Shutters Update April 29, 2009

April 29, 2009

The restoration crew has started to hang shutters on the exterior of the house.

Rear of the house, from the Architectural Record, Vol VI (July 1896-June 1897).

Rear of the house, from the Architectural Record, Vol VI (July 1896-June 1897).

The shutters are modern reproductions based on Madison-era shutters found in a barn here on the property. There were 31 shutters found in the barn, 12 for the second floor and 19 for the first. They retained their original paint coating, a green made from verdigris pigment, which is made from weathered copper. We’ve painted the reproduction shutters the same green, basing the coloring on research by Dr. Susan Buck (see this post for a picture of the process) Read the rest of this entry »


Montpelier Restoration Update – 11/20/2008

November 20, 2008


Mac Ward continues to hang doors on the second floor.


Keith Forry is finishing the repairs to the original Madison doors.

Montpelier Restoration, November 14, 2008 Montpelier Restoration, November 14, 2008 bill-installing-recreated-screws_mg_1187blog11192008

Gene Lyman continues to install mortise locks on the doors and Bill Bichell is installing hinges and the recreated c. 1764 screws for the reproduction c. 1764 H-L hinges.



Joe Doody continues to install the interior storm windows in the Mansion.


Blaise Gaston and Paul Pyzyana are painting the North Wing’s eastern stoop and stair, milling transoms and making a 15” threshold for the Colonnade deck door.



Bill Bichell is cutting holes and installing braces for the wrought-iron colonnade deck railings.

Montpelier Restoration Update – 1/16/2008 through 1/23/2008

January 24, 2008


wayne browncoating 104

The masons have put the scratch coat onto the walls and ceiling of M-105 (Dining Room). A brown coat has also been applied to the walls and ceiling of M-104 (Mr. Madison’s Room). Currently, they are putting a brown coat onto the ceiling of M-105. Plastering in M-100 (North Wing Chamber) has been completed and, since the walls will be coated with a dark yellow distemper, they have not been whitewashed.



Dino priming 100 Jack painting 205 Ropey paint 205

Dino Copeland has finished prepping Dolley Kitchen for painting and has started to prep M-100. Jack Fisher has also started to apply the hand-ground, linseed-oil based paints to the second floor trim. This traditional paint is very similar to what Madison would have used (minus the white lead pigment) and forms a “ropey” texture that is a defining characteristic of hand-ground paints.



Blaise Gaston has started to layout and carve the flutes and composition ornament impressions for the chair rail in M-108 (Drawing Room). When this chair rail is finished and installed, it will be the highest status chair rail in the house.


M-109 (South Passage)

gene repairing paneling

Gene Lyman continues to repair pieces of the South passage’s circa 1765 wainscot

M-106 (North Passage)

mac finishing main section of rail landing rail 1 landing rail 2 106 stair upper railing 106

Mac Ward continues to install the stair railing. To securely fit a small section of the hand rail between two newels on the landing, he has cut mortises into both newels and installed a square, scarf-jointed wooden inner rail into the openings. After the rail was set, he then hollowed out a section of the finished railing and slipped it over the inner rail. This technique allows for a stable railing that does not have any visible joints or fasteners.


M-108 (Drawing Room)

ed-cutting-baseboard-blog-123200826.jpg ed installing cap 108

Ed Gomez continues to install and repair the baseboard for this room. In the course of removing an existing piece of baseboard he found a section of original baseboard that had been re-used as a shim in circa 1880. This piece of baseboard originally butted against the plinth of the stone chimney surround and provides evidence for how the baseboard and base cap terminated against the chimney piece during Madison’s ownership.


M-118 (South Wing Chamber)

Keith cuttin basecap keith installing basecap 118

Keith Forry is installing reconstructed caps on the baseboards in this room. All of the caps had been removed when Marion duPont converted the space into her “Red Room” in the 1930s. The Red Room was an art deco designed living room/parlor and was one of the most iconic spaces in the duPont’s Montpelier. Because of its importance it has been re-installed in duPont wing of the new Montpelier visitor center.

Bill installing nailer for cornerbeads

Bill Bichell is also installing the cornerbeads on the face of the chimney stack. Prior to installing the beads, wooden nailers first need to be inserted into the bead joints of the masonry.



M-002 (North Cellar Passage)

002 winder framing olivier installing treads

Olivier Dupont-Huin has installed the stringers for this stair and has started to install the treads.



laying out colonnade deck railing

The ipe sleepers have been installed and the carpenters are assembling the deck panels and laying out the Chinese railing that will encircle the deck.



Mark Soldering downspout installing downspout

Roofers from Martin Roofing have finished installing the copper downspouts for the gutter system.

