Preservation Highlights

A Retrospective Of 10 Projects

Preservation Highlights

As the pace of change accelerates in the world around us, Americans more than ever need a lively awareness of our roots and origins in the past on which to base our sense of identity in the present and our directions for the future.”  First Lady Patricia Nixon

May is dedicated to National Preservation Month. We have always been inspired by the interiors we have the opportunity to preserve and restore, and if you follow us on social media, we often share details of past projects that were originally created by inspired craftsmen and artists of the time. 

In celebration of National Preservation Month, we are sharing a few things we've learned on some of our favorite and more interesting projects. We have been restoring, preserving and conserving buildings for over 40 plus years so it was difficult to choose only 10 projects. Even though we have had the pleasure to be involved with hundreds of preservation projects, we are sharing 10 of those here. 

1) Union Station, Washington, DC

The Legionnaire statues were design by Louis Saint-Gaudens, the younger brother to Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Each of the statues was hand carved by Saint-Gaudens and they are considered to be his greatest works. All figures were based on a young student, Helmus Andrews.

Almost fifty years after the completion of the statutes, Andrews finally visited the station and considered the statues to be "pretty crummy".

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Washington, DC Union Station

2) The Academy of Music, Ballroom, Philadelphia, PA

The Academy of Music is the nation’s oldest grand opera house that is still used in its original function. 

The restoration of the ballroom was guided by the discovery of an 1860 photograph, historic paint investigation, microscopy analysis. 

The replication of the original trompe l'oeil features incorporated 18 distinct hues, mid-tones, highlights, and low lights that resulted in the use of over 100 paint colors. 

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The Academy of Music, Ballroom

3) Grand Central Station, Sky Mural, New York, NY

Grand Central Terminal is a world-famous landmark and serves more than 750,000 passengers a day. The Sky Mural, designed by Paul Helleu, is an iconic feature

But did you know that the view of the constellation is not as expected.  While we may think it more logical for the composition to have an earth-to-heavens point of view, it is actually portrayed from beyond the constellations looking down toward the earth through them. 

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Grand Central Station, Sky Mural,

4) Fulton County Courthouse, Wauseon, OH

The current Fulton County courthouse, the third for the county, and the first for Wauseon, was completed in 1872. This is the courthouse current used today and stands as a Fulton County landmark, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The historic paint study revealed the Courtroom was a variation of finishes that have been embellished over the years.  Even embellishments on top of embellishments, many times over had occurred.  John Canning & Co. returned it to the classical lines, designs and motifs.

In the Courtroom there are a total of 14 paintings: 10 murals and 4 tondos. The different artists attributed to the artwork are Nicholas Pfaendler, Ludwig Bang, J. F. Doulhitt, and Robert Vitter.

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Fulton County Courthouse

5) The Maryland State House, Old Senate Chamber, Annapolis, MD

The Old Senate Chamber was restored, not to a particular period in history, but to a specific point in time. It has been restored to its appearance on December 23, 1783 when General George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief.

Washington's resignation has been depicted in paintings and sculptures by many artists, such as a bas-relief scene at the North Carolina State Capitol and a life size painting in the United States Capitol rotunda. 

But to now be able to stand in the room with the same materials, application methods, colors scheme, furniture arrangement, etc., just may be our favorite portrayal yet. 

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The Maryland State House, Old Senate Chamber,

6) Hamilton Smith Hall, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH

In 1940, three artists were selected, through the New Hampshire Federal Art Project (FAP) to provide murals for the University of New Hampshire.

The FAP hired hundreds of artists to collectively create more than 100,000 painting and murals and over 18,000 sculptures.

In New Hampshire alone, at least 14 new post offices were built and at least 5 included a new mural. 

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Hamilton Smith Hall

7) Grant County Courthouse, Elbow Lake, MN

Grant County Courthouse is a National Landmark in Elbow Lake, MN It is the most architecturally impressive structure in Grant County and probably one of the most impressive courthouses in the state of Minnesota.

During this preservation and restoration project of the interior decorative elements we uncovered medallions that had been hidden.

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Grant County Courthouse

8) War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House is the Golden Palace for the Golden City. 

The building was built in 1932 as part for the Civic Center Complex and cost $4 million to build then.

The War Memorial Opera House restoration was part of a seismic upgrade

During the project, a fire broke out do to welding work that was taking place.

The result of this fire was the full restoration of all gilded finishes throughout the Opera House.

In the end restoration of 500,000 linear feet of architectural elements was performed.

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War Memorial Opera House

9) Luzerne County Courthouse,  Wilkes-Barre, PA 

The Luzerne County Courthouse was originally built and opened to the public in 1909, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It stands as a monument to the importance and prosperity of this area during the historic coal and railroad industrial revolutions.

Over the course of the project, we carefully assessed, documented, and conserved 125 murals throughout the rotunda proper and third floor corridors. During this project we also found original light fixtures in the dome using the photo as a guide. New, LED fixtures were installed in the same positions in order to recreate the historic lighting and mood.

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Luzerne County Courthouse

10) Cosmos Club, Washington, DC 

Originally built as a private residence for socialite Mary Scott Townsend. The exclusive Cosmos Club purchased the estate in 1950. The opulent ballroom is one of the most coveted event spaces in DC and provides substantial income for the club.

Over the years, the Louis XV Rococo style interior had become drab and dingy with damage from water intrusion and neglect. In 2011, John Canning & Co. was selected by the Cosmos Club ownership to restore the Warne Ballroom to its original style.  Our work in the ballroom encompassed the restoration of decorative finishes, architectural gilding conservation, artwork conservation, plaster repairs, and wood conservation as well as restoration of the walls, doors, windows, and parquet floor.

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Cosmos Club