Wielding scrapers, spray bottles and scrub pads, 12 art students from Augustana College spent Monday afternoon peeling and scraping paper and paint from the walls of the master bedroom of the Hauberg mansion in Rock Island.
What they uncovered was an artist historian's dream: the hand-painted tulip designs and other stenciling that was laid down more than 100 years ago when the house was built.
The designs are those of decorative artist George Mann Niedecken, and it's believed that similar stenciling of different motifs is hidden under layers of paper and paint in other rooms of the house.
These include the tulip room (named for its many decorative tulips), the library, the main hall and the dining room, Deb Kuntzi, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Hauberg Civic Center Foundation, said. The organization is working to restore the mansion that was given to the city for use as a civic center in the 1950s.
The students worked Monday under the direction of Kuntzi and their professor, Peter Xiao. They'll be back the next two Mondays to hopefully finish.
The master bedroom originally was painted with four coats of oil-based paint, creating a hard and durable surface, Kuntzi said. Later treatments consisted of pink and green latex paint and wallpaper, all relatively easy to remove from the oil base once it is thoroughly moistened, Kuntzi said.
She doesn't know if she will be so lucky with the other rooms.
The Hauberg mansion was built in 1911 for Susanne Denkmann, heir to a lumber baron. Her husband, John Hauberg, was a Rock Island lawyer and philanthropist.
The Friends foundation was formed by individuals who successfully opposed plans by the city in 2016 to sell the Hauberg property because of high maintenance costs and declining use.