New Paint for Joel Lane House PDF Print Email
Written by Lanie Hubbard   
Friday, November 22, 2019 05:18 PM

Big changes are coming to the Joel Lane Museum House this winter, in a project 250 years in the making. The museum—known for its 18th-century historical tours led by docents in period costume—announced Thursday that the Lane House will be restored to its original 1769 colors, in a major renovation that will begin in the coming weeks. New research has found that the Lane House originally bore little resemblance to the yellow building Raleigh has known since the 1970s: in 1769, Joel Lane chose a distinctive garnet red, highlighted by tan-colored trim, for the siding of his new house.
Animation of paint change at Joel LaneThe research that revealed the original colors is a result of an important preservation project. In conjunction with the house’s 250th Anniversary in 2019, the Joel Lane Museum House (JLMH) embarked on a project to replace the house’s failing paint. “Preservationists typically avoid removing old paint at all costs,” says JLMH director Lanie Hubbard, “because those layers are evidence of the history of a structure, and paint helps to preserve the wood. Unfortunately, our paint is compromised: it should protect the wood, but ours has trapped moisture within. Experts have found the beginnings of rot. To save the wood, we must sacrifice the paint.”
Fearful of losing the evidence captured in centuries of accumulated color, the museum commissioned a study to analyze each layer. Museum staff and volunteers hunted for the best-preserved samples, armed with flashlights, scalpels, and meticulously labeled sample bags. Those samples were sent to Dr. Susan Buck, an expert in historical paint analysis in Williamsburg, VA, who has studied the paint at sites including Mount Vernon and Monticello. “We knew that it was quite possible that we would discover that the colors we have thought were accurate since the house’s restoration in the 1970s were incorrect,” Ellen Jackson, president of the Joel Lane Museum House Board of Directors, said. “We hoped Dr. Buck would be able to determine the precise colors that decorated the Lane House over the years. She found more than we dared to hope: some samples revealed twenty-six layers of paint, representing all 250 years of the house’s history. The red was a surprise!”
The results may have surprised Dr. Buck, as well: “The original palette of dark red siding and tan-colored trim is somewhat unusual for a pre-Revolutionary house,” she writes in the conclusion of her report. The result is certainly a dramatic revision to the yellow that has become iconic of the Lane House.
The Joel Lane Museum House is preparing to put this new knowledge to use to restore the original color the Lane House wore in 1769. Beginning as soon as mid-December, restoration experts will remove paint and damaged material, and stabilize the wood beneath. “A lot of that wood is original,” Hubbard said. “It hasn’t seen the sun since enslaved workers first sawed it into boards, nailed it in place, and painted it, 250 years ago.” Once repaired, the building will be protected with new paint, in a vivid color that was buried for more than two centuries.
The Joel Lane Museum House plans to use this work to enhance their historic interpretation, as docents work to tell the stories of Raleigh’s past in a fresh, dynamic light. The oldest house in Wake County will be red once more.

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