News Column

Mary Washington House to see fresh coat of paint

August 10, 2014

By Katie Shepherd, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.

Aug. 11--The paint coating the walls of the Mary Washington House in Fredericksburg has begun to crack and peel, giving the historic building the look of an aging structure rather than a preserved artifact of the past.

On July 28, the house at 1200 Charles St. began its full makeover, a process that will last more than a month and end when the whole building is repaired and dressed up with a fresh, rejuvenating coat of paint.

The sprucing-up will cost just under $25,000. Part of the budget for repairs is supplemented by donations collected during the Community Give, which raised about $7,500 to support the Mary Washington House and the Rising Sun Tavern.

The Caroline Street tavern will also undergo a renovation in the coming weeks.

At the Mary Washington House, painters are scouring the building's exterior, scraping away old paint and carefully inspecting the walls for hidden damage that needs to be repaired.

"You don't want to paint historic buildings more often than needed because it just gets too heavy," said Anne Darron, executive director of the Mary Washington House. The old coats of paint can weigh down walls and contribute to the deterioration of a building that happens to be older than the nation itself.

George Washington bought the house, located in downtown Fredericksburg, for his mother, Mary Washington, in 1772.

Mary Washington was 64 years old when she moved into the home, and lived there for 16 years.

The house as it stands now is quite a bit larger than the home Washington originally purchased. An added dining room and what now makes up the gift shop were added in the decades after the house was sold by the Washington family.

This added space creates a behemoth of a building that extends over a space that would normally fit two small homes.

"It really is a sizable project," Darron said. "We've got a lot of square footage here."

The painters are scraping, grinding, sanding, caulking and priming the walls before a single coat of new paint even touches the wooden siding and brick foundations.

These beginning steps are part of a "meticulous preparation," said James Christopher from Fredericksburg Painting Services, which has been commissioned to finish the restoration job. All that preparation will make the new paint last and also allows painters to fix imperfections in the building's walls.

While some old buildings raise concerns over lead paint and other hazards when repairs are made, the Mary Washington House does not. Any lead paint that may have been used on the house would have been removed years ago, Darron said.

The painters are starting in the back of the building and working their way around to the front, so passers-by cannot see any of the handiwork yet.

The back-first approach will allow the Mary Washington House to host its annual Living Legacies events in September. Even if weather or other conditions delay the painting, the rear courtyard that holds the event attendees will be finished and open.

The whole job, weather permitting, is slated to be finished by Sept. 5.

Katie Shepherd 540/374-5417


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Source: Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

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