Restoration of Historic Buildings, Artwork, and Finishes

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New Colors for The Old Church

Looking from the Lannie Hurst Parlour into The Kinsman Hall after


The Collins Auditorium after repainting in colors by ART FIRST

after : The Old Church with enhancing colors by ART FIRST

before: ART FIRST started work

Lannie Hurst Parlour after


The Kinsman Hall after

Detail of Kinsman Hall after

Mary McMurray took the original carpet as part of her inspiration

The drab office before

The office

For the office we added a picture rail moulding to bring the scale of the room into the proper proportions. The original elaborate trim mouldings had all been sadly removed in previous years. Then, we added cheerful colors to lift the spirits of the staff working here. The stained glass windows have gained an added luster with the right colors surrounding them.

1957 Frank Lloyd Wright House

The Gordon House in Silverton, OR, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957, and is the only building in Oregon by him.

Art First was hired to discover the original paint color. Researching the paint colors chosen by Wright on his other buildings, as well as conducting a microscopic analysis of the paint samples, yielded the results.

The authentic pigment is now being applied in stages.

I can't advise you strongly enough to visit the house (at the Oregon Garden) for a transcendent architectural experience:

The Gordon House, 869 W Main St., Silverton, Oregon.

1889 Pullman Coach

The original color had been lost under many repaints.

1889 Pullman Coach at Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum,
115 SE Lake Street
, Ilwaco, Washington 98624.

Samples showed shrinkage crackle caused by the weather, and flaking caused by physical vibration. Sequencing was confused by later paint creeping through cracks under loose older paint and appearing to predate it.

Art First took samples with complete stratigraphies where original colors were least degraded. Samples were examined by stereomicroscopy under controlled fiber-optic illumination to allow identification of the colors based on optical properties.

before the auditorium before

The Hollywood Theatre

Built in 1926 for vaudeville shows and silent films accompanied by a live orchesta and organist, this historic venue continues to entertain with current cinematic previews and special programs.

Art First's Mary McMurrray volunteered her expertise to design new and glamorous paint colors for both interior and exterior surfaces during its restoration.

hollywood auditorium
after. Photo by John Keel


Before restoration these colors did nothing to highlight the importance of this architectural treasure.


The new colors by Art First bring it back to its welcoming vibrant life.

The Hollywood Theatre in Portland is finished! Come and see the glorious new colors both outside and in, by Art First.

Newly painted in colors by Art FIrst, but before the glorious new marquee, styled after the original by Fernanado Duarte.

The East store-front side of the Hollywood Theatre springs forth in its unique colors

Statement of Intent
To the friends of the Hollywood Theatre

In choosing the interior colors for the Theatre, I looked at a multitude of possible paint colors, having already ruled out any colors that appeared dull, lifeless, or generally not promoting the theatrical ambiance we want.

I believe we all wish to create an atmosphere in keeping with the original glamour evoked by the name, “The Hollywood Theatre”, and visually coordinating with the elegant terracotta exterior façade.

Viewing each pre-selected color against the enlarged color photos I took inside the Theatre, in the appropriate lighting conditions, I continually referred to the black and white photos of the original Lobby and upstairs Lounge, getting a sense of the probable tonal range used in the original color scheme.

Part of the process is balancing what the design looked like in 1926, with the awareness of the developed color sense that most of us have, now. Colors that were hot then are probably not now, at least when used in the same placement and proportion.

I firmly believe that our three color finalists will achieve our goals for the Theatre in an elegant and inspiring way. The colors have an historical as well as a contemporary significance.
Also, they will not clash horribly with the existing carpet until the time it can be retired from service.

Mary McMurray


the bland before


The Hollywood Theater, a charming watercolor painting by Jerry Bendschadler, captures the fantastic festive froth of her terracotta facade built at an angle to the sidewalk.

Antique photos from its hey-day

The lavish interior.

Click here for more about the theatre

Joel Hamberg donated all of the new interior and exterior painting.Hamberg

Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon

The original exterior paint colors for wood and metal surfaces were discovered by Mary McMurray of Art First Colors. Using microscopic analysis she provided a paint seriology report, and specifications for repainting.

