“If only these walls could talk,” is something we often hear people say at Happy Retreat, as I’m sure they do at most historic homes. It turns out that, in a way, walls can talk, as we learned from the paint analysis done as part of the first phase of the Historic Structures Report summarized in this newsletter. In one room, that analysis gave us a complete chronology of the colors of paint used back to the day Charles Washington first walked through the door. By comparing that sequence of paint colors to samples taken elsewhere in the same room and in other parts of the house, we now know when certain doors and windows were added and other alterations were made.
We now know that the trim in the front room of the west wing was originally painted with an expensive and fashionable verdigris-based green paint, suggesting that this was a room of some importance. It is the same bright green color you see today on the walls of the dining room at Mt. Vernon.
We now know that the mantel in that room does not reveal the same paint sequence, which means it was moved there from some other location. Seams also indicate the mantel was cut down to a shorter size from its original height.
The paint analysis and other observations in the Historic Structures report, have given us a new understanding of the history of the construction and use of Happy Retreat. So we have learned that walls can indeed tell us a great deal about the history of a house, if you know how to listen. We look forward to continuing our conversations with the walls at Happy Retreat for many years to come
We are looking forward our first Wine and Jazz Festival, which will take place on the grounds of Happy Retreat on Saturday, June 10, from 11am to 6pm.
We hope to build on the success of last fall’s Craft Beer and Music Festival to make Happy Retreat a place where people come to enjoy more than just history