Coats of Many Colors: The Colonial Revival and the Pursuit of Accuracy through Architectural Finishes

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Hayes, Annabeth
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Middle Tennessee State University
Since the mid-twentieth century, historians have studied the Colonial Revival, often emphasizing its origins in the nineteenth century, influential figures like Wallace Nutting and Fiske Kimball, and the style’s lasting popularity and culture influence in the United States. Colonial Williamsburg has been a popular focus for scholars of the Colonial Revival because its restoration of eighteenth century buildings and its impact on architecture and middle-class culture. Although the Colonial Revival remains a well-researched discipline, scholars have yet to fully explore the significance of the architectural finishes of Williamsburg and their multiple incarnations since the first work done by the Perry, Shaw, and Hepburn architectural firm and designer Susan Higginson Nash. What is a historically correct architectural finish has fluctuated from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century, particularly as white middle class Americans reimagined early American history to fit their romanticized ancestry. This fluctuation is reflected in the changing interpretations of historic interiors like the Thomas Everard House and Wetherburn’s Tavern at Colonial Williamsburg.