Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - RR1709
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library
The GOVERNOR'S PALACE COMPLEX closed from Tuesday, January 17 through Friday, February 17, 2006 for preventive maintenance, conservation, and curatorial changes. The project was undertaken on the Governor's Palace and 13 outbuildings using 143 Colonial Williamsburg employees, volunteers, interns and 43 employees from 13 contracted firms.
The Governor's Palace is a reconstructed complex of 24 buildings completed in 1934 and exhibited today as the home of Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor to occupy the site. The royal quality of this impressive group of buildings and associated formal gardens makes the Governor's Palace one of Colonial Williamsburg's most visited sites. Guests enjoy progressing through the carefully orchestrated procession of spaces from the commanding entrance hall to the Royal Governor's fashionable public entertaining spaces and upstairs to his elegant inner sanctum of sleeping, dressing and private entertaining spaces. A complete array of outbuildings gives the visitor a vignette of the service life of the royal governor's support staff in the 18th century.
The following notes made during the closing project supplement the 2006 plan entitled, "Closing for Preventive Maintenance and Conservation: Governor's Palace Complex." The original plan can be accessed through the Colonial Williamsburg Intranet site. Routine preventive maintenance includes painting, carpentry repairs, mechanical service, window cleaning, floor cleaning and projects specific to the site. The work detailed in the closing plan took place as scheduled unless explained otherwise in this summary. The summary also describes work not included in the closing plan and work recommended for the next closing.
Since 1981, the Governor's Palace has been furnished to reflect Lord Botetourt's residency of the Palace, 1768-1770. Lord Botetourt was a bachelor, but his successor Lord Dunmore had a wife and seven children. Colonial Williamsburg's interpretive program currently reflects Dunmore's term as governor, 1771-1775. Because of the differences in their family situations and lifestyles, the Governor's Palace would have clearly looked very different during the occupation by the Earl of Dunmore, his family, and associated staff. Unfortunately, little documentation survives of Lord Dunmore's residency. For this reason, furnishing the Palace proved challenging.
However, an inventory of Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier's estate exists and provides insight into the furnishing of the Palace for a governor with a family. Since Lord Botetourt purchased many of his furnishings from Fauquier, a comparison of the two inventories illustrates subtle but important differences between their room use patterns. Drawing upon personal letters and public records as well, researchers have determined how Lord Dunmore and his family may have used the Palace in terms of both public and private space.
The 2006 closing for preventive maintenance and conservation provided a unique opportunity to not only perform routine work such as repainting, carpet cleaning, and window washing, but to also rearrange and refurnish the Palace to reflect how Lord Dunmore and his family would have lived. This reinterpretation involved painting, rearranging furniture, bringing in new pieces of furniture, and reassigning the use of rooms. Combined with the yearly maintenance, the process necessitated a five-week closing and allowed time for guided tours of the work to visitors and staff.
In 1981, an arms display was installed in the Governor's Palace to reflect the historic display that served as a significant part of the building and was documented in correspondence by many visitors to the Palace. In the eighteenth century, William Byrd described them as "so fine a sett." "I must confess they are far beyond any usually delivered out of the Tower while I serv'd in the Army," he wrote. The 1981 arms installation was based on Botetourt's extensive inventory. Twenty-five years later, it was necessary to remove these arms in order to treat the walls behind them. This conservation necessity offered a unique opportunity to re-examine evidence for a Palace arms display and consider changing the design to more closely reflect Lord Dunmore's residency in the Palace.
On June 24, 1775, American colonists, led by Colonel Theodorick Bland, entered the Palace and removed the Palace weapons, thus symbolically stripping Lord Dunmore of his gubernatorial authority. Bland and his forces took a careful inventory of the weapons they removed. This inventory has survived and records 230 muskets, 18 incomplete pistols, 158 broadswords and 134 small swords. The arms display installed in the Palace in 1981, that included 180 muskets, 223 pistols, no broad or small swords and 186 curved-blade sabers, differed significantly from the documented display from 1775. Therefore, Colonial Williamsburg decided to alter the arms display during the 2006 closing to more accurately reflect this 1775 inventory.
