Detailed Restoration Work in the Connecticut Board Room

Written by: Patrick Sheary, DAR Museum Curator of Furnishings
August 14, 2017

Since Mrs. Dillon’s March blog, the restoration of the Connecticut Board room is complete. As everyone may recall the room was in pretty rough condition with failing plaster ornament, peeling paint and deteriorated woodwork. Over a four month period, architectural conservators from Worcester Eisenbrandt Inc. (WEI) of Baltimore, MD under the watchful eye of myself, repaired and replaced damaged elements. During this process the room looked war torn with holes in the ceiling, missing woodwork, ornamental plaster and dust everywhere. Slowly WEI conservators and craftsmen, headed up by Amy Hollis and Oscar Bonilla, pieced the room back together working with traditional methods.

The original plan was to repair the room’s decorative paint scheme installed in the 1950s so that everything would look like it did before the work began. The 1950s décor had a lot of bronze “gold” paint that covered the ornamental plaster rosettes, leafage and flowers. Over the years, the bronze paint turned brown and in some areas green from exposure to dampness.

During the restoration process original gilding had been discovered on some moldings hidden under later layers of paint. This discovery led to a reevaluation of the 1950s décor and possible restoration of the original 1910 color scheme. A preliminary paint analysis undertaken in 2005 identified some of the colors used in 1910. With the 2005 survey as a guide, Amy carried out more detailed analysis and developed a historic color scheme based upon her findings.

Amy made a drawing of the proposed historic color scheme for presentation to the Museum staff and to members of the Executive Committee. This drawing shows the colors consisted of subtle shades of white and cream. Gilding selectively highlighted basic architectural elements like the top of the cornice, perimeter of wall panels and circles in the ceiling above the chandeliers. For their presentation WEI painted a corner of the room the historic colors to give everyone a better idea of what they looked like. Everyone was pleasantly surprised how the subtle tones highlighted architectural elements that had been hidden by the bronze paint. The main color was further divided between two carefully placed paint finishes consisting of semi-gloss and satin, further distinguishing the plaster from the wood framework.

After the decision had been made to proceed, Amy drew detailed plans indicating where all the colors and finish types were to go and Oscar and his crew used them to carefully apply the paint. This process took many weeks of painstaking work which began with the ceiling and moved to the walls. All surfaces received a primer coat and two coats of finish paint. Some of the most tedious work involved painting the coffers in the cove of the ceiling. I even got to paint a few rosettes under the watchful eye of the professionals! When painting was complete, it was time for the bling! Amy used gold metallic paint to create the stars in the ceiling using a template while Oscar worked on the moldings. The end result is truly stunning as seen in this before and after detail photo. The historic colors give an excellent representation on how the entire interior of Memorial Continental Hall looked when new in 1910, an understated and elegant presentation that truly allows the intricately sculpted plaster trim to shine.  

No room is complete without furnishings. The Connecticut Board Room still retains its original furniture. An unknown cabinetmaker made the mahogany table and chairs. Custom made for the room, each piece features hand carved decorations in the rococo style originally popular during colonial times. Thirteen chairs have seals of the original states painted onto shields of the backs and the armchair is a copy of the “rising sun” chair of Independence Hall fame. We have arranged all the furniture as close as possible to its 1910 appearance based upon a period photo. The carpet is a copy of the original, long since worn out. The gilt bronze and cut glass electric chandeliers are also original to the room and are fitted with reproduction 1910s style lightbulbs.   

Though the room now looks complete, plans call for the installation of 1910s style curtains. A future blog will discuss this process. In the meantime enjoy the elegance of the restored Connecticut Board Room.

Thank you so much for your generous support of this project. If you are interested in supporting this project, please visit www.dar.org/PGDillon.

Connect with DAR

Stay Up-to-Date

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Search, Subscribe, & Send us a comment

Get Involved
 

Historic Preservation,
Education, Patriotism

Through restoring historic properties, funding scholarships and supporting our troops, DAR makes a difference in local communities.