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[Interview] Patrick Baty: Paint Detective

Posted on: September 19th, 2012 by David Garber 1 Comment

 

Patrick Baty is the world's preeminent architectural paint historian and consultant. Based in London, England -- where he runs a second-generation family shop called Papers and Paints -- Baty has consulted on a wide range of archaeological and restoration projects in both the United Kingdom and the United States. We spoke with him to hear more about historic paint colors and their significance.

Why are historic paint colors important?

Paint colors of the past are not important in themselves -- however, when one is faced with the decoration of an historic building a knowledge of what was used is important. Color was frequently used for a particular purpose. There was a strict hierarchy. The purpose of the room and the status of the owner would often be indicated by the paint color that was applied. Much of my work is carried out in buildings that were once lived in by historic figures and are now open to the public.


The interior of the George Frideric Handel house in London.

If one is going to show a house as it was when Benjamin Franklin or Handel, the composer, for example, lived in it, there is a requirement to show how it was decorated at that time. When an historic interior is painted in colors that have a precedent, it begins to make sense and reads well.

Describe a day in the life of a historic paint color consultant.

My days vary -- most of the week has been spent carrying out microscopy, writing reports and answering emails. Yesterday I was climbing a scaffolding on a large 1840s house in St James's Square. Having carried out the analysis of the external paint and supervised the color trials I was asked to check on the preparation of the surfaces. Were they clean enough? Was the right filler being used? And did the contractor seem to know what he was doing?

Today, I was at Hampton Court Palace, where I had to give a presentation to officials from English Heritage explaining how one of the 18th century staircases was to be decorated. Although I hadn't carried out the analysis I was asked to work from a report produced by someone else and to develop a decorative scheme based on it. Work on historic buildings is carefully supervised in the UK and permission must be given before it takes place -- so I frequently have to write a rationale before redecoration is allowed.

What are some of the most fascinating projects you've worked on?

The range of projects that I have carried out is wide, and they each have their fascinations. However, three memorable ones are:


A cross-section of paints applied to the Royal Albert Bridge.

  • Royal Albert Bridge -- This is a major landmark, designed by the famous Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It required me climbing the 172-foot structure in the middle of the night, when the trains were not using the bridge, and taking samples on the end of a rope. The 1850s photographs, which showed it being constructed, were very helpful in my interpretation of the paint evidence.
  • Hampton Court Palace -- One of my most interesting projects here was the recreation of a Tudor garden. My task was to identify the heraldic 'beasts' that King Henry VIII used to indicate his Royal lineage, to establish which colors were applied on which elements and to prepare a technical specification for the painters.

The most high-profile?

It's difficult to say which has been my most high-profile project. I have worked in some very well known buildings. However, I suppose the one that is most recognizable around the world would be Tower Bridge, which in many ways is the symbol of London. Once again a head for heights was required as I had to take samples from all elements of the bridge, which is 213 feet high.


The Tower Bridge.

The documentary research took even longer than the microscopic analysis. The responsibility of getting everything absolutely right on such a high-profile project is immense. You can just imagine that someone somewhere knows quite a lot about the bridge and would be very eager to point out any mistakes, so one's argument has to be water-tight.

Do you have any apprentices training under you?

Over the years I have had a few interns working with me. Several have come from the United States -- including one of the rising stars -- but I have also had a very good intern from Sweden. It is a very demanding pursuit, and I find that few are able to deal with all aspects: being comfortable at heights, able to work in archives and libraries and prepared to spend hours at the microscope, willing to give presentations and lectures -- sometimes to large or very important audiences, and also to have a genuine passion in the subject.

What would you recommend as an introduction to the field of historic paint colors?

An accessible book that introduces the subject of historic paint colors has yet to be written. Dr. Ian Bristow, who has done so much to develop the field in the UK, wrote two magnificent volumes in the 1990s, but they are very dense works and one is now out of print. I began to learn about the subject by studying early house-painting manuals and by reading up about pigments and painting materials in order to find out what was available at a particular time.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Round-Up: Parking vs. History Edition

Posted on: September 14th, 2012 by David Garber

 


The State Savings Bank in downtown Detroit, seen here not long after its original construction.

