March 5, 1962
MEMO TO: MR. AL MANUCY
FROM : EARLE W. NEWTON
I am attaching an uncorrected copy of a memo I dictated on our thoughts
with respect to the paint problems at the Arrivas House. I would appreciate
very much your corrections and suggestions before we put this into the
cc: R. H. Steinbach
February 23, 1962
MEMO TO FILES
FROM s E. W. NEWTON
REi ARRIVAS HOUSE PAINT COLORS
The decision with respect to paint colors for the Arrivas House has been made
somewhat arbitrarily, but not without reference to known colors used in colonial
and early 19th century building in St. Augustine. The evidence from within the
house itself is conflicting.
Virtually all woodwork from the Spanish period had disappeared in the downstairs
level and consequently almost no evidence was available for the paint colors in
this earlier area. The initial step therefore has been to give the new woodwork
a coat of sealing stain to preserve it from deterioration until such time as
further evidence of a more conclusive character can be uncovered. It is always
possible to paint over a stain-sealer, but not vice versa.
The upper level, which is of a considerably later date, presents a series of
conflicting evidence. Across the woodwork trim and doers and windows at the
rear of the house was a blue paint of a color which was often used in colonial
times. However, this blue was a top coat, which could not conceivably have
lasted from those days, and which in several cases flowed over onto obviously
scabbed on modern changes. Below this blue there seemed to be an undercoating
and beneath that a possibility of a paler green paint, which however on closer
analysis might have been a blue which had faded. However this pattern did not
repeat itself on other woodwork, and could not be considered consistently reliable.
Indeed, on another door the bottom coat was clearly that of a dull red, probably ap-
plied as a red varnish as was done in the early 19th century--probably a date when
the present second story was added.
It must be remembered that this second story was remodeled once, probably in the
1830's or 401's by the addition of heavy Victorian woodwork in the front room,
which was removed in the restoration. This woodwork and the earlier pattern in
the rear rooms was covered with a coat of dark, almost chrome green of not very
great age. Again, paint coats on doors and trim were not consistent, indicating
that there had been re-shuffling of the doors over the years.
The decision to use the early 19th century greenedd red" seemed to best fit the
dating of the structure itself. This color was carried on to the exterior doors
and trim leading out on the balconies, since these "outside" doors and windows
were consistently treated and thought out as similar to inside.
Whereas in New England tradition exterior doors and trims would be painted con-
sistent with the colors of balconies and other exterior mill work, there does not
seem to be a similar pattern in St. Augustine because of the tendency to consider
doors leading on to porches, balconies and patios as being openings into "outdoor"
rooms, and not openings to the outside similar to those in the north. It seems
more likely therefore that these doors and trim were handled consistently with
the interior. Porch railings and other woodwork was perhaps a part of the exterior
pattern, either painted the same color as exterior clapboards or not painted. It is
doubtful that clapboards were left unpainted as was often the case in the north,
Lt' :^ o ";'-;
Memo to files, Feb. 23, 1962--P. 2
(Painting of Arrivas House)
because of rapid deterioration. Where millwork was drawn from good quality heart
bine or cypress or other durable materials, it might last, particularly if sealed
or stained. I think it is doubtful that this exterior millwork was painted in
contrasting colors, as was often the case in the north, where white trim on the
exterior contrasted with dark red or yellow clapboards.
There may also have been a difference in the paint colors used on wood and on
plaster. The pastel pinks, ochres and blues used throughout the Latin countries
would almost certainly have been used here on plastered walls. Whether the same
colors were carried into wooden houses is perhaps more debatable. We know that
ochre, dark red, and probably at a later date white were used on wood surfaces,
the Oldest House has found definite evidence of green. Where one comes up against
duo-material houses, as in the Arrives house, the Ortega-MaoMillan house, and others,
it is likely that the original one story masonry building had a color typical of
Latin plastered houses, but when a second story was added in the American period,
the entire structure may have been painted consistently in more modern colors.
The Ortega-MaoMillan house seems to have as a bottom coat &,6 deep red, bat the wood
second story shows no evidence of anything but ochre, which has been painted over
a deep red of the first story as well. More modern paint retains .wzh the sam
color over all.
However, more thorough inspection of the paint coats on the second story is necessary
before much conclusive can be discovered from this building, which evidently had
much the same history as the Arrivas house: that is, the Spanish coquina flat roofed
one story building, to which there was added in the American period a wooden second
storj. The Arrivas house second story, with its continuous balconies all the way
around seems to be of an earlier period than the Ortega house, whose second story
and balcony seems of a later vintage.
In general coquina walls of the original Spanish first story have been re-plastered
consistent with their evident history and present state. The reconstructed coquina
walls on the east side have been plastered on the inside to be consistent with the
other walls in the house. The coquina has been left unplastered on the outside,
temporarily, pending further confirmation of the presently inconclusive data relative
to the use of plaster on coquina. The general feeling currently is that all coquina
surfaces were plastered immediately, because of the soft character of the coquina and
the necessity of preserving it from the weather, However, two factors might have
altered this situation. First is that the earlier coquina was harder, and may have
stood up better at least temporarily. Secondly, in very poor towns it may not have
been possible tor every builder to plaster immediately, and the coquina may have
been left exposed until such time as deterioration called for plastering. I have
not seen conclusive evidence as to when plaster was applied to the original coquina
buildings, although it seems to have been invariably the case that it eventually
was applied if not immediately. All authentic historic houses hate coquina in
St. Augustine have been plastered at one time or another in their history. Several
attempts to restore and reconstruct historic buildings have either removed the
plaster, or consciously done without it, because of the beauty of the exposed coquina.
However, the Coomission's action in this regard will be determined by historical
evidence and not standards of contemporary beauty. The fact that it is not acted
to plaster immediately is simply because it is easy to plaster at any times, but
extremely difficult to remove plaster later.
Meae to file, Feb. 23, 1962--P. 3
(Painting of Arrivas House)
(Granted, it is hardly likely that it would every be necessary to remove plaster).
Floorss Old floorboards have been retained wherever possible, although contrary
to the wishes of the director they were taken up from their original positions and
stored during restoration, and then re-laid, not necessarily in their original
position. A great deal of new floor boarding was applied to replace rotten boards,
as well as inconsistent modern flooring which was discarded. This new boarding
has been stained to b&tnd tn.wktkL the old, but not to obscure its modern origin.
The third floor has been plastered off, as many of these houses were to provide
extra rooms, but there. have also been installed in it certain modern utilities to
keep them out of the historic areas belew, this may be considered a utility aea
rather than a restoration.