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John Canning & Co. 2023 Retrospective

As John Canning & Co. reflects on Year 2023, our firm is filled with gratitude for the restoration, preservation, and conservation opportunities in the architectural and decorative paint industry that we continue to have. Many of our projects this year were achieved over a one-to-three-year timeframe, showing the dedication and trust in the craftsmanship of national landmarks, education, and civic projects listed below. We could not include all of our projects; therefore, this article looks at some of John Canning & Co.’s 2023 project highlights.

National Landmarks

As John Canning & Co. moves toward 50 years in business, we reflect on the numerous national landmark projects our firm has completed; this year our top projects include the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hanover, PA and the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Completed within the 2023 year, the scope of work performed by John Canning & Co. focused on the historic decorative paint and fine art conservation of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Upon completion of the initial paint investigation, Canning shared findings with Father Dwight Schlaline revealing the Basilica had well-preserved original paint designs beneath the existing decorative paint layers. This wonderful and amazing discovery led to the largest paint exposure our firm has encountered, revealing all decorative paint and fine art designs of the original chapel. The scale of well-preserved original decoration that we conserved is truly a unique find in the preservation industry.


Completed Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – Hanover, PA (top center), Completed Faux Marbre High Altar Restoration (left bottom), Assessment of Sacred Heart fine art within apse (right bottom)

Mellon Auditorium

A classical-style design by Architect Arthur Brown, Jr. built in 1934, The Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium located in Washington D.C., has seen the completion of a multi-finish restoration this year by John Canning & Co.  Most notably, our firm performed Sphinxstone wall and column repair throughout the space. Sphinxstone is a cast acoustic material simulating stone surprisingly made of seashell. Our innovative approach to using both traditional materials – sea shells – and techniques allowed for a sensitive restoration to maintain the historical character and properties of the original simulated limestone.

Listed as a national landmark with the National Register of Historic Places, the Mellon Auditorium received skilled, professional artisan work in historic color matching, gilding, decorative painting, inpainting, and ornamental plaster repair.


Completed – Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium – Washington D.C.


Sphinxstone Application to Patched Areas of a Wall Repair – Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium – Washington D.C.

Institutions – Universities

Historic educational institutions bare great responsibility in preserving the history of its past successors and benefactors. In 2023, John Canning & Co. returned to these three universities that have continuously called upon and trusted our firm to perform the best in restoration, preservation, and conservation, for additional campus building restorations. Through this Year in Review blog, discover our 2023 works and previous accomplishments.

University of Virginia Chapel

The restoration of historic university chapels is one industry of many that John Canning & Co. artisans have the pleasure of restoring. Welcomed back based on successful past works, the University of Virginia sought woodwork restoration and conservation work within their campus chapel this year. Woodworking areas included chapel doors, liturgical figureheads, and organ pipes. The entire organ was fully restored using a combination of wood finishing techniques and decorative paint application on the individual pipes. Woodwork repair and restoration required preparation, expertise, and artistry to reinstate the chapel’s original beauty. Previous work at the University of Virginia include Garrett Hall, Rotunda plasterwork, and various woodgraining at the campus Pavilions and Rotunda.

UVA Organ

 Completed Restored Organ – University of Virginia Chapel – Charlottesville, VA
UVA Figureheads
Prepared Figurehead for Dutchman Repair (Left ), Restored Figurehead (Right)- University of Virginia Chapel – Charlottesville, VA

Yale University L&B Reading Room

The Linonia and Brothers Reading Room, also known as the L&B Reading Room, was contracted to John Canning & Co. this year after successfully completing multiple campus projects at Yale University in the past. Paneled in wood of a Tudor-style architecture, our woodworking artisans performed wood cleaning and refinishing techniques, as well as ceiling plaster work to complete the entire restoration project. Through the years, John Canning & Co. has worked on numerous Yale University campus structures: Sterling Memorial Library, Battell Chapel, Manuscripts & Archives Library, Morse Recital Hall, Sprague Hall, and Divinity School. The L&B Reading Room is just one of the many Yale projects we worked on in 2023.


