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Courtroom walls are restored

By Staff | Jan 8, 2015

The public is cordially invited to attend an unveiling and reception on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, to celebrate the restoration of the unique artwork found underneath nearly 30 layers of paint on the walls and ceiling of the historic third-floor courtroom at West Virginia Independence Hall.

The 2 p.m. reception is free and open to the public.

Representatives from John Canning Studios of Cheshire, Conn., a national, award-winning company that specializes in the restoration and conservation of ornamental plaster, decorative painting, gilding, and murals, will be on hand to talk about how the art was uncovered and restored over the past six months.

John Canning and his team used the painting technique “trompe l’oeil,” which tricks the eye into seeing three dimensions on a flat surface. Evidence of the technique was found in the 1980s on original pieces of the ceiling and walls, and paint chips were put through electrical analysis to determine the original colors used in the courtroom. The design and arrangement of the 19th century images are modeled after an image from a July 6, 1861, illustration in Harpers Weekly and sketches of the original artwork done in the 1980s after the art was uncovered in paint layers taken from the walls and ceiling.

Visitors will see a roughly 20-foot-by-20-foot section of wall featuring the original “trompe l’oeil” as well as pencil cartoons of animals the original artist painted above the main entrance to the courtroom.

“They brought out as much of the original artwork as possible, and we feel confident about the accuracy of the restored artwork,” said Travis Henline, site manager for West Virginia Independence Hall.

The art restoration project is the last step in the courtroom’s restoration that began in 1965.

“Now, everything in the courtroom is completed,” Henline said. “It’s restored as much as possible to its 19th century condition.”

For more information about the restoration project, contact Henline at (304) 238-1300.

West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is maintained and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with the exception of major holidays. The museum is located on the corner of 16th and Market streets in Wheeling.