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Melrose prepares to give original color back to house

NATCHEZ — For the past two years Natchez residents have witnessed ongoing repair work at Melrose, and with spring just around the corner, Natchez National Historical Park is gearing up to host a competition to pick who gets to finish the project.

Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said there will be a contest in the spring to see which decorative painter will be in charge of painting Melrose back to its original color.

“We have been making progress toward this since 1994 when we did a historic structure report for Melrose,” she said.

Jenkins said the report determined that the original paint on the house’s columns was not white.

“We learned that they were painted to look like stone,” she said. “We have seen old photographs from the turn of the century where you could see shades of the color.”

Jenkins said architectural conservator George Fore was brought in to do the finishing analysis for Melrose two years ago.

“He knows better than anyone what the color of the house should look like,” she said. “When he examined the house, he found some problems, and that is what we have been working on fixing before we could start painting.”

Jenkins said work on the roof, gutters and structure of the building have all been done while they have also been slowly taking off the more than 100 years of white paint off the stucco on the house.

“It has been a very labor intensive process because we are trying to retain the original layer that is left underneath,” she said. “Once we are done removing it, we will have a really good look at what evidence remains of the original color and pattern.”

Once the paint is removed, Jenkins said a competition will be held to determine who gets to paint Melrose.

“They will have to submit some test patterns and we will decide from there,” she said. “There is going to be some pretty stiff competition.”

Jenkins said the competition will be in spring, and the painting should begin in fall.

“The materials we are going to have to use are sensitive to humidity,” she said. “So fall is the perfect time to apply the paint.”

Jenkins said she is hoping the painting will be done by Christmas.

“We just want to thank everyone for their patience because I know it has looked pretty bad over there with all that scaffolding,” she said. “We are just now getting to the fun part, and we can’t wait to get the (property) back to its original look.”

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