In houses today, it's not uncommon to repaint walls every few years. That's what makes the paint on Drayton Hall's walls so unusual. Most rooms haven't been painted since the mid-to-late 19th century.
Conservator Susan Buck led a team of conservators and conservation students in a project designed to learn more about Drayton Hall's historic paint and to re-adhere what remains back to the woodwork.
First, conservators took tiny samples of paint from each of the first three rooms they would be treating to conduct a thorough paint analysis. In doing so, they discovered what colors Drayton Hall's interior had originally been painted and how many times it had been painted over the centuries.
"The cross-sections taken from the [large yellow room] reveal that the room was originally painted a dark cream color with glossy, black baseboards. It appears the moldings were not originally glazed or picked out in different colors as they are now. There appear to be 7 generations of paint in this room, including the most recent early twentieth century yellow and maroon paint colors. In the second generation the entire room was painted a slightly darker cream color, the baseboards were repainted glossy black, and the carved surround for the lower overmantel panel was gilded.To conserve deteriorating paint, conservators used a technique most often used on furniture and paintings. They began by applying a microscopic mist of Aquazol (a colorless polymer) to the walls, doors, and painted trim and then used hand pressure through a sheet of Mylar to flatten the cupped paint flakes and re-adhere them to the wood surfaces.
The paint sequences are somewhat inconsistent from area to area, probably because of the ongoing paint flaking problems in the room. But it is possible to reconstruct the complete paint history (like a jigsaw puzzle), by combining the paint layers found in each sample."
-- Susan Buck, conservator
Eighteen months after the initial treatment in three rooms, Christine Thompson, a member of the original team, returned to Drayton Hall to evaluate the previous work and to expand the treatment to the remaining first and second-floor rooms.
As she explained, "Not only was most of the paint as well adhered as it was 18 months before, but portions of the paint were better adhered than they were right after they were treated."
Both of the above projects were supported in part by a Save America's Treasures grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior; the State Historic Preservation Grants Fund, established by the SC General Assembly and administered by the State Historic Preservation Office of the SC Department of Archives and History; and the South Carolina Humanities Council, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.