As a living history museum, Strawbery Banke prides itself on maintaining historically accurate details in all aspects of our work. Strawbery Banke is unique to the living museum world in the fact that it is not just a colonial museum. The many houses here do not represent only one time period, but a range of several centuries so as to broaden the experience that we give. Strawbery Banke strives to show its visitors a change over time by rehabilitating and restoring houses to different time periods, helping to show the development of Strawbery Banke and the Puddle Dock neighborhood throughout history. The construction and architectural elements of the houses are only two aspects in the Heritage House Program that helps us to create a historically accurate site. Over the course of time, as can be seen in the architecture of historic houses, styles have changed and aesthetic preferences have evolved, and continue to evolve. This is evidenced in house structure, size, interior/exterior decoration, and even paint color. Earlier this week historic paint expert, Sally Zimmerman came to visit Strawbery Banke to help us get a better idea of what the exterior paint colors of a house in a given time period would be. Armed with paint indexes she took Elizabeth Farish, Chief Curator and Historic Preservation intern, Catey Fischer on a walk through the museum to answer their questions about how to make the Heritage Houses as accurate to their time period as possible through color...
The first stop on their tour was Lowd House. Lowd house is a part of the Heritage House Program and has been restored to what it would have been in 1810. Currently the Lowd House is painted in a yellow ochre color, which Sally informed would be an accurate color for this time period. She started by explaining that there were three main elements that were looked at when deciding on paint color: body/clapboards, trim, and window sashes/doors. She defined the process of distinguishing as follows, "the body is the clapboards or stone, everything else is trim--unless you can walk on it, or it moves (i.e. windows and doors)" Typically these three different elements would each have their own paint color, however, this color varied depending on the time period.
The standard in the 19th century was for houses to be three different colors. Currently the Lowd House's clapboard and trim are painted the same color, with a slight variation in the color of the window sashes. Typically there would be a third color on the house somewhere, most likely on the door, which is the case currently with Lowd sporting a green door. It was not uncommon for a simpler house to be monochromatic, whereas a fancier one would traditionally have three colors in its paint scheme. The three color paint scheme was still around in the latter half of the 19th century, which can be seen on the Jackson House. Sally pointed out that in the later years of the 19th century the triple color scheme was still the norm however, the trim, window sashes, and doors would most likely have been painted darker colors and the body would have remained a lighter shade. The typical window and trim colors for the time period shifted from a brownish-yellow to a tudor brown, brown, or ochre color. The doors would also be painted a shade of brown but darker than the windows and trim or even a brown-red color.
In contrast to the wooden build of Jackson and Lowd Houses, the Shapley Townhouse was also a stop on the tour to get more insight on what would have been a historically accurate color for a brick building to use for the trim, windows and doors. Sally informed us that it was very common to look at mortar color in order to determine the paint color that would be used on the exterior. They did not want to the windows to stick out with colorful shades, but instead it was common to try and match the window sashes and trim to the color of the mortar that was used to adhere the stone or brick together. The idea was to make the wood look like stone, which is the plan for the townhouse once it is painted. There is a bump out on the second story of the Shapley Townhouse which is currently a brown-yellow color but will eventually be painted a color to match the brick.
|Trim on Shapley Townhouse windows as they are currently painted. These will be painted to match the color of the mortar in between the bricks.|
|The bump out on the Shapley Townhouse that will be painted to match the brick.|