In Downtown Detroit, A Battle of Parking vs. History -- Detroit Free Press

"No matter what happens to the State Savings Bank Building in downtown Detroit, even the suggestion of turning the building into a parking garage signals that we are likely to see this type of dispute again and again. Thankfully, Triple Properties, which owns the building, has publicly said they will not replace the structure with a parking garage, as they indicated last month to a huge public outcry."

San Antonio's Roadside Treasure's Worth Saving -- San Antonio Express News

"San Antonio has a remarkable collection of roadside icons, including De Wese's Tip Top, Bun N' Barrel, the original Pig Stands, Kiddie Park and the Ranch Motel, to name a few. Recognizing their value can help ensure they are preserved for future generations."

Oklahoma City's Historic Gold Dome Sells At Auction For $800,000 -- News9.com

"David Box submitted the only bid at a public foreclosure auction on Thursday for the Gold Dome. [...] Box hasn't revealed his plans for the Gold Dome yet, but says he does not intend to tear it down."

City of Dallas Working to Restore Remnants of Frontier Farm -- DallasNews.com

"“People will be able to see how early pioneers and settlers lived,” Willis Winters, assistant director of Park and Recreation said, “how they farmed and survived and how they eked out a living and how rough it was. “To see this kind of place in its original, natural context anywhere, much less in Dallas, is phenomenal.”"

Save Pittsburgh's Frank and Seder Building -- Change.org

"The Frank and Seder Building is a historic building and contributes to the identity, character, and history of downtown Pittsburgh. The building was built circa 1917 as the Frank and Seder Department Store. Oxford Development has proposed a plan to either refurbish the existing building, or demolish for new construction. We hope to persuade Oxford Development to save [it]."

How Mom-and-Pop Restaurants Can Compete With the Big Chains -- Forbes

"We have a traditional place we stop for dinner on this trip, at one of the big chain restaurants. The food is consistent but unexceptional, yet it’s become our normal stop just because we’ve had so many bad meals stopping at locally owned, independent restaurants in the area. This time, I spotted a local eatery that looked intriguing and we decided to take a chance. We had a great experience which could provide a guidebook for other independents looking to lure customers away from the chains."

7 Adaptive Reuse Projects We Love -- Dwell

"As the way in which people use cities morphs form generation to generation, we're left with dormant buildings -- those that have outlived their original purpose, but are rife for enterprising architects and designers to give them a second wind. This latent stock might include industrial remnants, former school houses, barns, and even convenience stores."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Remembering Tony Goldman: Developer, Entrepreneur, and Ardent Preservationist

Posted on: September 13th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 


Tony Goldman outside SoHo, a community he helped reinvent.

Most people are considered successful if they excel in even one area. Tony Goldman excelled in many: historic property developer, restaurateur, hotelier, and a leader in the historic preservation movement.

Goldman, who passed away in New York City on Tuesday, was a current board member of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation and a former Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For 40 years, he recognized the potential of depressed, undervalued urban areas, and through thoughtful, preservation-sensitive approaches, reconstructed and transformed declining historic districts into popular, thriving global destinations.

A true visionary, Goldman has been acknowledged as one of the pioneers of New York’s Upper West Side resurgence and the driving force behind the transformations of New York City’s Wall Street Financial District and SoHo neighborhoods; Center City in Philadelphia; South Beach in Miami Beach; and most recently, undertaking the transformation of the warehouse districts in Miami’s Wynwood and Downtown Boston.


Former board chair J. Clifford Hudson and National Trust President Stephanie Meeks present the Crowninshield Award to Tony Goldman.

Through it all, Goldman was committed to revitalizing and creating mixed-use, pedestrian-based, urban neighborhoods that enhanced an authentic sense of place. For this commitment, as well as the breadth of his work, the National Trust honored Goldman in 2010 with the Louise duPont Crowninshield Award, the highest national award for excellence in historic preservation.

In her statement on Goldman's passing, National Trust President Stephanie Meeks said: “At its core, preservation is about recognizing the value of historic buildings and neighborhoods, and restoring life to places that define and enrich our communities. That is what Tony Goldman did, and nobody did it better. And though he will be deeply missed, we are grateful for his many contributions to historic preservation and his lasting legacy of transformed communities.”

