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Stimulus funds used to restore Melrose chandeliers

NATCHEZ — Natchez National Historical Park reopened Melrose earlier than expected Tuesday after two antique chandeliers were removed for rewiring and conservation.

Curator Cheryl Munyer said Melrose reopened at noon Tuesday once two 19th century chandeliers were secured and transported to a local conservator using federal stimulus dollars.

“We closed (Monday and Tuesday) just to facilitate getting the chandeliers down because it was a very involved process,” Munyer said.

“We had to remove floorboards from the second floor to access the chandeliers, and the first floor was covered with ladders, scaffolding and padding. It would have been difficult giving tours.”

Exactly $42,000 was granted to the historical park under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the chandelier project and paintwork at the historic McCallum house, which is part of the William Johnson house.

“This is a project that our park has been waiting for,” Munyer said of the chandelier project. “The project was created in 2005, and it was waiting to be funded.”

Both chandeliers are located on the first floor of Melrose — one in the drawing room and the other in the back hall.

The drawing room chandelier is a five-armed, brass oil lamp patented in the 1840s by Cornelius & Baker of Philadelphia.

“(The drawing room chandelier) has hung there since the original owner, the McMurran family, had Melrose,” Munyer said.

The back hall chandelier is a bronzed, two-armed carcel-type oil lamp, which features a clock mechanism for pumping oil to the wicks.

“We don’t know whether (the back hall chandelier) belonged to the McMurran family, but it is in the earliest known photographs of Melrose in the 1900s,” Munyer said.

Munyer said Lower Lodge Conservation of Natchez will clean and restore the chandeliers, and she estimates restoring and reinstalling the chandeliers will take three to four months, which will create local jobs for conservators, electricians and suppliers.

Munyer said the chandelier project officially marks the end of Melrose’s electric rewiring.

“The house was completely rewired back in the 1990s, but we did not to the chandeliers at that time,” Munyer said. “It’s important for us to have safe wiring in those fixtures.”

Tours of Melrose begin at the top of each hour daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is charged.

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