One of the first things to catch your eye when you enter the east porch and sitting room in the Sikes Farmhouse is the charming blue wallpaper sprinkled with pink roses. This pattern of wallpaper was one of several that was uncovered during the original restoration of the Sikes home in the early 2000’s. The layers of paint and wallpaper uncovered during that restoration give an interesting glimpse into not only the purpose and use of each of the rooms, but also of the changing taste and style of the Sikes family from roughly 1872 through the 1880’s.
Moving from room to room, starting in the adobe kitchen, the original structure constructed for the Sikes family circa 1872. It is believed this single room served as the sole living area for the family for some time while they worked establishing the farm. During the first restoration of the house in the early 2000’s, no less than 13 layers of paint and limewash were uncovered on the adobe walls. Interestingly, between 2 very early layers of limewash a layer of newspaper was found. Was this added to provide additional insulation? Analysis of selected paint layers determined that at least 4 layers of paint and 2 layers of limewash were applied prior to 1881, while at least 3 layers were applied post 1881. All the paints were light in color, probably to provide a brighter feel to the room.
The enclosed porch was constructed sometime prior to 1881. Evidence of at least 3 layers of paint and 2 layers of wallpaper was uncovered under the more modern wooden bead boarding which was installed in the early 20th century. One of the wallpaper patterns was the blue/rose pattern paper seen today. This wallpaper was installed directly on the wall studs.
Moving on to the wooden southern addition, this structure was most likely brought in from another site based on the evidence of a window on the north wall, which was covered over prior to the 20th century. The lathe and plaster central hall and 4 rooms were painted at least once prior to 1881 and at least twice post 1881. No evidence of wallpaper was found in any part of the addition. From letters written by Eliza during the 1880’s, we know these rooms were used mainly as bedrooms. One room may have been intended to be a sitting room.
Finally, the parlor which was the last section of the house to be constructed. When portions of the wood beaded board installed during the early 20th century were removed, a surprising number of layers of paint and wallpaper layers were discovered on the walls. No less than 5 layers of printed wallpaper were found, not including at least 3 layers of newspaper on the walls. The blue/rose flower pattern was one of those wallpapers.
Large sections of each wallpaper pattern were carefully removed during the reconstruction process and carefully preserved. Paint samples were analyzed to determine the composition and age of selected layers. The blue/rose flower pattern was selected to be reproduced and installed on the same walls in the manner found.
It was very fortunate that the wallpaper fragments were not on site during the Witch Creek Fire of 2007. SDRP and The Friends of Sikes Adobe are grateful to the Pioneer Room at the Escondido Public Library for providing the proper archival storage of these wonderful artifacts.
On your next visit to Sikes Historic Farmstead, be sure to take time to admire the wallpaper and paint colors in each room.
Fragments of wallpaper and the newsprint are also displayed in our museum room.