Montpelier Restoration Update – 10/17/2007

October 18, 2007


209 plastering

The finished brown coat has been applied below the chair rail in M-200 (small bedroom) and a scratch coat has been troweled onto the ceiling of M-206 (east central chamber) and M-209 (Upper South Passage). A majority of the walls above the chair rail in M-209 have also been scratch-coated.


Mill Work

Blaise Gaston, along with Nick Oster, is currently producing the treads and risers for north and south cellar stairs, the shelves for M-103 (north wing, west closet) and the new chimneypiece for the north wing.


M-100 (North Wing Chamber)

Austin installing chair rail 100

Austin Antrim continues to install the chair rail.


M-101 and M-103 (North Wing, East and West Closets)

keith cutting miter baseboard 103

Keith Forry is installing the baseboards for these rooms.


M-105 (Dining Room)

Ed Gomez has almost finished installing the chair rail for the dining room.

Repairing 105 mantel105 mantel

Bill Bichell continues to repair the Madison chimneypiece cap that was recently donated by Randolph Thompson.


M-201 (Large Bedroom)

Dino Priming ChimneypiecePrimed chimney piece 201

Dino Copeland continues to prepare this room for painting.

distemper test patch

Wayne Mays has also applied a test patch of a glue based distemper paint to the room’s eastern wall. The color of the distemper is based on a similar color found on the room’s wooden corner beads. However, this is just a test patch and the final decision on whether to apply a wallpaper or a distemper paint on the walls has not been made. The only technical problem that was found with the test patch were the development of multiple, pin-sized holes across the coating. The problem appears to be caused by the paint being drawn into small holes found on the plaster surface. To correct the problem Wayne is going to try a thicker prime coat (or clearcole) that should fill in the holes and solve the problem.

Mark Gooch has also re-hung the sash weights for the room’s windows.



glazing portico lunette

Mark Gooch has cut glass panes for the portico’s lunette window and installed them.



mac repairing soffit

Mac Ward is repairing and trimming the eastern cellar window in Nelly’s kitchen. A portion of the soffit piece for this window was reused by the duPonts and it was recovered during the demolition stage of the restoration. Since it will be reinstalled, Mac has repaired the fragment and restored it back to its original length and width.

wine cellar enclosures

Les Lamois and Thomas Tyler continue to frame and cut sheathing boards for the board enclosures that will encase the modern duct chases in the cellar



base coat render colonnade capitals profile guage on colonnade capital

Wayne Mays and Matt Lohmeyer have started to put the thin base coat on the caps and bases of the colonnade columns. This base coating is very, very thin (only as thick as the highest part of the surrounding bricks) and it is being used to even out the surface so that the eventual finish coat (which will also be very thin) will be smooth and accurately reflect the Madison-period. This extra step is necessary because the bricks which make up the interior of the columns have been damaged by the removal of several successive layers of stucco. The collar of stucco found below the capital in the photos is temporary and it is used to help guide the profile gauge.



Installing gutter brackets

Martin Roofing continues to install copper gutters on the Mansion. Currently they are working on the north elevation.

January 23, 2006

Restoration Advisory Committee Update – 1/23/2006 


Work progresses and the documentation team continues to keep pace.  The current focuses of the project are the roof (shingling), planning for the basement partitions, colonnade repairs and masonry repairs. 

1797 Stair (M-106) 

C. 1797 chair rail nailers have been partially uncovered for the stair.  The nailers give us the approximate height of the stair railing and will help to reveal how the railing transitions at the landing and head of the stair. 

Drawing Room Mantle (M-108) 

Ray C. has finished prepping the elements of mantle that can be re-used.  The broken hearth stone and lintel have been rejoined with threaded, stainless-steel rods anchored in thin set.  We have also sent a scaled, full-sized photograph and acetate tracing of the top of the hearth stone to the quarry to see if they can find a dutchman that has a similar graining pattern.  It sounds like a long shot, but Ray C. has faith that they can find something close.  The graining on the replacement elements for the mantle itself are not as vital because we believe they were painted during the restoration period.

Nelly Kitchen (M-009) 

The archaeologists have uncovered what might be the impressions left by cupboard legs in the Nelly Kitchen.  The corresponding wall is still obscured with the remains of a plaster coat and we will need to clean the wall further to tell if the masonry has any related evidence. 


Shingling continues and Peter P. has made the turn onto the portico (although he is only shingling the lower ¼ of the roof).  While there is a large amount of culled material, the installed shingles look great and small issues are being resolved as they come up.

Repairs to the portico sill have also been made.


All of the framing is back in place and it is being prepped to receive the subfloor.  The framing looks great and it’s almost a shame to cover up some of the well crafted repairs.