The Manor House, built in 1924 in a Lutyens-like style for the Frank family estate, was designed by Herman Brookman. It features a slate roof, extraordinary brick and stone work, and charming details like the cast iron grille with bird motifs.
Art First is a Member of
The Architectural Heritage Center
The Oregon Historical Society
The National Trust for Historic Preservation
The Historic Preservation League of Oregon
The Bosco-Milligan Foundation

Old Red House

The "Old Red House" in Goldendale, Washington. Built in 1890 by a colorful character named Charles Newell, the "Horse King" of the Northwest. Called a stick-style "Gothic" Victorian. The rather austere appearance is offset by carved embellishments and many colors of stained glass in all of the windows.

The building has always been painted red but since all of the original paint had been removed, the exact shade of red and the trim colors were unknown. ART FIRST came up with the design for a darker red body, lighter red trim and cream colored accents.

ART FIRST provided the microscopic paint analysis to discover the original interior and exterior finishes, as well as on-site consultation for re-creating the original stains and glazes for the interior woodwork, which had been painted over by the Lodge's second owner.

"The National Park Service defines restoration as: The act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period in time by means of the removal of features from other periods in history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period.

"The Thunderbird Lodge is one of the last and best examples of a great residential estate on Lake Tahoe from the period in which prominent San Francisco society built homes on the lake. In addition to the main house, there is a Card House, Caretaker's Cottage, the Cook/Butler's House, an elephant house, the Admiral's House, the Boathouse with adjoining 600' tunnel, and Gatehouse. The Thunderbird Lodge is an example of an approach to architectural design that is intended to be in harmony with its setting. The siting, design and materials of the buildings, landscape features, walls, paths and driveway are a result of this design philosophy. The Lodge represents a high level of expertise in building crafts, stone masonry, iron work and wood work. Examples of this craftsmanship are evident in the buildings, tunnel, walls, steps and fountains. The Lodge is also an example of the work of Frederic J. DeLongchamps, who served as Nevada's State Architect and was Nevada's most prominent architect of his era.

The Thunderbird Lodge, Lake Tahoe

The Card House

"George Whittell was born in 1881 in San Francisco. Numerous legends surround Whittell's activities at his Lake Tahoe estate, including colorful parties and high-stakes gambling in the card house. The eccentric Whittell collected a veritable zoo of wild animals that made guest appearances at the Thunderbird Lodge each summer. Lake Tahoe was selected as the site of Whittell's new home because of the natural beauty and remote character of this alpine basin. At the time, Whittell owned 40,000 acres and 24 miles of Nevada shoreline at Lake Tahoe. The resulting Thunderbird Lodge includes elaborate tree and granite boulder filled grounds with fountains, waterfalls, staircases, and paths. A 600-foot tunnel carved through solid granite connects the main lodge with the card house and the boathouse, home to his famous yacht, Thunderbird. The Thunderbird Lodge was added to the national register of Historic Places in 2000, and is open to the public for guided tours in the summer months."

Text © 2004 Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society.
For more details see

The Flavel House Museum, Astoria

The re-painting of The Flavel House was in the true original paint colors as determined by microscopic analysis by Art First.


Mary, Your match for the kitchen was right on the money – we found a never-been–painted plaster wall in the pantry with practically the identical color when we were doing some de-construction!

Michelle, Clatsop County Historical Society.

After restoration

The Queen Anne-style, popular from 1880 to 1910, was characterized by a steeply pitched roof of irregular shape; patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows, and other devices used to avoid a smooth-walled appearance; round, square, or polygonal towers; and an asymmetrical facade with a partial or full-width porch - usually one story high and often extended along one or both side walls. The house also displays characteristics of the Stick and Italianate styles such as the vertical stickwork, the bracketed eaves, and the hooded moulding above the windows and doors. The roof and verandas are crowned by the original decorative wrought iron cresting.In 1896, the house was painted white with red trim to acquire the "Colonial Revival" look which had just gained popularity in the western states. The house remained white until 1984 when, for its centennial, the house was painted in a late Victorian color scheme - antique gold with olive green and chocolate brown trims.

