In 2019, JLMH commissioned Dr. Susan Buck, a conservator and paint analysis expert, to do an optical microscopy exterior paint analysis for the historic 1769 Joel Lane house.
The analysis she complete of the exterior paint revolutionized our understanding of the early appearance of the structure. The dramatic restoration of the original 1760s dark red color, completed in 2020, was informed by that study.
About Dr. Susan L. Buck
Dr. Susan Buck completed M.S. in Art Conservation in 1991 from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and her Ph.D. in Art Conservation Research in 2003. Her dissertation “The Aiken-Rhett House: A Comparative Architectural Paint Study” won the University of Delaware Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize for the outstanding doctoral dissertation in the Humanities.
Her private conservation work now includes art and architectural paint and finish analysis projects for institutions including Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, MESDA, The Chipstone Foundation, Historic Deerfield, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, Stratford Hall, Historic Charleston Foundation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Drayton Hall and the World Monuments Fund Qianlong Garden Conservation Project in The Forbidden City in Beijing.
The goal of this project was to identify the compositions and colors of the front door, the siding, and the window and door trim on the ca. 1770 Joel Lane House. If the original paints and those related to the second period (1790-95) survived and could be identified through paint analysis, the colors would be matched with a colorimeter/microscope for reference and replication. Samples from the protected areas of the front door, the window and door trim, and the siding were sent to Dr. Buck for analysis.
Her general conclusion is below:
“It was satisfying to determine through cross-section microscopy analysis that the original paints on the door, door trim and siding still remain in the most protected areas of the main elevation.
The original palette of dark red siding and tan-colored trim is somewhat unusual for a pre-Revolutionary house. In the Chesapeake region houses of this stature and period were more often painted in a monochromatic manner with matching trim and siding. However, paint research in North Carolina over the last decade has revealed more about the unusual palettes of some early North Carolina buildings, as well preferences for fanciful, and sometimes quite unusual, grain-painted and marbleized finishes.
It is not possible to identify the original pattern for the grain-painting on the [front] door from tiny paint samples. It is also not likely that there is enough of the early paint surviving to reveal a pattern by carefully removing all the later paints that obscure the original decoration. Grain-painting [faux-graining] to replicate figured mahogany was common in this period for doors in the Chesapeake region, and it is likely mahogany was considered the most stylish wood to replicate for this house as well. Color matches for the original deep red siding paint and tan-colored trim paint follow. A color match is also included for the second-generation dark cream-colored paint on the trim which is appropriate for the 1790-95 interpretation period. And, because there is some question about whether the deep red paint remained exposed on the weatherboards after the roof alteration, a color match has been provided for the second-generation off-white paint on the siding.
The graining layers could not be confidently matched as these coatings are so degraded and disrupted. However, if the main door is to be replicated with graining by a decorative painter, the base coat for the second period of graining should be dark yellow, and the glaze for the figure of the wood should be brown. An experienced decorative painter will know how to appropriately replicate traditional mahogany graining, even with this limited amount of information.
No samples were analyzed from the shutters as the original shutters do not survive. But, typical period practice would have been to paint solid shutters to match the trim of the building. So, this seems to be an appropriate approach for repainting the shutters on the Joel Lane Museum House.”
Dr. Buck concluded that the Benjamin Moore exterior paint “Cottage Red” was a good visual match to the best preserved areas of the original dark red siding paint when examined in full spectrum light both at 30X magnification and unmagnified. The evidence suggests that this layer was only slightly glossy and could be replicated in an eggshell gloss level.
For the trim, the Benjamin Moore exterior paint “Quincy Tan” was suggested as a match to the best preserved areas of the original tan-colored trim paint, which evidence suggests was somewhat glossy and could be replicated in a satin gloss level.