Hand-painting bricks restores Natchez home’s original color

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Gary Hume can’t say exactly how many of the pink bricks he has left to handpaint, although he knows it is about two to three weeks worth.

&uot;I can paint about 30 bricks in an hour, and in a good weekend with no rain, I can get about 200 done,&uot; he said.

Hume began painting the brick walls of his 1855 Greek Revival style house in late March to restore the original color.

For Hume, handpainting his whole house is not as daunting a task as it may seem. Rather, it is the fulfillment of an ongoing desire to restore and preserve great architecture.

&uot;I’ve always liked old houses,&uot; said Hume, a part-time preservation consultant for the Historic Natchez Foundation.

In October, Hume bought the house at the corner of North Rankin and High streets in downtown Natchez knowing it would need some repairs. &uot;I was willing to undertake and do them,&uot; he said.

As an architectural historian, Hume said he wanted to return the house as close to its original condition as possible. Through research, he learned that the house was built in 1855 by builder Thomas Staniforth.

For visual guides, Hume looked through photographs at the foundation and in Dr. Thomas Gandy’s collection. At the foundation he found an photograph taken by Gurney in April 1865 that showed the front and northwest sides of the house. The walls were brick with a white cornice along the side.

So Hume decided to clean the pink paint off to reveal the original color of the brick.

That was when the soft bricks composing the wall became an obstacle.

&uot;At first I was going to clean the brick and have it repainted,&uot; Hume said. &uot;The problem is trying to find a cleaner that will get the paint off and that isn’t too abrasive for the brick.&uot;

One of Hume’s friends suggested he paint the bricks a solid color instead. Even though that was not the look Hume wanted, the suggestion gave him an idea. &uot;I decided to try painting a brick pattern onto a section of the wall, and I liked how it looked.&uot;

After getting the needed permit from the Natchez Historic Preservation Commission, Hume began painting, following the pattern of the brickwork and leaving the original brick exposed when possible. He said the work is going faster than he expected, but he realized he might be going a bit too far when he talked to friend Claudia Stephens.

&uot;I told her I had ordered the shutters for the windows, and she responded, ‘Oh, you weren’t going to paint those on too?’&uot;