Learn more about Goldman's preservation work and watch a short video here.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Pacifico Preservation Adventure: Los Angeles, CA

Posted on: September 11th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

The National Trust is participating in the 2012 Pacifico Beer summer promotion, Make Adventure Happen, in which we are competing for a portion of $100,000 based on the number of votes we receive (voting instructions at the end of the post).

To raise awareness for the contest, we've partnered with five preservation fans to highlight "Preservation Adventures" in cities and states across America. This week's guest blogger is Lynn Garrett from Los Angeles, California. Lynn is the founder of Hidden Los Angeles, a group that uncovers and promotes the lesser-known history and culture of Los Angeles.

My great-great-grandfather came to Los Angeles in about 1905 or so. A lot of people don’t realize that not everyone in Los Angeles moved here to party like Lindsay Lohan or fulfill any of the other stereotypes. Sure, some of them did -- and you can spot them from a mile away -- but many average American Angelenos live here because it is their home, their heritage, and where their roots are.

There’s also a common misconception that Los Angeles has no important history other than the entertainment business, but the real truth is that Angelenos and tourists drive past incredible American history every day without realizing the treasures that surround them.

Part of the challenge is that our city covers a lot of ground. When something seems overwhelming, it’s just easier to discount it than try to really understand it. But L.A. is more than the entertainment business. It's where the French Dip sandwich and the laser were invented. It's where Julia Child and James Ellroy were born. It's where people still spend their lives trying to figure out how to land on Mars.

There's a lot to love about this city, and always something new to discover. That’s why Hidden Los Angeles caught on so fast with viewers on Facebook. While some large cities are like boutique stores where everything it offers is sitting in the window, Los Angeles is more like a big hot mess of a TJ Maxx.

To the unsuspecting eye, it’s a big place with a lot of cars and people and stuff strewn around -- but if you stop and walk down an aisle and really look, you might find the most amazing thing you never expected to exist, and your life is instantly richer for knowing about it.

The Villages of Los Angeles

It always makes me cringe when I hear of tourists jumping to book a hotel by the airport, driving to the Hollywood and Highland mall, taking a bus tour of the stars’ homes, and then leaving town telling everyone who will listen, “I’ve been to Los Angeles. It was everything I expected. I hate it.”

That's the same thing as booking a hotel room by JFK Airport, taking a cab to Times Square, and going home with the belief that you understand what New York is all about. Los Angeles is a big place (LA County is over 4,000 square miles!), and to understand it you have to look at it a little differently.

L.A. haters will often complain that it makes no sense, that there’s no center, that it’s impossible to walk here, that it’s too spread out and doesn’t have a heart or history. What they don’t realize is that L.A. is actually not a “city” the way other cities are; it’s more like a country with many many different very walkable villages, and each enclave has its own appeal, its own personality, its own history (that you might just not know about), and attracts a certain type of person.

They key to living (or visiting) here happily is figuring out which village to call home or visit, because you’ll likely never be able to see all of them. I'll say it again: Los Angeles County is over 4,000 square miles (with the city itself clocking in at around 468 square miles).

If you want sea air, you can hang out in Santa Monica or one of the other beach cities. If you want to experience more edgy and eclectic versions of local culture that typical tourists don’t, you can empower your inner hipster and wander the villages of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo Park, or Highland Park. There are also some amazing cultural experiences and food to be found in our international neighborhoods: Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Little India, Chinatown, Little Brazil, Thai Town, Little Armenia, and more.

And if you want to see a side of Los Angeles that feels more like Mayberry, you can travel to villages like Sierra Madre in the San Gabriel Foothills or Downtown El Segundo where the Richmond Grill still makes fresh potato chips at their lunch counter and the Old Town Music Hall still plays silent films on the weekends.

And by the way, don’t worry about Los Angeles’ villages being unsafe to explore: Los Angeles’ crime rate is the lowest it's been since Eisenhower was President.

On a side note to the people who say Downtown L.A. is too remote and has no reason to be where it is, actually there’s an incredibly valid historical reason: The original 1871 pueblo of Los Angeles had to abide by the 1573 Law of the Indies, which stated that all New World construction had to be at least 20 miles from the sea (to avoid pirates), next to a source of fresh water (the flowing 51-mile Los Angeles River), and near a native encampment (so they could put them to work). Believe it or not, if you look at Los Angeles closer and with an open mind, it actually does make sense!

Franklin Canyon

Few people (even native Angelenos) realize that there’s an idyllic hidden lake situated in the canyon just three miles North of Beverly Hills. Not only is this lake the geographic center of Los Angeles, it may also seem incredibly familiar to anyone who sees it.

That’s right. Not only was it the fishing hole for Andy and Opie, Franklin Canyon also doubled as Lake Tahoe in Bonanza and was “The Lagoon” in Creature of the Black Lagoon. Finding the lake is a little tricky, but once you’re there you would never realize you were in Los Angeles. There are hiking trails along the hillsides, pathways to walk, the Sooky Goldman Nature Center, and even a duck pond built by local Boy Scouts.

Note: Be sure to stop at all stop signs in the park, they have been known to give camera tickets!

Pierce Bros Westwood Village Memorial Park

Everyone comes to Los Angeles expecting to hang out with celebrities, but truth be told there is no place in Los Angeles where you can stand feet away from more world-famous iconic superstars than by exploring the local cemeteries.

Morbid? Nahhhh. In the turn of the 20th century, eternal optimist Dr. Hubert Eaton revolutionized the funeral industry by deeming that cemeteries should be joyous places for the living to visit and recreate. So, he took over Tropico Cemetery in Glendale (where my previously mentioned great-great-grandfather is buried), rechristened it as Forest Lawn Memorial Park, and deemed it to be as unlike other cemeteries “as sunlight is unlike darkness, as eternal life is unlike death.”

Similarly, Pierce Bros Westwood Cemetery is also called a "Memorial Park," albeit a far smaller park and mausoleum than Forest Lawn that is unexpectedly hidden at the end of a driveway behind towering Westwood highrises. While indisputably petite in comparison, Pierce Bros is the final resting place for a laundry list of America’s most beloved heartbeat-challenged celebrities… from Marilyn Monroe to Don Knotts to Truman Capote to Frank Zappa (Zappa’s grave is unmarked). Check out the full list of residents here.

If you’d like to be ahead of the game just print out or copy this map link to your phone. Although that map hasn’t been updated to include some of its newer residents, it will give you a head start to finding many of your favorite stars' eternal resting spots.

Farmers Market

I live in Carthay Square, which is an amazing central walking area near Miracle Mile and the Fairfax District (I spent so much time booking visitors into hotels in this area I realized I wanted to live here myself!). Within blocks there’s an incredible amount of culture: LA County Museum of Art, La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Automotive Museum, Craft and Folk Art Museum, and more.

For a rooftop cocktail overlooking the city, I like to go to The Roof on Wilshire. And if I feel like hanging out in a pub I have my choice between the old Hollywood of Tom Bergin’s House of Irish Coffee (once a favorite of Bing Crosby), Molly Malone’s (a favorite place for local bands to play), or Sheddy’s (a cozy little bar).

All of the delicious cuisine choices my heart could possibly desire can be found by walking up and down 3rd street between La Cienega and Fairfax or up Fairfax towards Canters (one of the most beloved old Jewish delis in town).

But  when I can’t decide what to eat and don’t want to wander the street … all the choices I could imagine are in one place at the historic Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. My grandmother used to take me here when I was little, and it will always be a sentimental favorite of mine. It's home to me.

In the late 19th century, the corner of 3rd and Fairfax was a dairy farm owned by A.F. Gilmore and partners, up until 1905 when they struck oil there while drilling for water and Gillmore Oil Company was born. In 1934, farmers began to rent space to park their trucks on the dirt lot to sell their produce, and Farmers Market grew into a community center over the decades from there, at one point including a ball field, racetrack, antique mall, an orchard, and nursery.

