Moving Rooms

The Trade in Architectural Salvages

John Harris

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Since at least Tudor times there have been architectural salvages: panelling, chimney pieces, doorways, or any fixtures and fittings might be removed from an old interior to be replaced by more fashionable ones. Not surprisingly a trade developed and architects, builders, masons, and sculptors sought out these salvages. By 1820 there was a growing profession of brokers and dealers in London, and a century later antique shops were commonplace throughout England.

This fascinating book documents the break-up, sale, and re-use of salvages in Britain and America, where the fashion for so-called “Period Rooms” became a mainstay of the transatlantic trade. Much appreciated by museum visitors, period rooms have become something of a scholarly embarrassment, as research reveals that many were assembled from a variety of sources. One American embraced the trade as no other--the larger-than-life William Randolph Hearst--who purchased tens of thousands of architectural salvages between 1900 and 1935.


John Harris is Curator Emeritus of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He is an architectural historian and the author of The Palladian Revival: Lord Burlington and His Villa at Chiswick and Sir William Chambers, both published by Yale University Press.

‘He (Harris) remains the master recorder of the tragedy of the English house over the past century…He has watched great buildings fall, great families decline, and has communed with their ghosts in the ruins’---Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

'...a sustainable piece of detective work that has been half a century in the making.' - Marcus Binney, The Times

'This fascinating book documents the break-up, sale, and re-use of salvages in Britain and America, where the fashion for so-called "Period Rooms" became a mainstay of the transatlantic mode.'  - Listed Heritage

'Mr. Harris's exhaustive -- and enjoyable -- study is a major work of scholarship, driven by a personal passion to trace elements of great country houses that were either demolished or denuded of important interiors...Anyone with an interest in country-house architecture and decoration or in the history of American taste and museum presentation should read this impressive book.'  - Jeremy Musson, Country Life

'Ceaseless ferreting among archives, drawings, objects and buildings for at least fifty years has made John Harris a dazzling discoverer of facts about British architects, interior designers and garden designers.  Moving Rooms, about architectural salvages in Britain and America, is the latest of over fifteen books, and a triumph.'  - David Watkin, Literary Review

"Harris examines the removal of rooms from European structures, particularly English ones, from the 17th century onward. With invaluable illustrations, he describes in detail the trade in interiors that resulted in museum period rooms in Europe and especially in America. . . . Harris goes into detail about the trade, the sources of these interiors, and those involved in selling and buying them. The book is fascinating. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Harris pulls no punches in his exhaustive investigation into Continental architecture salvages and how they came to be period rooms in museums and private homes."—Jeanne Schinto, Maine Antique Digest

“…the story that John Harris explores with such thoroughness…is advanced with a richness of exemplar that only Harris’s knowledge of British and French sources could produce…Scholars will return frequently to the checklist…and the five appendices.” - Sarah Medlam, Burlington Magazine

Winner of the 2007 William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History sponsored by the Berger Collection Educational Trust and The British Art Journal.
ISBN: 9780300124200
Publication Date: September 28, 2007
Co-publisher: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
240 pages, 7 1/2 x 10 1/2
200 b/w + 20 color illus.

Nikolaus Pevsner, John Harris and Nicholas Antram

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