Nelly Chamber (M-118) 

The paper backing from the linoleum is coming up without a problem (it turns out that water was the best solvent for the glue, which is helping to preserved any evidence of the floor’s finish).  The floors have survived in great shape and consist of full width, clear heart pine that range (roughly) from 4” to 4-1/2”.  The only area where the floors have been altered is around the hearth, which was made longer and narrower in (possibly) c. 1870. 

Parlor (M-112) 

The c. 1850 brackets were removed from the mantle, revealing what may be period paint and evidence for later (duPont period) renovations. 

December 21, 2005

RAC Update – 12/21/2005  

General Items

– All of the cribbing has been removed.  The only brace that remains is found in the Drawing room and is used to support one end of the second floor truss.

– Exciting evidence of additional c. 1760 wall painting was found attached to one of the bricks removed from the re-used bricks in the infilled New Dining Room window (which is currently assumed to have been bricked up c. 1850).  The design of the new sample exhibits a slightly different pattern and background color then the samples found in the Dining Room Chamber (M-206).  The original location of the new sample, and what that means for the evolution of the house, is still being pondered. 

– An intern from Mary Washington has worked with Mark W. to determine which elements, both in situ and in the sample collection, Susan B. will sample.


– Non-Madison Joists and trim have been removed from the second floor framing and the deteriorated ends of the Madison era joists are being consolidated and repaired

– A new plate and replacement joists have been fabricated from heart pine and put into place

  Interior Partitions and Framing

– The partition between rooms M-111 (Chamber) and M-112 (Dining Room) has been partially reconstructed

– The Library Closet (M-210) has been partially reconstructed

– The Garret Stair Closet has been partially reconstructed (re-using several original studs).

         – After further investigation (plumbing stud locations, re-examining nail evidence on the floor and the ceiling framing), the design for the Garret Closet was altered from what was proposed in the initial investigation’s second floor plan.  Instead of three separate spaces (two small closets off of the large bedroom and a long, narrow garret stair closet), it now appears the space was undivided (no evidence was found to carry the closet’s longitudinal partition all the way to the exterior wall.  Instead the wall appears to have terminated at the foot of the Garret stair).  Additionally, no evidence for doorways leading to the Large Bedroom was found, suggesting the closet only had one entrance (from the passage).  Finally, the studs that had been reused in the non-Madison partition were re-examined.  The shelving evidence was found to line up with the shelving scars on the closet’s portion of the exterior wall, relating that shelves ran across the closet’s south wall.

– Framing and several studs for the partition walls for the 1760 stair have been replaced.


– Additional posts have been set

– New Kitchen (M-001), East Wall – A series of nailers and a shelf scar have been uncovered on the east wall, providing strong evidence for a cabinet

– New Kitchen (M-001), North Wall – Ray C. has rebuilt the opening for the doorway and the reconstructed doorframe has been installed.

– New Kitchen (M-001), floor – After comparing the level of the threshold between the new kitchen and the North Cellar Passage to the interior walls of the New Kitchen, it appears that the surviving herringbone paving found next to the exterior doorway on the North Wall is indeed the finished floor level from the Madison occupation. 

– New Passage (M-002) – Three additional masonry pockets and two new nailers have been uncovered that are associated with the north cellar stair framing.  Additionally, ghosts for the staircase have been uncovered, giving the angles for the primary flight and the winder. 


– Sheathing and shingling have started on the south end


– Kevin has opened up the window in the New Dining room and the window frames in the Dining Room Closet and M-200 (Room over Mr. Madison’s Room) have been replaced.

  Drawing Room (M-108) Fireplace 

Several exciting discoveries have been made as Ray C. deconstructed the c. 1870 infill to reveal the mantle.

– First, an approximately six inch piece of the 1760 stone mantle was recovered from the 1870 fill.  The piece has clear evidence of an egg and dart pattern (similar to the undamaged 1760 mantle in the Dining Room (M-112)), providing solid proof for reconstructing the stone portion of the Drawing Room mantle. 

– Second, Ray discovered that the Madison Period III hearth setting bed was almost completely intact, including tool mark impressions from the back of the period III hearth stone.  When the tool marks from the back of the St. Bea’s hearth stone that was uncovered by the archaeologists in a cellar pit were compared to the marks in the setting bed, it became very clear that the stone was once found in the Drawing Room.  Ray C. feels confident he can repair the hearth stone and, using a 1/16” setting material, place it back exactly where it was found in Madison’s time. 

– The rear of the Madison fire back also appears to have been plastered and was covered with multiple generations of whitewash. 

– The uncovered Madison era mantle has been measured and photograph in preparation for removal by Ray C.  After removal, Ray will assess its condition and develop treatment options.

– Ray C. has also found slight black graining in the mantle stone, confirming that the stone original came from the St. Bee’s quarry. 


            – Brick repairs continue

            – The Portico pilasters have been plastered

            – Repairs to the cornice continue