Nowadays the inside of Farmers Market continues to look much the same as it did when I was a kid (with some new restaurant additions amidst the old standbys). And while many of the old surrounding buildings no longer exist, after you’re done exploring Farmers Market you can stop by The Grove (a modern shopping center built next door in 2002) to see a movie or pick up a new outfit at Banana Republic. (By the way, The Grove and Farmers Market can sometimes be a good place to see celebrities … I saw Gordon Ramsey there just a few weeks ago and feel like every time I go in the Apple Store I see someone famous shopping for a new iPhone.)

American Cinematheque

After successfully opening the grand Million Dollar Theater in 1918 (still located on Broadway, Downtown, along with other surviving movie palaces), eccentric showman Sid Grauman spearheaded the building of The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard to capitalize on the world’s raging obsession with "all things Egypt," thanks to Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

Even though it was 1922, the theater cost $800,000 to build and took eighteen months to construct, and it’s said that for extra dramatic effect he even hired men in Egyptian guard outfits to patrol the perimeter of the roof during special events as flames rose from torches around them.

The Egyptian was the home of the very first Hollywood movie premiere, and a few years later Grauman followed its success by building the neighboring (and equally ornately themed) Chinese and El Capitan Theaters. (The Chinese became more famous in later years than any of the others due to the addition of celebrity footprints in its forecourt cement.)

Nowadays the Egyptian Theater is the home of American Cinematheque, an independent nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and public presentation of the moving image and its history. In other words, instead of seeing yet another Seth Rogen buddy film in a multiplex, American Cinematheque constantly offers chances to see incredibly cool and historic films on the big screen in an old-school Hollywood movie palace, and often presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the cast on stage as they talk about the production.

Many of the theater's offerings are indisputably some of the best films ever made. Case in point: As I write this I’m realizing that they’re showing North By Northwest tonight and I really should go. Cary Grant? Yes please!

You can support our preservation work by voting daily at www.PacificoAdventure.com. A contest code is required to vote -- codes are available on specially marked packages of Pacifico beer, in bars and restaurants, by texting 23000, or by clicking “GET CODE" online.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Things Are Looking Up for Chicago's Palmer House Ceilings

Posted on: September 10th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern

When it comes to maintenance work on historic properties, the word “change” can stir up quite a controversy. Many worry that the integrity of the site will be lost if alterations are not made properly. Lucky for us, the team repairing the iconic ceilings of the Palmer House hotel in Chicago made preservation a priority.


The restored ceiling in the Palmer House grand lobby.

“When you have ceilings that are 86 years old, work is going to need to be done, but we wanted to use the opportunity to analyze [the ceiling] condition and plan for the future,” says Justin Jameson, assistant director of property operations. “We made our ongoing maintenance a preservation tool.”

The Beaux Arts style ceiling is in great condition for its age, says Jameson, and only minor repairs were needed. Beva Gel clear adhesive was used to patch up small flakes, the canvas and plaster were meticulously cleaned, and a color analysis was done in order to bring back to life the vibrant colors of the romantic images.

The work took nearly three months and was organized by Jameson, supervised by Evergreen Architectural Group, and performed by Anthony and Mata Kartsonas, who are well-known art preservationists.


Mata and Anthony Kartsonas work on the ceilings.

“This preservation initiative was more than just a work task for me; it was personal. The ceilings are the signature of the hotel, and known world-wide. It was important to me that we get the job done, but also maintain the integrity of the art,” says Jameson, who was given the ceiling preservation project when he first started at the Palmer House in 2010.

The jaw-dropping murals span the 50-foot length of the lobby, and are composed of 21 individual pieces painted in 1926 in Paris by French artist Louis Pierre Rigal. The images are mostly of love and romanticism from Greek mythology, and, according to Jameson, they transport visitors to a time when people meditated on and appreciated beauty. They have been restored before in 1982 and 1995 by Lido Lippi, who also worked on the Sistine Chapel in the 1950s.


Business as usual in the hotel (despite the scaffolds).

“Our biggest burden was trying to do our work without interrupting the guest experience. We are a living business and our lobby is traversed by God knows how many people daily. To execute our work with scaffolding taking up half the lobby was a huge challenge,” says Jameson.

Thanks to this preservation-minded thinking, the Palmer House, which has played host to guests such as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Prince Charles, will continue to leave a lasting impression on guests for years to come.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.