Completed – Yale University Linonia & Brothers Reading Room (L&B Reading Room) – New Haven, CT

Harvard University Adams House

John Canning & Co. has worked on multiple projects over the years at Harvard University for both interior and exterior work. Some of the campus restorations John Canning & Co. has performed in the past include Grays Hall, Gordon Hall, Andover Hall, Memorial Hall, Medical School Building, and Sackler Building, to name a few. In 2023, our firm was contracted to perform the removal of original murals for cleaning and conservation, which were reinstalled within the Adams House. By the delicate hands of professional conservator technicians, the removal, cleaning, and conservation of the murals was completed this year.


In Progress Mural Cleaning & Conservation – Harvard University Adams House – Boston, MA

Civic – State Capitols

Historically significant buildings such as state capitols are beginning to see the wave of restoration, conservation, and preservation work needed to maintain or revive their significance, to uphold its duty to the people by conserving history. John Canning & Co. is honored to have worked on a total of six state capitols in 2023, the following state capitols have received National Historic Landmark recognition by the National Register of Historic Places: Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Connecticut State Capitol

Proud to perform additional work on the Connecticut State Capitol Building – the state home of the John Canning & Co.’s main office – 2023 focused on restoring areas of decorative painting within the two atriums below the central skylight. The need for restoration developed from chronic water damage affecting the historic appearance. Our firm has historically been called on by the Connecticut State Capitol for various restoration, conservation, and preservation work such as wood restoration, ornamental plaster restoration, trompe l’oeil, gilding, and glazing. Our firm is honored to have provided professional services, leaving another stamp of John Canning & Co. craftsmanship to be admired in this restored National Register of Historic Places building.


Connecticut State Capitol – Hartford, CT

Michigan State Capitol

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, the Michigan State Capitol is one of the first state capitols to be topped with a lofty, cast-iron dome. Inside, the magnificent rotunda are nine acres of decorative fine arts giving homage to Civil War Veterans. John Canning & Co. has been tasked with decorative painting restoration and conservation within the rotunda. The rotunda requires detailed cleaning to ensure longevity in preserving historic architectural finishes. David Riccio, Principal of John Canning & Co., said, “when I look around the rotunda, I see a tour de force of decoration and craftsmanship. It’s monumental and worthy of the People of Michigan”. This project has been deemed “for the people of Michigan”. Our firm has performed past work within the House of Representatives, Senate Chambers, Adjacent Areas, and Public Spaces of the Michigan State Capitol in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s and 2016 ranging from woodgraining, plaster conservation, plaster stabilization, marbleizing, decorative paint restoration, and other architectural finishes.


Michigan State Capitol – Lansing, MI

Missouri State Capitol

Newly added to the John Canning & Co. project list of state capitols, the Missouri State Capitol required the skilled plaster craftsmanship of our firm this year, to restabilize the detaching and unstable plaster within the Legislative library’s half dome plaster ceiling. Several coffers makeup the integrity of the half dome plaster ceiling, held together by a construction of metal lath, rod, washer, and bolt elements to support the overall structure.


Missouri State Capitol – Jefferson City, MO


Pennsylvania State Capitol

John Canning & Co. returned to the Pennsylvania State Capitol this year, tasked with restoring a total of 50 mahogany Senate chamber desks, originally installed during the overall capitol design of 1906. Canning artisans used traditional methods when performing dutchman repairs and using aniline dye to restore the mahogany color finish. Aniline dyes not only enhance the wood color but allow for the woodgrain pattern to remain clear. To complete each desk in total, tarnished brass hardware was polished like new. In the past our firm has performed various metal, wood, plaster, and stone restorations alongside decorative painting, gilding, and glazing in the following spaces: House Chamber Ante Rooms, including the Members Lounge, Vestibule Post Office, Governors Ante Room, House Chamber Portico Doors, and the Ladies Waiting Room.


Pennsylvania State Capitol – Harrisburg, PA

West Virginia State Capitol

Seeking the professional and experienced work of John Canning & Co., after many past successful projects, the West Virginia State Capitol commissioned Canning artisans to create eight new murals of various historical scenes to be displayed in the rotunda’s four lunettes and four pendentives – each mural ranging from 27-37 feet. While the mural scenes are all original Canning designs, the driving inspiration stems from original Architect Cass Gilbert’s design drawings of the Capitol, which reference these historic scenes. Unfortunately, Architect Gilbert passed away during the 1932 construction and was never able to see the completed work of his architectural design. More than 90 years later, Architect Cass Gilbert’s vision is being brought to light through allegorical paintings of classical themes in law and education for onlookers to experience and discover the historic, cultural, and civic significance.


