Decades of Different Colors
The museum’s original colors were a dark green and gold. The dark olive-green color was an effect caused by a combination of a yellowish-brown paint overlaid with a bluish-grey transparent layer of paint. A yellow version of the under painting was used for the trim. Window sashes were painted in white and the domes in gold. A couple decades later (by the 1930’s) the building was repainted in a light grey color, the trim in white and the gold domes in silver. Sometime during the 1940s, the building was painted again, this time entirely in white, including the trim. During the 1960’s another white coat of paint was applied. By the 1980s, the paint had deteriorated to such a degree that it needed repainting – this time to its original colors.
Discovering Original Color
Evidence of the building’s original dark green color was discovered while insulating the attic of the sacristy. Here, the original paint was well preserved on the walls of the church where the roof of the sacristy was attached to the main building. Samples were analyzed and matched for color. New paint was mixed and test areas were applied to the back of the sacristy to assess durability and shifts in color over time. Original photographs also reinforced the evidence of the building’s dark green color.
Restoring the building from white to its original dark-green color met some resistance. Argument against changing it was that white symbolized purity and was more in keeping with colors of most Catholic Churches. The decision to change the color to green was based simply on the fact that this was the building’s original color (appropriately, the color green symbolizes hope).
The long and labor-intensive process to restore the building to its original colors began in 2005. To ensure proper adhesion of the new paint, all old paint had to be completely removed from the clapboard and trim. Fortunately, the lead content was low, making the restoration process safe. Progress was slow and arduous since scraping started by hand. Some old paint was stubborn to remove, while other patches fell off with a slight touch. Areas that were more sheltered from the weather proved the most difficult to scrape. Careful attention was given to replacing damaged areas with similar materials. Where clapboards had deteriorated beyond re-use, quarter-sawn clapboards were used consistent with the original four foot pieces.
Final Stages for Color
By September 2007, the scraping advanced quickly with the help of a grinding tool, which removed the paint without damaging the wood surface (approved by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission). Oil based priming and two coats of water-based finish paint of sections began immediately after complete scraping. Additional work included resealing the metal roofs and re-caulking all of the exterior windows to ensure a lifetime seal. The restoration of the original color to the building was completed in July 2008.
Restoration and replacement of the exterior windows began in 2000. Scaffolding was used to work on all windows in situ. The glass was removed and the paint dry scraped from the window frames and trim. Dirt and paint particles were cleaned off the exterior windows followed by a coating of epoxy on all wood, giving attention to cracks and joints. Epoxy strengthened the sashes and mullions, as well as acting as the primer coat for paint. The epoxy cured for 24 hours. Any missing parts of sashes were molded with the epoxy putty, usually under an inch or two in length. A few places were damaged by water, but fortunately, most missing pieces of sashes were found on the sills in between the windows. Another application of epoxy putty was applied into cracks, filling voids and strengthening joints. This also cured for 24 hours before sanding.
Priming, Caulking and Painting
The next step was priming the window trim with an ochre tinted oil-base primer, then two coats of oil-base white paint. Once the paint was dry, glass was put back into the window frames, and where necessary, replaced. About twenty percent of the glass was replaced due to cracking, removal, or under-sizing problems. The glass was secured with push-points using a stapler type push-point gun. Once the glass was installed, the windows were caulked with a 25-year silicon based caulking. In total, fifty-three exterior windows underwent extensive restoration in the clerestory, towers, balcony, and lunettes over the front entrances. Restoration of the windows was completed in 2002.
Funders and Supporters
- Department of Economic and Community Development (Community Development Block Grant)
- The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation
- The Davis Family Foundation
- Maine Historic Preservation Commission
- Le Club Français
- Maine Acadian Heritage Council
- Louise Cyr Johnsen Memorial Fund
- Maine Community Foundation
- Private donors (and numerous donors of old window glass)
- Terry Helms
- Marc Garcia
- Reno Sylvain
- Bill Parent
- Don Cyr
- Marcel Theriault
- Aurelle Collin