Montpelier Restoration Update – 8/13/2008


The painters continue to prepare and prime the trim in M-108 (Drawing Room) and M-107 (Entry). They are also priming the reconstructed window sashes and the sliding sashes found in the sidelights between the Drawing Room and the Entry.

Erika Sanchez Goodwillie, working with Adelphi Paper Hangings, has finished grinding the traditional linseed oil paints to be used in the mansion. To hand grind the paints, Ericka adds a small amount of linseed oil to the dry pigments. Next the oil is folded into the pigments with a pallet knife. When the oil is thoroughly mixed with the pigments she uses a large muller (a flat bottom, often conical, piece of glass or stone) to physically grind the pigments so that they are thoroughly suspended in the oil. Once this heavily-pigmented mixture has been ground to the right consistency, Erika then mixes it with a large amount linseed oil and chalk (powdered calcium carbonate) to form the actual paint. When Erika needed to grind a large amount of pigment for the paints, she used an antique hand-cranked paint mill.  All of the paint that Jack Fisher has applied in the house has been produced using these traditional, and labor intensive, methods.


Jack Fisher has applied the hand-ground Prussian blue linseed oil paint to shelves, window, baseboard and door casing in this small closet. Prussian blue was a popular pigment in the 18th century and its bright, vivid color often comes as a surprise to contemporary viewers. Amazingly, paint analysis performed by Dr. Susan Buck has shown that the closet was painted Prussian blue in circa 1764 and remained unpainted until circa 1844 when Montpelier was sold out of the Madison family. The eighty-year life-span for the original paint testifies to the durability of historic linseed oil paints. Jack has also painted the North Stairs balusters and skirt board.


Gene Lyman continues to install mortise locks. He is currently working on the doors to the cellar passages and the north and south wings’ exterior doorways.

Keith Forry is repairing an original Madison door. The two top panels for this door had been replaced with glass panes and Keith is installing new heart pine panels.


M-108 (Drawing Room)

All of the composition (compo) rosettes have been installed in the chair rail and Bill Bichell is installing the compo egg and dart molding on the overdoor pediment. Gold Leaf Studio, who also made the rosettes, made the egg and dart molding and the design is copied from the surviving Madison-era compo egg-and-dart molding found in the cornice of the Drawing Room. To create the molding, a wooden model was first carved by Virginia’s own master architectural wood carver, Frederick Wilber. Gold Leaf Studio then made a mold from the wooden model and used it to produce the new moldings. The compo egg-and-dart is being secured with hide glue and stainless-steel brads and Bill has been using a miter saw to make the cuts.



M-209 (Upper South Passage)

Farrar Woltz, from Acanthe Design, returned this week to grain the railing on the south stair. The graining for this rail is identical to the graining found on the north stair (which was, in turn, based on a sample of Madison-era graining found during the restoration).



Mac Ward has installed the heart pine stringers for the South Wing deck stairs and has started to cut and fit the heart pine treads.

The restoration landscaper Thomas Tyler and landscape architect John James have moved the east lawn in the rear of the Mansion. The grade for the east lawn is being established and new paths are being cut.

Kevin Neito is patching the bricks found between the triple-sash windows. He is using lime mixed with a range of pigments to ensure that his patches blend in with the surrounding brickwork.


5 Responses to Montpelier Restoration Update – 8/13/2008

  1. John Leeke says:

    It’s great to see these traditional methods and materials in use, especially making paint! Could you tell us the sources for the paint materials? Specifically which linseed oil are you using?

    I’m surprised the workers are not using basic worksite safety equipment like safety glasses and respirators while handling pigments.

    Thanks for posting these fascinating details about your work there.

    John Leeke

  2. John,

    It is great to see a traditional linseed oil paint going on the interior woodwork and it should only get better with age. Unlike modern paints, which tend to lighten as they age, the linseed oil paints should darken in places not regularly exposed to sunlight. This will make the house age as it would have in Madison’s time, which will in turn add to the authenticity of the restored house long after the major restoration work has been finished.

    I’d also be glad to give you Erika’s email for more information on the brand of linseed oil. Email me at and I’ll send you her email. I know she’s using Sinopia/Kremer pigments, but I’m not sure if she is also getting her linseed oil them. I also don’t think she is mixing in any driers (other then what would be found in any boiled linseed oil she might be using) and painter Jack Fisher is adding what he needs on site.

    Take care and let me know if you have any other questions,


  3. John,

    Erika says that the linseed oil she used came from Williamsburg Art Materials (

    Take care,


  4. Dave says:

    Found your blog on Ask and was so glad i did. That was a great read. I have a quick question.Is it alright if i send you an email???…

  5. Firewood should be cut in the spring, being split into sizable logs before being
    stacked and covered in a manner to allow air to circulate through the stack.

    The franchise business method is for people who are willing to invest substantial funds.

    The important thing to note is that they are relatively inexpensive to fix and if these are the only repair problems,
    a homeowner is better off fixing these issues instead of selling as is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: