Restoration Work in the Banquet Hall

Written by: Patrick Sheary, DAR Museum Curator of Furnishings
June 19, 2019

Recently, the Banquet Hall underwent a complete restoration to repair damage and make it more historically accurate to 1911 when it was first used for DAR luncheons and gatherings. The room is notable, not just for its dramatic architecture but for the fact that the decorative paneling, and the  plaster and the mahogany furniture are all original. Over the years, peeling paint and old water damage took a toll on the woodwork particularly on the south side of the room, adjacent to the rooftop terrace. This image shows deteriorated woodwork by the terrace door and here you can see some of the failing paint. In order to correct this properly, all the paneling on this exterior wall was stripped of over one hundred years of paint.

To protect the hand-printed wallpaper that was installed a few years earlier, it had to be carefully removed. This painstaking process was done by master paperhanger Patrick Shields and his son Rory. First, the wallpaper was completely saturated with water so that the glue would soften. Each panel took about two hours to remove. The paper was left to dry, numbered, rolled and set aside for eventual reinstallation.  

With the wallpaper removed, craftspeople from historic preservation contractor Worcester Eisenbrandt, Inc. (WEI) began the paint removal process. To do this, they used an environmentally safe paint stripper. After a few hours, the paint began to loosen allowing it to be carefully scraped away using specialized tools called spatulas. Two applications of stripper and two weeks later all the paint was removed.

The stripping process revealed damaged areas of both woodwork and decorative composition. For instance joints of the corner pilasters separated. All the “carved” decorations are actually made out of composition, a resinous material pressed into molds to create motifs. Here you can see missing leafage needing replacing. Plaster too, had suffered water damage.

Now the restoration could begin. WEI craftsmen headed by foreman Oscar Bonilla repaired the corner pilasters, tightening the seams and securing them with glue and temporary clamps and the missing composition was reproduced.  Since the opposite side of the room, the niches, and columns, did not require full stripping it received basic scraping and minor repairs. Plaster repairs also took place at this time on the ceiling and walls. With the application of primer, the first finish coat could be applied. This image shows a completed pilaster repair. The finish coat, creamy white, matches the original 1911 color. Architectural conservator Amy Hollis of WEI determined this through paint analysis and consultation with me. 

With the painting complete and the plaster panels primed, Patrick Shields and his son returned to reinstall the wallpaper.  Reinstalling the wallpaper was straightforward because it had already been fitted to the panels. Numbering each panel meant that everything returned to its original location.

The completed room looks much closer to its 1911 appearance. It is ready for the next 100 years. Many thanks goes to the North Carolina State Society for funding the original restoration of the room. We are also grateful for the more than 9,200 donations received from members in response to the President General’s Label Mailing in support of the Banquet Hall restoration. Thank you for your support!     

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