Crews work to restore Melrose

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Chris Landers remembers the first time he came to Melrose in 1976 with his father to start restoring the Natchez house for John and Betty Callon.

&uot;The house needed a complete restoration from top to bottom,&uot; Landers said Tuesday afternoon recalling his first job inside the antebellum house. The Callons had recently bought the property and were ready to begin the arduous process of renovation and restoration.

Now after almost 27 years, Landers can safely say that he has painted most of the house’s interior &045; from top to bottom.

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Early this year Landers and his painting crew began a four-month project inside Melrose, which is now owned by the National Park Service. The project which includes painting and wallpapering will restore rooms on the public tour route to their mid 19th century appearance, according to Kathleen Jenkins, museum curator for the Natchez National Historic Park.

In 1996, architectural conservator George Fore of Raleigh, N.C., conducted a finish analysis of the house. With microscope and various other tools, Fore spent 10 weeks determining the paint and wallpaper the house had in the 19th century. In the process, he discovered areas of original marbleizing and graining on cypress boards within the house.

With the help of an internal National Park Service grant, Landers is now recreating the decorative painting effects throughout the house. From painting faux walnut burl baseboards to applying delicate striated rose glaze on plaster walls to hanging reproduction wallpapers, Landers’ crew is bringing the interior of the house to its mid-19th century condition.

During the month of February tours have been limited to the first floor of the house during the restoration process. However, both floors will be open during Spring Pilgrimage. Completion of the project is anticipated sometime during the summer.

&uot;It has been a lot of funŠand a lot of hard work,&uot; Jenkins said, &uot;For the first time I have a sense of looking at the house as it exists in old photographs. It’s like creating a time warp.&uot;

&uot;It looks better than ever,&uot; Landers said.