June 9, 2006
Robert Carter House returns to its 18th-century appearance based on microscopic paint analysis
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is repainting the Robert Carter House on the west side of Palace Green in the Historic Area to reflect current research discoveries about the structure’s 18th-century appearance. The new paint is a medium gray color that matches paint evidence linked to Carter’s ownership of the house.
The house was originally constructed in the early 18th century. Royal Governor Robert Dinwiddie occupied the home, adjacent to the Governor’s Palace, while the Palace was remodeled and enlarged in 1751-52. Carter, a planter, remodeled and lived in the house in the 1760s and 1770s.
Two years ago, paint evidence was discovered on original woodwork of the structure during a microscopic investigation, part of a long-term collaborative project involving Colonial Williamsburg architectural historians and architectural collection managers working with the Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation.
“Colonial Williamsburg has often been a leader in the investigation and precise reuse of early paint colors, including in the earliest days of the restoration, in the late 1920s and 30s,” said Edward Chappell, the Shirley and Richard Roberts director of architectural research for Colonial Williamsburg. “Technology allows us to continue that leadership by applying advanced microscopy used in the best art conservation and focusing that technology on 18th-century Virginia buildings. It’s remarkable how much new information familiar old buildings give up under gentle and careful study.”
Facilities Maintenance painters employed by Colonial Williamsburg are doing the work as part of the foundation’s regular maintenance program. Contrasting colors, typical of period architecture, will be used on shutters and doors. Shutters will be painted in a medium green while doors will appear as dark brown.