The Main Lounge of the Queen Mary, (called cabin class prewar and first class after World War 2), was the most luxurious space on this great liner. Originally, famed post-impressionist artist Duncan Grant was commissioned to paint three large panels for this room and he was also commissioned to design the carpet and all of the fabrics used in the draperies and on the furniture. But his paintings and all of his other designs were rejected by the board of directors of the Cunard-White Star Line as too avant garde just months before the maiden voyage.
(left) Seguidilla, Grant's primary panel. Seguidilla photo courtesy of Sotheby's (right) A fabric sample for the Queen Mary by Duncan Grant in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In early 1936 the ship's design team scrambled to find suitable replacements. A custom designed and woven carpet by Agnes Pinder Davis was selected as the ultimate choice. This pre-war illustration shows her design concept for the carpet in this room along with a somewhat similar upholstery scheme that was put in place for the maiden voyage.
Design concept for the Main Lounge of the RMS Queen Mary with carpet by Agnes Pinder Davis. Illustration circa 1936 provided by Jonathan Quayle.
However there was not enough time before the maiden voyage in late May to complete the carpet, so an interim solution was required. According to the Shipbuilder ... " the beautiful parquet floor, covering the full length of the room is in an oak panel design, strapped with massive bands of mahogany and edged with broad lines of rich deep-toned Indian laurel... The floor, when not being used for dancing , is covered with a specially designed heavy-grade Wilton carpet and rugs in a leaf design, carried out in shades of green and grey...."
The Unicorns in Battle by Gilbert Bayes and Alfred Oakley is the theme of the gesso panel at the forward end of the Main Lounge. This gilt silver and gold panel replaced Seguidilla, Grant's primary panel that was rejected as inapprpriate by the board of directors of the Cunard-White Star Line.
The heavy duty Wilton carpet in a leaf design, carried out in shades of green and grey served the Main Lounge of Queen Mary through 1939. (The thrifty operators were not about to discard the expensive Wilton carpet until it had some wear.)
Finally in the refit after World War 2, Agnes Pinder Davis' carpet was installed but with a very different upholstery scheme than was envisioned at the time of the maiden voyage.
The Main Lounge with Agnes Pinder Davis' carpet installed and the post war upholstery scheme in place.
The elegant art deco design was further confused by later reupholstery efforts in an attempt to create a "cozy country house look" on the great liner that once prided itself as being modern. The color photo below from the early 1960's shows the mixed results achieved by these efforts. It also illustrates the way the Main Lounge looked when the Queen Mary arrived in Long Beach.
The first class Main Lounge of the Queen Mary as decorated in the 1960's.
As conceived by Diner's Club, the first Long Beach master lessee of the Queen Mary, this room was to be an upscale restaurant. The custom carpet, (hand dyed and woven in multiple segments) was viewed as expendable.
The Main Lounge as conceived by Diner's Club Queen Mary as an upscale restaurant.
Various stories have circulated as to the disposal and/or disposition of the carpet(s). One has the carpet pieces sent out to be cleaned and when they were returned to the ship it was closed, so the cleaner simply deposited the rug(s) on the wharf. Allegedly it rained heavily and the carpets were soaked. They were put into storage still wet and rotted there and were ultimately disposed of.
The photo below shows the room as it looked with its parquet floor restored in 1969-1970 before the ship was open for general use.
The inlaid parquet floor as restored in 1969-1970 by Diner's Club. Note Maurice Lambert' s bronze reliefs on the theme of music over the stage. He did similar bronze reliefs over the four entrance ways that were designed to coordinate with Duncan Grant's (rejected) paintings.
Diner's Club left the Queen Mary in 1970, (before the ship ever opened), and the new master lesee was a local firm, Specialty Restaurants, Incorporated. Since that time the Main Lounge, renamed the Queen's Salon, has been used heavily as a multi-purpose banqueting "ballroom". The room was carpeted with only a wooden dance floor in front of the stage.
The Main Lounge renamed The Queen's Salon by David Tallichat of Specialty Restaurants, Inc. opened as a multi-purpose banqueting "ballroom" in 1972.
Water leakage from rain and the use of chemicals to clean that carpeting has essentially ruined the parquet floor beneath it. So today it is only in the area of the central fireplace that the banding in the once magnificent inlaid parquet floor even shows.
The Main Lounge, AKA "The Queen's Salon" circa 2009.
The central fireplace surrounded by the gesso panel of the Unicorns in Battle by Gilbert Bayes and Alfred Oakley with the clock by Charles Cameron Baillie that was reproduced by Rob Jacobs. The original clock that once graced this mantle is now in the museum.
There were once three like clocks by Baillie in the Main Lounge - one on each fireplace. Only one remains on the ship. This reproduction by Mr. Jacobs is lit internally as were the originals.
(left) Apollo and (right) Venus. Details from the central clock as reproduced by Rob Jacobs. The etched glass design details were unique of each of the three clocks.
The original clock by Charles Cameron Baillie on display in the ship's art gallery, a segment of the third class dining room that is used as an exhibit space.
The design board for the renovation of the Queen's Salon by J/Brice Design International, 2009.
