Conservators are restoring murals and original paint schemes at the General Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville.|
News from the region
Restoration reveals hidden art at General Lew Wallace Study
Transformation of the General Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville is in full swing as architectural art conservators painstakingly uncover original decorative murals encircling the coved ceiling of the study’s main interior space. Slowly and carefully, expert conservators have been removing nine layers of paint to reveal ornamental scenes depicting implements of warfare.
Designed by Wallace himself in the late 1890s, the study is an eclectic mix of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine architecture with a voluminous two-story central room under a coved ceiling and central skylight. The museum displays items collected by Wallace, whose extraordinary career included time as a lawyer, military leader, politician, inventor, and famed author of Ben-Hur.
Wallace also created the murals inside the study, though no known documentation of the murals existed until museum staff discovered a descriptive account from 1900. Using clues from that description, in 2011 conservators conducted an analysis and uncovered two elements of the original ceiling mural – a fife and drum and a section of chain. Excited by the discovery, the museum launched an extensive interior restoration project late last year, revealing an elaborate mural depicting several implements of warfare.
The ceiling mural wasn’t the only decorative discovery. For decades, a pale color scheme of off-white and light blue paint covered the study’s soaring walls and ceiling. The 2011 analysis revealed that interior walls originally featured a unique color scheme that fades from dark to light blue from floor to ceiling. Conservators are recreating the original paint scheme, along with applying gold leaf on the ornamental plaster frieze around the base of the coved ceiling.
The paint and mural restoration follows installation of a completely new electrical system, which included replacement sockets for original decorative lights in the ornamental frieze and plaster border around the central skylight.
The restoration is slated to wrap up at the end of June. When the National Historic Landmark reopens, visitors will gaze upon an eccentric and original interior no one has seen in generations.
Learn more about the project here.