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Saturday, May 31 • 10:00am - 10:30am
(Paintings + Wooden Artifacts Session) Lost for One Hundred Years: The Conservation of a Unique Polychrome Neoclassical Pulpit in Upstate New York

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The picturesque stone Fort Herkimer Church is the oldest church remaining in the “Leatherstocking” district of upstate New York. Although the church likely began its existence as part of the original defenses of Fort Kaouri (Fort Bear), assembled around the homestead of the Herkimer family during the French and Indian War, the current structure began as a single story stone building in 1767.

During the Revolutionary War, Fort Herkimer was rebuilt as a defensive stone and earthwork perimeter to protect the church. Later, in the years between 1812 and 1814, a second story was added to the church and the interior was refitted. At that time a new church pulpit was installed. The church is located on the south side of the Mohawk River/ Erie Canal, and during the construction and later reconstruction of the canal, the surrounding defensive walls were dismantled and repurposed in the canal works.

By the 1960’s the church had reached a state of neglect and deterioration. However, a local funeral director named Donald Fenner recognized the historic value of the site and began a forty year long program of restoration beginning in the 1970’s. By 2006, largely through private funding, the church had been carefully stabilized and decayed architectural elements restored.
As one of the last tasks of this long project, the pulpit was being prepared for a new coat of white paint using disk sanders, when the painting crew began to uncover a complex polychrome decorative scheme. Excited by this discovery the crew continued working, uncovering much of the original paint layer before realizing that the process was not without collateral damage.
This presentation will discuss the challenges of removing the remaining white lead overpaint and identifying and restoring the original, and unique, polychrome surfaces.

avatar for Alexander M. Carlisle

Alexander M. Carlisle

Supervising Conservator, Historic New England
Alexander M. Carlisle is currently Supervising Conservator at Historic New England following eight years in private practice as A.M. Carlisle Art Conservation. He was Program Chair in the Wooden Artifacts Group in 2010 and served as Chair 2011-2013.

Saturday May 31, 2014 10:00am - 10:30am PDT
Bayview A-B