Not only did the number of weapons have to change, but Colonial Williamsburg decided to alter the design and layout of the weapons as well. The 1981 arms display seemed to have been based on a mid-century Gothic Revival illustration rather than on evidence for colonial displays. John Harris was Britain's premier architect of arms display during the seventeenth and eighteenth 5 centuries. Many of his designs still exist, as illustrations, or, as in the case of Chevening and Hampton Court, as he originally installed them.
After studying the inventory and John Harris's work, several important changes were made to the arms display. Excess weapons (205 pistols and 186 curved blade sabers) were removed and additional weapons (134 small swords, 158 broadswords, and 50 muskets with bayonets) were acquired. The additional 50 muskets acquired conform to the muskets already in the Palace. The two types of swords acquired are reproductions manufactured in India. The broadswords are double- edged cavalry blades basket-hilted in the Scottish style used by the British mounted troops during the Revolutionary era. The small swords were carried by British foot soldiers during the period. Fragments of these types of swords have been found at the Palace and the Geddy Foundry. The reproductions of these swords, also manufactured in India, are based on the examples found in Williamsburg.
All the muskets were removed from the walls for conservation according to the West Method of musket cleaning protocol formulated by Carl West. The muskets were disassembled, dusted, and cleaned with mineral spirits. The entire musket and ramrod outer surfaces were conditioned with a small amount of Renaissance wax.
All old battens that held the weapons were removed and the old holes were repaired with walnut fills then colored with dyes and retouch crayons. The conservation team provided 64 new walnut battens, pre-stained and pre-drilled for bolts, to accommodate the new arms display design. These battens were constructed in three sizes to allow for the different weights of weapons: 1¼"x 2½", 1¼"x 3½", and 1¼"x 6".
One of the most compelling symbols of the 1981 arms display was the circular display of muskets on the ceiling of the entry hall. However, the function of the arms display in the Governor's Palace was to not only be a 6 symbolic display of power, but also be readily available if they were needed. Muskets mounted to the ceiling would not have been easily accessible. Another major change to the arms display was the removal of arms from the pilasters. The pilasters are now accentuated with globes and the weapons cover more of the paneled walls. In addition, the flags extended from flagpoles were replaced by furled colors similar to those in Harris's designs.
The fact that the arms are now more readily available than in the previous design means that they are now within reach of the visitors to the Governor's Palace. This accessibility necessitated extensive preventive steps. A layer of wax was applied to all weapons within reaching distance to keep the metal shiny and rust free and to keep the wood to keep it conditioned. Brass and iron wires were used to secure the lower muskets to the wall, keep the hammers in an open position, and prevent guests from removing the weapons.
Several changes were made to the paint in the Governor's Palace, both in terms of the color and type of paint used. The Supper Room walls had previously been painted using authentic whitewash. The walls were papered and painted a bright green, based on paint analysis by Susan Buck of antique papers from 1770-1785 in the colonial Williamsburg Collection. The painting process consisted of several steps. To begin with, the whitewash was scraped and sanded off to leave the walls smooth. Aanekoski brand Cresta D-2 acid free liner from Finland was then hung in horizontal strips on the bare walls. A mixture of half Zinsser Bull's Eye Water Base Primer Sealer and half water was applied to the lined walls.
Plain white wallpaper was then hung on the walls using heavy Duty Clear Wallcovering Adhesive premixed by Professional (Pro 38). The paper was made at Griffen Millin Ballyhannis, Ireland and sold through Faulkner & Co. in London. Unlike modern wallpaper on a roll, the paper was manufactured in 259 rectangles and shipped tot the United State in flat packages. Nothing was measured or hung exactly level in order to appear more authentic. Individual sheets were hung in a pattern with half-inch overlaps. The pattern is clearly discernible with imprecise lines throughout the walls.
A second coat of sealer was applied on top of the wallpaper, the final layer before the bright green distemper paint. Traditional distemper paint is made with water, chalk, traditional hide glue (gelatin heated until liquid), and hand-ground pigments. The pigments were hand-ground to avoid the uniformity of machine-ground pigments. The paint was then mixed by Chris Ohrstrom, Steve Larson and Jack Fisher of Adelphi Paper Hangings. The painters applied only one coat in large sweeping motions, using a whitewash brush from Omega, Italy. Because of the sweeping technique, skips will be inherent; 8 however, these skips were not be touched up because any areas with more than one layer of paint would have appeared darker.
