Layers of the Past

By Emily Gold Boutilier / March / April 2004
June 15th, 2007

"We called it above-ground archaeology,” says Beth Tauro Saunders ’84, who chairs the committee that maintains the Maddock Alumni Center. In December, as part of a larger renovation of the building, a local expert named John Vaughan began a search for any decorative paintwork that might be hidden beneath layers of ceiling paint in the foyer.

Vaughan first pointed a special bright light at the ceiling. “We could see instantly that there was a pattern there,” says Carol Sanderson, a historic-design consultant to the committee. Next, with the help of a solvent, Vaughan meticulously scraped away the outer layers of paint from a small section of ceiling, uncovering the patch shown here.

As he continued, he found an intricate geometric design that had been hidden for decades, as well as a band of leaves and scrolls and a row of medallions. In each corner of the ceiling Vaughan found a large sunflower motif. “Every surface was covered,” Sanderson says. Later this year an artist will repaint the ceiling, replicating the original pattern and colors.

The ceiling project grew out of a two-year-old attempt to restore the original look of the building, which was constructed in the 1830s and expanded in 1882. It was given to the University in 1966 and became the Maddock Alumni Center in 1974.

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March / April 2004