Colonial Philadelphia was the second largest city in the English speaking world... and was, as an Austrian visitor noted, “a maze of pleasing colors.” The city expressed its culture in the design of its buildings and in the colors that enhanced them. This can be seen in some of the artistic renderings of the early city. Peter Coopers pre-revolutionary painting of the Philadelphia water-front depicts 93 buildings. Only six of them are painted white! Imaginative use of hues brought lustre to the public buildings and to gracious homes as well.
These proud historic colors are used even today... in stately mansions of Fairmount Park, in the narrow homes of Society Hill, in the revered chambers of Independence Hall... and to enable you to share in this splendid tradition, Finnaren & Haley offers Authentic Colors of Historic Philadelphia. There are 31 colors in this line, many of which are authenticated by the National Park Service.
Architects and researchers, employing the most meticulous methods, uncovered and certified that these true colors were on those historic surfaces at the moment history was being made. Fortunately, old paint on these buildings was not removed. The existing coat simply served as an undercoat for the next coat.
To find the number of colors, a section of wood was studied. A portion of each layer of paint was precisely removed. As each new color was identified, it was given a color system number and approximate date of application.
Suppose future historians question the results of the work of these color sleuths? The National Park Service foresaw that, so they left behind some untouched fossils to meet the possible future challenge.
Two four-foot sections, one inside and one out, have been left on Independence Hall on the exterior cornice, west of the tower and the interior south stair hall cornice, east end. Both sections were simply painted over with the next coat. If there are any questions concerning the authenticated colors by the researchers for the Tricentennial a century from now, a recheck can be made.
Some of the colors have yet to be certified. Others may never quite make it, because even though all were in use during the colonial period, they were not used in a historic location.
For example: the yellow found on the kitchen wall of the Todd House, where James Madison met his famous bride-to-be Dolly Todd, is authentic American Colonial but not historical, and thus not certified.
Certainly the color most historic is the one called “Liberty Gray”. This is found in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall and is the color that looked upon the delegates as they signed the Declaration of Independence, and seventeen years later looked on as the members of the convention ratified the Constitution of the United States.
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