Cocoa Matting Removal and Wooden Floor Restoration


Our Senior Preservationist Jeff Larry explains: the last of the cocoa matting, installed just prior to President Lincoln’s Cottage’s opening in 2008, was removed this week exposing the 1880s flooring that will be repaired and refinished starting December 26.  In her book, Floor Coverings for Historic Buildings, Gail Winkler notes that the use of woven matting (grass or straw) as a floor covering dates back to the mid 18th century.

Depending on ones budget, it could be used wall-to-wall or as a carpet. It was laid over existing carpet in the summer or left in place year round. Cocoa matting is a more expensive and durable version of grass matting and is referenced in an 1864 invoice of materials ordered for the Cottage by Mary Lincoln. Along with the “460 yds of goqua matting” (sic), Mrs. Lincoln ordered numerous services and items including wall paper for seven large rooms, window shades, curtains and one large “hair mattress” (ew). This little spending spree, paid for by the Commissioner of Public Works, totaled $2,556. An amount in today’s dollars equal to nearly $35,000!

While we still haven’t raised the funds to fully replace the cocoa matting with a certified slavery-free option (you can help us do so here!) the removal of the cocoa matting is just the preliminary step. Stay tuned for more updates on the entire preservation process in the next few months.


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