Living History In Carved Wood and Plaster Still Humming Away In Bridgeport

Plaster moulds

Plaster moulds

Deep in the bowels of a nondescript building at 3610 South Morgan Street in Bridgeport, there’s a room off-limits to visitors.

Bill Denis, Decorators Supply Corporation vice president

Bill Denis, Decorators Supply Corporation vice president

It’s where Decorators Supply Corporation keeps every hand-sculpted oak and walnut carving its ever created. There are 13,000 different designs, dating back to the early 1900’s. They’re used to create new production moulds and from those, composition ornaments. The carving room is a living history of design. It’s also protected from the rest of the shop in a fireproof storage area.

That’s a good thing if you’re an interior designer who wants to recreate, say, an Italian Renaissance Corinthian column cap; you’re in luck. The same is true for obscure crown moldings, ceiling designs or fireplace mantel decorations.
Just browse through Decorators Supply’s historic catalogs online and you’ll get a sense of both the history and craftsmanship that went into these ornate carvings. The company’s works were even showcased during the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Today they’re often seen festooning the sets of big-budget Hollywood movies.

Wood carvings

Wood carvings

The Decorators Supply composition, wood and plaster shops were featured during the 2013 Open House Chicago event run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Hand-carved ornamentation is somewhat of a lost art. There are few companies that specialize in the field, and Decorators Supply Corp. is one of the largest. They primarily use the same technique to product plaster moulds that was used a century ago: gypsum, water and hemp.

Decorators Supply does some custom work, but with thousands of design options available, most of its work is recreations from its vast catalogs.

Plaster cast

Plaster cast

 

Wood carving to be made into a mould

Wood carving to be made into a mould

 

Disclosure Notice:  Decorators Supply Corporation is a client of Artefaqs Corporation, the company which owns The Chicago Architecture Blog.  The author of this article was not aware of that fact when he chose DSC for this article, nor was DSC aware that the author of this article was writing for an Artefaqs Corporation publication.  Both are probably now connecting the dots.

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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