Friday, February 18, 2011

Stenciling Restoration at the Library

Good news abounds. With the temperatures in the 50's it's beginning to feel like this winter is finally over. It's Friday afternoon. What could be better?

Well, here's a heartwarming story about a beautiful restoration project on the handstenciled wall trim in the southeast corner our Memorial Hall Reference Room on the Second Floor of the Library. This project was recently completed by our very own, multi-talented reference librarian, Monica McDermott. You should come down and check it out...she's really done an amazing job matching the paint color and brushwork. Below are some pictures and a short essay by Monica about the history of the stenciling and the restoration process:

The Reference Room wall restoration, 2011
by Monica McDermott

The room that is now the Reference Room was originally Memorial Hall, an assembly hall with carved oak panelled walls. It was destroyed by a fire in 1915 and restored with decorative stenciling and the Civil War paintings by Paul Phillipoteaux. During the 1960s and 1970s the room was used as office space by the Lowell School Department and the stenciling was painted over a drab light green. This layer of paint was removed in the 1980s when Memorial Hall was used again as an assembly room.

In 2010 some work was done to repair a water damaged wall in the Reference Room. The plaster repaired the wall but erased some of the decorative stenciling. Restoring this small corner area gave me a true appreciation of what an incredible task stenciling the entire room must have been.

These photographs show the stages of painting and stenciling, and trying to get 2011 to match 1915.

This is what the wall looked like after the work had been done to mitigate the water damage. As you can see the fresh coat of plaster was rather unsightly.

The first step was to match and fill in the green paint of wall behind the stenciled stripe itself.

Next step was to match and paint in the brown that backs the entire stenciled stripe.

Next up was to match and fill in the two paralell green stripes that inset the stencil.

And finally to re-hand-stencil the gold and green leafwork pattern of the inside of the stencil.

A book I found very helpful for this project, The Complete Stenciling Handbook, by Sandra Buckingham, is one of many books on stencil work in the Pollard Memorial Library collection.

For more information on the history of the Pollard Memorial Library go to

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