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John Canning & Co.'s History


From Glasgow to Connecticut just in time for the American Historic Preservation Movement

As the American historic preservation movement was gaining momentum in the 1960s, John Canning, a young journeyman in Glasgow, Scotland, was preparing to immigrate with his wife and three daughters to Connecticut.

While still in Glasgow, John spent many years working to become a certified Guild member. He served his five-year apprenticeship in the applied decorative arts as a church decorator after studying and completing proper requirements at the Scottish Decorative Trade Institute, Glasgow Stow College of Building, and Glasgow School of Art. During this time, John mastered the art of replicating Old World techniques and materials. To this day, church projects still remain a passion for John and his expert team of artists at John Canning & Company.

The Canning family’s arrival in Connecticut in the early 1970s coincided with the beginning of historic building restoration interest in the Northeast. After speaking at one of Hartford’s early preservation conferences, it became clear to John that the tradesman was the missing link in the newly forming U.S. preservation movement. There were scholars to do the scientific research, and architects and engineers to make plans and design, but the input of the tradesman – applied knowledge of Old World finishes, decorative painting techniques and materials, and the ability to interpret scholarly studies and original methods of execution – was missing. The architect, scholar, and tradesman were (and are) the ideal preservation team in order to maintain the utmost authenticity.

Just such a team – of which John was an integral part – was assembled for the exquisitely successful restoration of Battell Chapel at Yale University. Shortly thereafter, he helped take on the comprehensive restoration of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford. Both projects provided the turning point in John’s career from private home decoration, to the restoration of major public buildings

When John Canning started the Canning business, the company was “John Canning Ornamental Painters and Church Decorators.” Historically church buildings were the most elaborate structures sparing no decoration or embellishment. As a result, "Church Decorators" was the common UK term to illustrate the capability of a painting firm. If a firm could understand and execute the complex symbolism, artwork and purpose of a church building, they could tackle any interior. The firm changed the name to John Canning & Company because this terminology did not translate in America but sacred buildings remained an important focus for the company. Canning Liturgical Arts is a branch of John Canning & Company that developed due to the growing need for church restoration and beautification across the nation. 

In the 1990s, John chose to share the helm with David Riccio, and together they have expanded the business in ways that better serve their clients. John and David’s close working relationship and combination of artistic mastery and business smarts have made them an ideal leadership team for both the staff at John Canning & Co. and the clients they have the pleasure to work with.

For over 45 years now the Canning Company continues to be a family run business bringing expertise, professionalism, fine workmanship, attention to detail, highest standards, integrity and quality of work into every project they take on whether it is for historic restoration, historic preservation and historic conservation.