A New Look for Raleigh’s Oldest House

Before and After
Before and After

​Big changes are coming to the Joel Lane Museum House in 2020! New research has found that the Joel Lane House originally looked very different from the yellow building we know today. It is with great excitement that we announce that the Joel Lane Museum House will be restored to it’s original 1796 colors, in a major restoration that will begin in the coming weeks.

We have learned that, 250 years ago, