an estimate of cost of shutters, panelled pockets, window "heads", set and finished, hardware put in place &c. in Dining Rm. & Library, and an estimate on Library finish, is their letter of [yesterday canceled; next two words interlined] Jan. 15th which gives an estimate of $72.00 for the Dining Rm. blinds &c. but nothing else. We have written to get the other estimates and hope to be able to put this last question before you for final settlement. This estimate, however, we are convinced is much too low, and have written them to that effect. The patent blinds alone would be worth more than this amount, and we presume that you intend to use no other. "Morslatts Patent" is the best, and has been provided for by Purdy in his estimate. We have also requested S.& N. to send with their estimate for revised scheme of Library finish their original figure for the trim, [shutters canceled] blinds &c. in this room, set and finished, which would be deducted, [from canceled; next word interlined] like the $300.00 for the Dining Rm. finish, from their contract. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, on letterhead: Griffin and Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place cancelled; next two words stamped> 52 Broadway New York. Envelope docketed [image unavailable]: G & R. Jany 19. 1895.— Hinges L for outside blind extension have been struck off Newman's List by Mr. Griffin. They are not used much south of N.Y. Advise to put up blind with ordinary hinges. About Stowe & N's estimates for blinds, panelled pockets and window head in Dining Room & Library and estimate on Library finish] [edited by AGH and MMB]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 25 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 25
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison noting Stowe & Nuckols' need for a personal interview in order to make estimates., Jan. 25th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, We are today in receipt of letter from Stowe & Nuckols to the effect that they are unable to make estimates on the work in Library and on the inside blinds of that room and Dining Rm. without having a personal explanation of the whole question. While we think there is no excuse for this delaying this matter as they have done, it nevertheless seems necessary that Mr. Randall should come on in order that the work may be resumed. He can be in Richmond on the 30th or 31st of this month or on the 11th or 12th of February, as you prefer. Please let us know your preference as soon as possible. Your's truly. Griffin & Randall. [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, January 25, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects [48 Broadway canceled; next two words stamped] 52 Broadway New York. Envelope docketed [image unavailable]: G.&R. Jany 25. 1895— S.&N. unable to make estimate on work in library without a personal interview. Mr. R. will be in R. 30. or 31. Jany or 11 or 12.th Feby.] [edited by MMB and KCP]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 8 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 8
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison concerning estimates for the library finish., Jan. 8th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond, Dear Sir, We sent Stowe & Nuckols a copy of the Library drawings (as revised) for estimates and asked them to give you a copy also. It promises to be a good solution of the whole problem. Purdy is also estimating on the same work. The full-sizes are ready to send to either one you select to do the work. Purdy is at work on all of the finish contracted for by him. We shall see Newman in a day or two and start him on the hardware. We hope Stowe & Nuckols will not keep us waiting for their estimates as they did before. Mr. Randall expects to be in Richmond about the 15th inst. If possible we should like to have your check for acct. of Nov. 15. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, January 8, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled; next two words stamped] 52 Broadway New York. Envelope docketed: [image unavailable] G&R. Jan. 8. 1895. About G.& R. estimate for Library finish as revised. Purdy also estimating on same work. Purdy is working the finish contracted for by him.] [edited by AA]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 9 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 January 9
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison regarding estimates for blinds in the dining room and library., Jan. 9th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, We have written to Stowe & Nuckols for an estimate on the blinds &c. for Dining Rm. and for Library, as it would be advisable to have Purdy do the former, and the latter also in case the contract for the remaining finish is given to him. It is quite likely that he would do this work for less than Stowe & Nuckols, and you would have a more satisfactory result. The Library blinds would be oak like the remaining finish and not black walnut as specified. We are getting estimates from Purdy for this work and will forward the result to you. We hope the heating apparatus has been put to use. That kind of heat is of far more value to a house than any amount to natural drying. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, January 9, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled; next two words stamped] 52 Broadway New York. Envelope docketed: [image unavailable] G.& R. Jan. 9. 1895 Getting estimates from S.& N. & Purdy on blinds for Dining room & Library. Library blinds would be oak like trim and not blk walnut as specified.] [edited by AA]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 June 1 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 June 1
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing carpet strips and Mr. Randall's trip to Richmond., June 1st '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 29th of May received. We do not understand what you mean by “comb grain pine carpet strips and furthermore we can not find them [th canceled] mentioned in the specifications. You had better use your own judgement in the matter. We do not use them (whatever they are by another name) in this part of the country. We have been hoping you would order the marble for the Bed Rm. facings, so that it could be sent on with the others. Mr. Randall leaves here Tuesday evening next for the South. He expects to reach Richmond Sunday evening or Monday morning. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, June1, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects [48 Broadway canceled] New York. Envelope docketed [image unavailable]: G & R. June 1. 1895 About carpet strips. for rooms in second & third floors] [edited by KCP]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 March 21 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 March 21
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing specifications for the flooring., James W. Allison Esq. Richmond. Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 20th at hand. Our copy of the specifications in regard to flooring for your house agrees with your own; "upper flooring to be 7/8" x 2 1/2" match[ed] straight grain Georgia pine scrubbed &c. Extension & 3rd floor 7/8" x 3"-4"." The wood "Georgia pine" was erased and "Selected Rock Maple" substituted by Mr. Griffin. Afterwards when the specifications were being revised by Mr. Randall, the latter was erased and "Va. pine" substituted. At the office of Stowe and Nuckols, when we were going over the various changes made in the specifications, the words "Va. pine" were erased and "Georgia pine" substituted. In our letter of July 20th '94 to Stowe & Nuckols, we say, "we have changed the floors back to hard pine [Georgia] of best quality in main house and of second quality in Extension and 3rd floor." We have no record of any change from that. It is our impression that we did agree verbally to using 3" flooring instead of 2 1/2", as specified; and furthermore second quality "Georgia" and first quality "Virginia" are about the same thing for all practical purposes; but an inferior grade of "Virginia" is very poor material and should of course be used nowhere in the house. They agreed to put down a first class floor when we changed the material from Rock Maple to Pine. As to the paint, I shall let you know about it as soon as I hear from the chemical co. that make it. It may be that the painter did not order the paint as specified. We have written Newman to send the hinges for Basement windows. According to the specifications. They are included in his contract. We regret exceedingly that you should be subjected to these unnecessary perplexities and we are doing all in our power to see matters right and to give you what you deserve to have. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. [ALS, T. Henry Randall to James W. Allison, March 21, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled> New York] [edited by TOC]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 March 29 [View Image]
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, 1895 March 29
Letter from Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison discussing paint specifications and samples., March 29th '95. James W. Allison Esq. Richmond Va. Dear Sir, Your's of the 28th at hand. Newman told us yesterday that he had sent the hardware for the Extension, Attic, and Basement to the Contractors. The painter's samples for staining the black walnut doors were so bad that we advised him to do nothing with any of the doors until he had received from us samples of the wood stained by a painter here. He can then match the other doors in the house as nearly as the different woods will allow. We have approved of all samples of hardware for First & Second floors and Newman is at work upon them. For the Library where the finish is to be dark oak the hardware will be "antique bronze", or dull brass. Elsewhere it is heavily plated silver on this floor and simple in design. We have directed Stowe & Nuckols to communi- cate directly with Newman or with any other sub-contractors and not with us when they are simply [two letters canceled] in need of materials of any kind. The painter might finish the doors in Extension and Basement at once without waiting for samples of other doors, if he will be careful about the staining. He should stain them, without using a filler, and give them a dark redish oak color that you could see in sample and approve. Where ever the base board is to be painted it should be black. We have directed him to submit samples of light finish for wainscot and trim to you for approval. The "Eurika" people have been in to see us about their paint and insist that it is O.K. with only two coats. We have asked them to come in again to see the samples which your painter sent on, and to tell us what is wrong with it. Do you wish us to get estimates for gas fixtures in principal rooms? We have written Stowe & Nuckols about a new lift which we prefer to the one specified. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall. P.S. The agent for the Eurika Chimical Co. has just been in to see the samples of paint which Peters sent me. He says that the paint was not put on with due care, and that if it is compared with the sample which he sent you, that the difference in the two results will be perfectly apparent. Unfortunately, however, for this particular case, as we have no one but Peters to put on this paint, we shall have to make out as best we can under the circumstances. If we had used ordinary outside paint, we should have needed four coats, consequently with three of this (which will properly cover the wood) the result is gained at a lower cost, because that paint costs no more than the other. As to the use of the "Enamel" paint for the inside work three coats will also be necessary, and if the surface is not sufficiently glossy then, it can be rubbed down and given a coat of varnish which would look quite as well as any enamelling, and also at a much lower cost. In the best enamelled paint work five coats are put on and rubbed down before the final varnish coat is given to it. If three will not answer for rubbing, certainly four will in the case of this "Enamel" paint because [next word interlined with caret] it [two illegible letters] has more body than ordinary white lead paint. We are [word cancelled] now making the drawings for the "leaded glass" work in transom and side lights at Entrance & Vestibule doorways. This [next word interlined with a caret] is specified at $2.25 per sq. ft. but we have the work done here in bronze metal, which is stiffer and in every way better, at $1.75 per sq. ft. The side lights in Library and Reception Rm. windows on front of house would be made more interesting, if filled with the same kind of "leaded" glass and the additional cost for them would be made up for by the amount allowed by the specifications for the other. We shall have Stowe & Nuckols ship the sash to be leaded here by freight. Purdy has packed the greater part of his work and is ready to ship it; but we should allow several weeks of hot heat in the house before attempting to put any of his finish in place. Your's truly, Griffin & Randall [ALS, Griffin & Randall to James W. Allison, March 29, 1895, on letterhead: Griffin & Randall Architects <48 Exchange Place canceled] New York] [edited by TOC and MTD]

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