In 1999 an ART FIRST paint analysis on the exterior of the Flavel House revealed its original 1885 colors of putty for the body, buck-skin for the trim, merlot for the sashes and decorative details, and gold for the highlights. Today the house proudly displays its authentic colors.

flavel 4
a detail

flavel house front door


flavel before
the Flavel House colors before restoration were not authentic

Art expert restores school mural

Hood River School

News staff writer

Mary McMurray of Portand is restoring Hood River Middle School's 70-year old mural.
Photo by Steve Kadel

  A mural spans Hood River Middle School's auditorium like a colorful history book telling the story of Hood River County.
 Painted as a gift in 1928 by local artist Percy Manser, its scenes show Hispanic workers in an orchard and a contemplative Native American with back turned to white settlers rolling by in a covered wagon.
But like Hood River County itself, the mural has aged over the years. Water damage from heavy rainstorms, as well as the simple pas sage of time, has taken a toll.
 There are cracks. Plaster has even crumbled in some places.
 This week, though, the mural doctor is putting Hood River Middle School's prize back together.
 Mary McMurray of Portland is painstakingly restoring the mural. Working from photographs, she carefully dabs a little brown paint here, some blue there, in an effort to make things look just like they did when Manser finished the mural 70 years ago.
 "He was really a good artist," McMurray said during a break on Wednesday.
 She did her homework before beginning. She knows the way Manser mixed colors, and even the hues he used in his era.
 That kind of artistic detective work is McMurray's forte. With an art degree from Cornell University, including a minor in art history, she's now a consultant who helps interior designers and architects coordinate color schemes.
 She also studies microscopic paint samples from historic buildings to replicate the original color for repainting. She's worked on churches, businesses and homes in Portland.
 McMurray also recommends custom colors for newer buildings that don't have particular historic value.
 She considers the building's age and architectural style. Even the exterior light direction plays a part in determining the best color scheme. Light tends to be more blue when it comes from the north, and yelIower when it comes from the south, she said.
 Now she's breathing life back into Manser's work. Hood River Middle School Principal Bob Dais has spent two years planning the restoration.
 "It's a centerpiece of the community," he said of the mural.
 The mural restoration will cost $15,000 to $17,000.
 Funding is provided through Hood River County School District's capital budget, and some insurance money received for the storm damage.
 That project is just part of the school's up grading of its auditorium. By summer, Dais hopes to replace the panes in nine large windows to make the auditorium much brighter than it has been.
 New stage curtains also will be added. But Manser's mural is the auditorium's focus. Its images not only reflect the county's history, but the artwork allows lots of interpretation, Dais said.
 McMurray is concentrating on the mural's content-as well as her brush strokes-while applying the four or five coats of paint needed to complete the job.
 "I try to get into the mood of what Percy was feeling," she said.

Restoration of 1928 Percy Manser mural at Hood River Middle School Auditorium.

St. Mary's Cathedral

With Sally Hopkins Art First restored and re-stenciled the Organ Pipes in St. Mary's Cathedral, Portland.

Other selected Restoration Projects:

Historically correct colors for:

  • the Biltmore Apartments NW Glisan, Portland.

  • 1885 Grand Stable and Carriage Block Buildings, SW Portland

  • Restoration of plaster decorations, The Meeker Mansion, Puyallup, Washington.

  • Restoration and repainting of 1896 mural in Meeker House, Portland.
  • Member of:

    The Architectural Heritage Center

    The Oregon Historical Society

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation

    Restore Oregon

    The Bosco-Milligan Foundation

    The Bellevue Club

    Restored historic Lounge with hand-mixed colors and gilding.




    Here's as it appeared before

    Historic Mural Lounge. Hand-mixed colors, painting, and gilding. The Bellevue Club, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA. See interiors for community buildings

    Restored and Relocated Historic Mural

    Alameda County Labor Temple. Removed, restored, and relocated this historic 1937 mural Progress Through Labor by Robert Rishell.

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