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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - December 2, 2004

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Hey, the Stephenson House is being readied for winter as Jim, Carol F. and the garden crew bed down the vegetable and herb gardens and other members ready the grounds. Of equal importance, Ol' Henry is getting his fluffy bed ready for the cold winter days plus keeping very busy tucking away dried seeds from the garden and nuts and fruit to eat during the long winter months. Then came Thanksgiving and a break for everyone. Henry here had a great feast this year. I am not telling where I had dinner, but that lady sure could cook a great turkey!


Just think of all the work Col. Ben and Lucy had to do when they readied for winter. Food had to be stored for people and animals and they all had to be kept warm. Col. Ben raised a lot of hogs and their shelters had to be in good condition for the winter. And, in 1821 the Stephensons were spending their first winter in their big new brick home and they needed lots of firewood - maybe more than they figured. In early December Jacque Mette delivered many loads of firewood and by the middle of January he was back with many more loads! Can you imagine the amount of firewood it took to keep four fireplaces plus the kitchen cooking fireplace going? Cold weather meant extra work for all!


The other day this old mouse saw Joe, Chuck, George and Tom, the paint crew, wearing their mover's hats! They were moving stuff around so I perked up to see what was going on. Well, they were bringing a refrigerator into 'my' house, placing it in a small closet space in the 1845 kitchen where I used to take naps. Sometime ago those naps ended when Larry put a sink and a counter in the space. The refrigerator is in there now and it makes the closet space a neat little kitchen with old-looking doors enclosing the space. By golly, now there is a kitchen available for parties and meetings at 'my' house. In case you are wondering, the closet kitchen is located under the old servants stairs that go to the second floor. As Cousin Jake's grandkids say, "It is totally cool."


Well, let me tell you, Ray from Buhrmesters and our Joe are two happy fellows! They have the paint/glaze colors mixed and they are ready to celebrate. As you know, the old grandpappys Samuel and Ezra told us a whole lot about Col. Ben and Lucy and their house, but they sure didn't mention what colors the rooms were painted and wallpapered. Guess that was a male thing! Thanks goodness there is the Wollenberg paint analysis of the Stephenson House to tell us about the paint colors used. Just the other day I heard Joe telling about the 1820 painter who would arrive to paint from a box of powdered pigments of various colors. These color pigments came from plants and other things from nature. The painter mixed linseed oil and turpentine with various color pigments until the paint/glaze was the color the lady of the house desired. The paint was actually a glaze that produced more of a washed look versus the look of today's enamels and deeper colors.


Ray and Joe are mixing up paint colors just like Col. Ben's painter did in 1820. The big difference is that they have to match the colors Peter Wollenberg found in the analysis of the 1820 paint - and that takes more time than just finding colors Lucy liked for her new home. The mixed paint is actually a glaze that is applied to the millwork in layers of different colors. A layer of colored glaze is applied and allowed to dry for 24 hours and then the next layer of another color glaze is applied and it dries for 24 hours. This process is continued until the color selected is reached. Back then they had only basic color pigments to work with and it often took several layers of different shades of colors to get the color the lady of the house desired.


Lucy Stephenson chose a color for the fireplace mantels and complimentary color paint for the millwork in each room. Ray and Joe experimented with lots of colors to reach the shades the paint analysis showed for the various rooms. Lucy chose a rich green called Essex Green for the mantel in the master bedchamber. Ol' Henry heard Joe say it took three colors and lots of experimenting to match the complimentary color for the master bedchamber millwork. The first glaze is light brown, the second off white, and the third and final glaze is salmon. Well, some of The Friends members saw a sample of the color and were not certain of its color, some calling it peachy or light reddish or a light salmon color. They never did settle on a definite color name. Ol' Henry was peeking from his hidey place and I really liked the color! The master bedchamber will be wallpapered and the style of paper will send Joe on another search.


The dining room will also have an Essex Green mantel and light yellow millwork. The children's bedroom is to be done in quiet, warm colors with the mantel and millwork a creamy yellow color. The wall colors are yet to be decided for these rooms. The parlor mantel will be a luscious blue called Prussian blue. The millwork will be a very light reddish brown and the walls will probably be a shade leaning toward apricot or salmon. Again, it took several colors to reach the correct match for this millwork.


In the early 1800's the foyer was the grandest and most gracious room in a home because it was the first room guests entered. The paint analysis revealed the millwork in the foyer was painted a shade of white. The wallpaper must have been a light colored, warm, elegant paper. Henry says, close your eyes, envision the wallpaper and then add the new stairs painted white with a beautiful stained, wooden handrail. Beautiful, huh?


Henry here has been peeking at houses and can see that today's homes have colors a lot different than the fashionable colors in 1820! All the searching and researching done by Joe show that Col. Ben and Lucy used the most stylish colors in their new home. Wollenberg told Joe the paint analysis revealed that over the years, all the owners of the Stephenson House used the most fashionable colors for each time period.
Oh boy, there is an awesome Christmas wreath on the front door of Col. Ben's house and candles in the windows! The house is beautiful on the outside and the inside is aglow with soft candlelight that will be wonderful as I go to sleep tonight. Thank you Carol, Joe, Donna and everyone else that helped make 'my' house a home for Christmas.


See ya' later,
Henry


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