West Virginia State Capitol – Charleston WV

Wisconsin State Capitol

John Canning & Co. returned to the Wisconsin State Capitol this year after having performed an assessment of finishes for delaminating plaster ceilings in the rotunda in 2022. This project focused on plaster restoration and decorative paint conservation. The scope of work included the removal of ambered varnish from a total of 64 historic ceiling panels.

Wisconsin State Capitol Ceiling Finish

Conservators Apply a Strappo Technique Using an Isolation Varnish
to Remove 60-Year-Old Darkened Varnish – Wisconsin State Capitol – Madison, WI


Wisconsin State Capitol Paint Analysis

Paint Layer Removal to Conduct Paint Analysis for Historic Restoration –
Wisconsin State Capitol – Madison, WI


This year our firm was called on by many well-known industry architecture and construction firms to provide the “Canning Way” level of expertise and craftsmanship. Through this outreach, our artisans were welcomed into new spaces with established leadership, in addition to projects of our own. Whether led by Canning or contracted with an industry leader, our firm is proud to share our 2023 projects awards.

Martin Luther King Jr. Campus – Hartford, CT
2023 AIA Connecticut Elizabeth Mills Brown Award of Excellence – JCJ Architecture



St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish – Boston, MA
2023 Bulfinch Award for Historic Preservation, ICAA New England Region

St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish

Boston Huntington Theatre – Boston, MA
2023 Preservation Massachusetts Award -Shawmut Construction

Boston Huntington Theatre


Yale University’s Schwarzman Center, New Haven, CT
2023 Traditional Building’s Palladio Award for Restoration and Renovation-Robert A.M. Stern Architect’s


New London City Hall – New London, CT
2023 Preservation Connecticut Award of Merit


John Canning & Co. places high value on the trust, commitment, and collaboration we have with every historic architecture and architectural finishes opportunity, as well as, owners, architects, contractors that initiate these project requests. While the works we have completed this year have spanned from one to multiple years in completion, the level of craftsmanship and professionalism stand the test of time, establishing continued professional relationships in the restoration, preservation, and conservation of historic architecture. As a leading restoration and conservation studio, we have an incredibly talented, dedicated, and knowledgeable staff of traditionally trained decorative painters, ornamental plasterers, masons, carpenters, fine art conservators, and architectural material conservation technicians. We are expert Preservation Problem Solvers with a goal of Perfecting Preservation. Our firm looks forward to the project opportunities of 2024 – performing our craft for the greater cause of keeping history alive through historic restoration of our Nation’s greatest structures and historic landmarks.

Canning C

December 18, 2023

Featured Projects

Mellon Auditorium After Restoration Felix Ian Paden Photographer

Mellon Auditorium

John Canning & Co. performed restoration of the Auditorium’s finishes for the walls, columns, entablatures and the ceiling.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Restoration

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Canning performed the historic decorative paint restoration and fine art conservation of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Michigan State Capitol

John Canning & Co. projects at Michigan Capitol 1989-92 and 2016 required expert woodgraining matching skills, and innovation in plaster reattachment and distemper paint conservation, and every other decorative painting skill.

StMary St Catherine Parish after restoration

St Mary St Catherine

Canning performed a restoration and conservation project for the very first Catholic parish in Boston, MA.

Connecticut State Capitol Restoration

John Canning Co. comprehensive restoration of Aesthetic period decoration designed by Richard M. Upjohn and William McPherson in 1878.

New London City Hall

New London City Hall

Decorative painting work was performed at the ceiling, upper walls, entablature, columns, and lower walls, to match with the original 1914 color palette.

Garrett Hall Feature

Garrett Hall Restoration, University of Virginia

We were involved in plaster stabilization and creating a new ceiling and beam structure independent of the severely compromised Garrett Hall building.

Close-up view of the West Virginia Capitol dome and its intricately detailed exterior gilding.

West Virginia State Capitol

Our team of artisans restored and fabricated metal elements then applied sizing and gold leaf to specified areas of the West Virginia State Capitol.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Restoration

Our team provided restoration of the plaster, decorative painting, and historic woodwork repair and refinishing at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building.

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