Winchester Hiram Lodge, N. 21, A.F. & A.M. in Winchester, Virginia, contains an extraordinary lodge room with murals on all four walls and the ceiling. These murals were painted in 1868 by Mr. Ango from the Peabody Institute of Baltimore in the fresco secco style, and depict images important to the Mason tradition. Surrounding these images are trompe l’oeil painted elements making the room look full of columns and marble panels. The ceiling is also painted with images and has a small dome in the center.
In the last decade and a half, the room was heated with a wood stove, smoking was allowed in the room, and the roof leaked, exposing the murals to water and mold damage. The murals had never been previously restored except to patch larger cracks and fill the hole where the stove once stood. New cracks have also developed, along with a large section of plaster/mural that has detached itself from the lath work.
Over the course of the last few months, the lodge has raised money to have the murals fully conserved and The Center is honored to have been brought in to work on the restoration. This involves painstakingly cleaning off the 150 years worth of thick black soot and grime. The grime is extremely sticky and unfortunately can only be removed with dry cleaning techniques, as the paint is soluble in aqueous solutions and solvents.
Large cracks are being consolidated with adhesive, filled, and inpainted to match the surrounding original paint. Additionally, many dents and losses in the walls from chair damage and vandalism were filled and inpainted.
The large section of detached mural was removed and unfortunately, not salvageable. This section was recreated with the help of a local plasterer who secured the wall with new drywall and plaster. We then worked with texturing the area and painting it to match the marble effect over the door.
Currently, conservation of the murals is ongoing. Two walls and a section of the ceiling have been completed, and conservation is continuing on the third wall and remaining section of the ceiling. As fundraising efforts permit, the conservation of the murals is expected to be completed in the next few months.