In early January of 2010 the current lessee, Save The Queen, and their operator, Delaware North, removed the most recent version of carpet that was installed by Disney Management in the late 1980's. The condition of the original parquet floor beneath was thus revealed. It is severely damaged. Between the time the floor was restored by the curators of the Museum of the Sea in the 1970's as shown two photos above and the present time neither the City of Long Beach nor their lessees have made any effort to maintain it. Hopefully, the wooden floor might be salvaged. If not then the pattern used should at least be carefully documented for potential future restoration if and when the "golden circle" of great public rooms of the Queen Mary is ever truly restored for use as gala catering reception rooms. The woods used in the floor as identified in the Shipbuilder . i.e., "oak panel design, strapped with massive bands of mahogany and edged with broad lines of rich deep-toned Indian laurel" are still available commercially.
Photos taken on January 10, 2010 by the author.
The decision of the operator, presumeably approved by officials of the City of Long Beach is seen below. Work crews scrapped away the parquet floor on January 12, 2010.
Photograph taken by Brian Hawley, January 12, 2010.
Assuming that there was a mould problem possibly caused by the saturation of the carpeting in the Main Lounge either by over cleaning and/or from rain leaks.
1. Does this justify the total gutting of an original parquet floor in a major room in an historic property?
2. And who is responsible for this problem? What steps, if any, are being taken to recover damages from them?
3. Was this decision following best practices for a historic site? Or was this just an expedient decision made by a lessee and approved by the City of Long Beach?
4. Was the design of the floor carefully documented before it was gutted?
5. Were samples of the parquet and edgings kept so that, if and when the functions assigned for the use of this room are clarified and corrected, it can be reconstructed when funds are available?
January 15, 2010
Since the parquet floor was removed on January 12, the surface has been cleaned, a new layer of 3/4 inch plywood applied, a padding on top of that over which the new carpet is being installed.
See photos below the new carpet, made in Britain by Axminister, being installed. Note that the small area of original parquet flooring in front of the central fireplace is being retained.
I understand that both the window and the stage draperies put in place in the mid-1980's by Wrather Port Properties are also going to be replaced. The original dusky golden velvet ones from 1936 were still in place up until that time.
February 8, 2010
I visited the ship to photograph the recently completed work in the Main Lounge. While the overheads lights were off, I was able to capture images of several areas of the room.
(left) The new stage curtains. (right) The area in front of the main fireplace with carpet in place.
The new stage curtains are elegant and compliment the room. I am curious, however, about the backstage area. It was a mess with electric cords taped/strewn on the floor the last time I saw it five years ago. It was probably damaged when dinner theater was produced here in the 1980's. The fairly shallow stage was not designed for such an intensive theatrical use, rather it was designed for use by small ensemble concerts, i.e., a piano and a singer or for a live comedian to entertain passengers. Bob Hope sang Thanks for the Memories from this stage to the nervous passengers rushing home after war was declared in 1939.
The new drapes on the starboard windows. Note how dark these windows look as they are blocked to create a "backdrop" for the Promenade Cafe. Only the upper window reflects light that is streaming in from Sun Deck.
A like window on the port side. Note how the light streams into the room here from both Promenade Deck and from the upper portion of the window on Sun Deck.
New drapery covering one of the forward bays. These original seating areas are, unfortunately, still used as chair storage spaces. The woodwork and fixtures have neither been restored nor are they protected. They are simply draped off. During the Disney era the second funnel hatch space was used as table and chair storage space for the Main Lounge, AKA "The Queen's Salon." The two sculptures that were once installed here, Jupiter and the Princess Pheonicia by Nicolson Babb and The Sea King's Daughter by Gilbert Bayes are on display in the exhibit found in the former third class dining room on R deck forward.
(left) Jupiter and the Princess Pheonicia. (right) The Sea King's Daughter.
While all the "soft furnishings", i.e., the curtains, drapes and carpets have been replaced, no serious work appears to have been done to restore features of the original lighting scheme(s) nor to restore the wood paneling and the bas-relief and sculptural art still found throughout the room.
The color scheme selected for the soft furnishings is well selected and the various elements, i.e., the drapes, curtains, and carpet, do coordinate well and upgrade the look of the room.
Postscript on the Agnes Pinder Davis carpet.
Fortunately the story of the destruction of the custom carpet(s) in 1967-70 cannot be entirely correct. Below is a YouTube video about one portion of the Agnes Pinder Davis carpet left in storage for many years. Its owner, Jonathan Quayle - a respected collector of Maritime Antiquities decided to have it thoroughly and professionally cleaned. This footage is from a recent television programme on BBC4 on the Golden age of liners which was produced and directed by Rachel Jardine and was first broadcast in Britain on October 22, 2009.
Here is a recent email from Jonathan to me on the subject of the Agnes Pinder Davis carpet for the Main Lounge of the Queen Mary.
I think an indication of her prowess as a top designer of her day was her inclusion for her design in 1936 of 'Sea Holly' for the aft private dinning room of QM. The other three rooms are all represented by British artists seen as the most famous or most promising of their generation. These rooms would cater for the creme de la creme of high society and it could be argued that they were amongst the most important rooms on the ship in terms of decor. Its also interesting to note that her work here is an inlaid panel not a painting. She as a designer/artist was right there from the start as Queen Mary took on her interiors.
I often ask the same question as you have 'who cares' and you're right, it's not only just important for the likes of us who find all this fascinating, it does play a bigger role and hopefully help one day to a reproduction rug being laid down in that grand room.
See also our full article on the Main Lounge from the Alternative Vision web site at: