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Preserving Colonial Williamsburg: Maintaining our Painted Surfaces in the Historic Area

Our maintenance workers provide the first line of defense for our buildings, painting 75 to 85 buildings a year

March 29, 2019 By Emily Campbell

One of the major annual projects for the Department of Architectural Preservation and Research is our exterior paint program. Paint is the first line of defense for wooden surfaces, as it protects the wood from moisture. We have found that the integrity of siding and trim is greatly improved with diligent paint maintenance.

There are 603 structures in the Historic Area that all require paint maintenance. We have created a cyclical schedule to ensure that each structure is painted approximately every seven years. This requires us to paint 75 to 85 buildings a year, which is a huge undertaking!

Last year we reached our goal. Some of you may have noticed the paint crews working throughout the year. The Foundation has a paint crew, who complete several of these exterior projects annually. This is in addition to interior painting, daily touch ups, and unforeseen maintenance. The remaining exterior work is contracted, which helps us to stay on schedule.

A few of the exhibition and trades buildings that were painted last year are the Courthouse, Coffeehouse, James Geddy House, and Golden Ball.

In addition to preservation, we can use paint interpretatively. Many of our frequent visitors have noticed that some building colors have changed. These color changes are based on documentary and scientific paint analysis. This means that the evidence from the building is telling us what would be a more appropriate color for our eighteenth century interpretation. By updating colors to reflect our latest historical findings, we can present a more accurate landscape to our visitors. A few examples of 2018 color changes include David Morton House, Holt’s Storehouse, and the Greenhow Brick Office.

Paint maintenance took a brief pause through the colder months, but you will see our crews back on the street in the coming weeks.


About the Author

Emily Campbell

Emily is an architectural preservation and research associate in the Grainger Department of Architectural Preservation and Research. She is responsible for documenting Colonial Williamsburg’s historic buildings as well as assisting with preservation projects. Campbell especially enjoys working on the painting projects and learning more about 18th-century paint colors. In her spare time, Emily enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors.