Out of an abundance of caution in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, this event has been rescheduled for October
The scenic murals that decorated the walls of many early American houses were not—as is often stated—commissioned as a cheap alternative to costly wallpapers. As the members of the Hallowell, Maine-based Center for Painted Wall Preservation like to point out, the mellow vistas of hillsides and riverscapes painted in the first decades of the nineteenth century by Rufus Porter, Jonathan D. Poor, Moses Eaton, and others were a preference. They were the choice of, as Porter put it in an advertisement for his work that he placed in the Providence Patriot newspaper of Rhode Island in 1822, “[t]hose gentlemen who are desirous of spending the gloomy winter months amidst pleasant groves and verdant fields.”
Two centuries on, while many homeowners are proud stewards of such murals, other so-called gentlemen, alas, are not desirous of such interior scenery. Murals not already threatened by wear, the weather, mildew, and other ravages of time are frequently lost to renovation work and the wrecking ball. Enter the CPWP, which was founded in 2015 to offer guidance on conservation and to authenticate or otherwise document the existence of historic murals. “Painted plaster walls are regularly reported to us,” says Linda Lefko, an independent researcher and director of the CPWP. “These are often discovered during a remodeling job, reconfiguring a floor plan, or in the process of redecorating. Many times the integrity of the original decoration has been compromised, but enough remains to document the work.”
Members of the Center will meet in April to trade stories of case studies of painted walls that have been protected, share tips, and discuss paint analysis and best practices for preservation. Those who are interested in learning more about caring for these colorful artifacts of the American past are encouraged to attend.
Center for Painted Wall Preservation’s Conserving Our Painted Past symposium • Portland, ME • October 25 to 27 • pwpcenter.org/symposium