What are the original colors of Bermuda’s historic houses?

man working on a roof

Historic houses in Bermuda could be restored to their original colors with help from a team of U.S. architects and conservation experts that includes Brent Fortenberry, assistant professor of architecture at Texas A&M.

The team is working with the Bermuda National Trust to identify changes in color over time to the island’s historic houses, some of which are more than 300 years old, by sending tiny paint samples of the homes for analysis at a Jamestown, Virginia lab.

“We want to create a palette of historically accurate colors that anyone could buy and paint their houses in,” said Fortenberry, who helped secure samples for the project this past summer.

With high-powered microscopes and additional equipment, technicians can look at a structure of a pigment sample and its reaction to light to reveal its true color, said Jane Ashburn, an architectural conservator who is part of the project team.

Determining the original colors of older buildings is a key to conserving them, said Dorcas Roberts, the trust’s director of preservation.

“It’s really important for conserving historic protection areas to have an accurate depiction of what a building would have looked like at certain points in time,” said Roberts.

In additional projects with the Bermuda National Trust, Fortenberry takes graduate students and advanced undergraduates to the island to document historic structures, create preservation management plans, and engage with preservation stakeholders.

Fortenberry, associate director of Texas A&M’s Center for Heritage Conservation, studies the vernacular architecture of the British Atlantic world as well as contemporary issues in historic preservation and cultural heritage.

His most recent research focuses on the cities and port towns of the Greater Caribbean, the plantation landscapes of Barbados, and coastal South Carolina.

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