Blog Archive

Fun With Linoleum (No, Really!)


Recently, we’ve done some conservation work that required us to pry up floorboards in Apartment 7 at 97 Orchard Street. But before we could open the floor up, we had to remove the floor covering–an 80 or 90-something year old linoleum “rug” probably installed by the building’s last landlord. There are several of these throughout the building.

The Baldizzi Family Kitchen

The Baldizzi family's kitchen has an original linoleum "rug" from the 1920's

Our Collections Manager Kathleen O’Hara oversaw the project, working with Rachael Arenstein and Eugenie Milroy of AM Art Conservation. They cleaned the “rug” three times (vacuum, dry cleaning, wet cleaning), then faced it with a wet-strength tissue-paper, and rolled it around a 21″ diameter tube for storage while work on the floor was completed. And you thought cleaning YOUR kitchen floor was tough!

The Linoleum "rug" Before and After

The Linoleum "rug" Before and After

First manufactured in the mid-18th century, Linoleum is an environmentally friendly precursor to vinyl flooring. It’s made from renewable, plant-based materials like solidified linseed oil (linoxyn), pine rosin, ground cork dust, wood flour, and mineral fillers. Most of the time, Linoleum was mounted on a coarse fabric backing and installed in one piece. Over the years it was created with different colors and patterns (including the popular faux “rug” theme) to match the fashions of the day.

Linoleum Ad, 1929

"Motifs strikingly modern or distinctly conservative!"; Ad for Sealex Linoleum, House Beautiful magazine, April 1929

Want to take a closer look at the historic decorative elements that make 97 Orchard Street unique? Check out our “Exploring 97 Orchard Street” tour on Thursday evenings to learn how residents and landlords changed the look and feel of our Tenement over time–and what they left behind!

— Posted by Kira Garcia