The wallpaper was the most important step in the painting process, and by today's standards, the most unusual. Wallpaper was necessary to achieve the intended final effect. In the 18th century, it took up to two years for new plaster to dry fully. Installing plain wallpaper and then painting the paper served as a useful way to achieve the brilliance of paint without the problem of distemper reacting with the lime in the plaster. Without the wallpaper, the paint binder would have soaked into the walls, diminishing the brightness and brilliant powdery appearance of the color. Thomas Jefferson even hung two layers of wall paper to ensure the brightness of his paint color.
The flat and cove ceilings of the Supper Room were painted with a base of oil paint and finished with two coats of tinted platinum flat latex. Oil-based simulated whitewash paint was applied using a wallpaper brush to create the intended appearance with a more durable material. The first finish coat of latex in a color close to the brightness of new whitewash was applied with a roller followed by a final coat using a regular paint brush. The cove trim, woodwork, and windows were painted using Blandfield White Altered Bright Life satin oil, applied with a painter's brush (with the exception of the cornice which was sprayed). The baseboard was painted Palace Supper Room Brown #1459.
The Ballroom wallpaper, originally hung in 1981, was repainted with the same blue latex paint color (#1464) during the project. As in the Supper Room, the cove and flat ceilings were painted with the simulated whitewash oil and platinum flat latex. The cove trim, plaster molding between the flat and cove ceilings, woodwork, and sash were painted with the Blandfield White paint. The base, which had previously been black, was painted with the same brown as the Supper Room base.9
Ceilings of the upstairs hall passage, the entry hall, and the downstairs stairway were also painted with the simulated whitewash finished with the platinum flat latex.
Inspections in years past had noted the need to clean the walnut paneling, particularly on the first floor of the Palace. Because all of the weapons were taken down, the painters were able to clean all of the paneling and woodwork using Penetrol, a penetrating surface conditioner. The difference was striking between clean and dirty surfaces.
The Palace closing project requires a day-by-day operations plan for coordinating the work. Six months of planning among Foundation departments yielded a comprehensive 25-day plan for the five-week 2006 closing. Each activity within the plan required exact scheduling so that the project flowed smoothly. This was truly a "One-Foundation" effort, using 24 different areas of the Foundation (see list of personnel within this report). The long pre-planning process paid off and the project flowed smoothly in an unprecedented cooperative atmosphere. Each member of the 186-person team worked diligently to ensure that the project was successful and often completed tasks ahead of schedule. Site meetings held daily at 8:30 am ensured that changes in the schedule were discussed and planned effectively.
For the first time during a preventive maintenance closing, the site was opened for guest tours during working hours. The tours were conducted by Palace interpreters with guest appearances from other Foundation staff associated with the project. As many as twenty guests per tour viewed the work on the first floor and stairhall four times daily during the week and ten times daily on weekends. During the few times that tours could not safely take place, the Palace grounds and outbuildings were open for visitation. Guests clearly appreciated the opportunity to witness major curatorial changes in progress.
The curatorial changes discussed within this document did not permit the normal time for maintenance projects. However, staff still completed 18 pages of routine preventive maintenance (separate report).
In general, the first floor spaces requiring major changes (Hall, Passage, Ballroom, and Supper Room) were completely emptied of furnishings. Most furnishings from the first floor were stored either in the East Advance or at the Wallace Collections Building. The three Ballroom chandeliers were removed and all but the shaft of the Supper Room chandelier was removed. Bubble wrap in loosely secured rings with plastic draped over the surface protected the Supper Room shaft. The Dining Room served as storage for items that were considered too fragile to be moved out of the building. The two largest Ballroom portraits were stored on customized rolling A-frames in the Dining Room. The musical instruments were also stored in the Dining Room. Furnishings in rooms not under construction were moved to the center of room and covered with polyethylene. HVAC supply and return grilles were covered with cheesecloth to limit the amount of dust and dirt in the system.
Floor protection was an important part of the project since scaffolding was rolled around every room on the first floor. Floor protection differed from room to room as follows:
Additional decorative changes were made to the interior of the Palace to reflect new research. Details of changes are summarized in a memorandum of June 29, 2004 from Robert Leath and Tara Chicirda to all curators.
The stoves in both the Ballroom and the Supper Room were reoriented to reflect a diagram and instructions in Lord Botetourt's inventory about how to install a stove. Previously, the loading door for the coal was located on the side next to the wall. The stoves were rotated 90 degrees clockwise, making it easier to fill the stove with coal.
In the Ballroom and the Supper Room, gilt gadroon borders modeled after Charleston's Miles Brewton House and the New Hampshire Wentworth House were added as decorative elements. These small borders were installed in three layers: a Beva film barrier, a sacrificial layer of acid free paper, and finally borders with gold leaf to simulate paper mache were glued on. While time consuming, installing in multiple layers means that the border can be removed or replaced without damaging the paint underneath. The borders followed the lines of the woodwork. The borders total 466 linear feet, close to the 500 foot length of borders purchased by Lord Botetourt. Tack heads were glued to the borders to simulate the 5,000 brass tacks needed in the original installation.
In addition to the new paint color and gold borders, a new 20'x22' wool Wilton carpet was installed in the Supper Room. Woven in a neoclassical pattern by Classic Revivals Inc., in Boston Massachusetts, this carpet was based on Botetourt's inventory. According to the inventory, the Supper Room carpet was stored on the third floor because he never finished decorating the Supper Room. In the 1760s, it was fashionable to have plain wallpaper with a patterned carpet. The carpet intended 13 for the Supper Room was based on an 18th-century painting of gentlemen at breakfast and was hand woven with Georgian green, dark greenfinch, Venetian pink, dark sandlewood, and cyclaman.
In the Upper Middle Room, several furnishings were removed and a dressing table and square piano were added. A new, more authentic wool Turkey carpet replaced the existing carpet. Conservators and curators fabricated new window valances and draperies.
All four portraits were switched in the Ballroom so that the monarchs face each other. Examination showed that the portraits had been switched previously; therefore, no new holes were needed to insert screws. The four hangers on the portraits of King George and Queen Charlotte were shimmed to take the weight of the portrait evenly. Conservator Shelley Svoboda undertook minor inpainting of the portraits as well.
The clothes press from the Upper Middle Room was moved o the Study, requiring the re-arrangement of prints, a looking glass, and map. His Lordship's Bedchamber was moved to the Chamber over the Pantry where a new bed was installed.
The paintings and looking glass were re-arranged in the second-floor passage to improve light reflection. The ceiling and walls in the same space were repainted a brighter white.
The Ballroom chandeliers were re-wired on separate circuits. New steel safety cables for each chandelier were secured to framing members for added security.
An extension was welded to the iron handrail on the main stair to comply with insurance and ADA regulations.
The wood barrier to hold chairs in place in the second-floor passage was re-designed. Also, a new wood chair barrier was installed in the first-floor passage to prevent the head of a person seated from being hit by the muskets.
Loose footbolts were secured at the entrance to the Ballroom and the Supper Room.
Changes in furnishings in the Upper Middle Room required the installation of protective stanchions in new locations.
The balcony on the south elevation of the Palace was painted.
Painters washed mildew off of the cellar ceiling and washed and touched up other woodwork in the cellar.
The exterior of the Kitchen, Scullery, State Coach House, and hooded entries were painted. Immediately following the closing, the Stable, Coach House, East Outbuilding, Salthouse, Smokehouse, Icehouse handrail, and selected fences were painted.
The rotted west sill of the East Advance was replaced.
A separate project took place in the West Advance to install a kitchenette and new outlets and came under a different project manager, planner, and work order.
Consider the following work added to routine preventive maintenance for the 2006 Closing.
Mechanics, Electricians, Plumbers
Historic Area Blacksmiths
Johnston's Chimney Sweep
Contract Woodworker A
Contract Woodworker B
Conscientious Carpet Care
Adelphi Paper Hangings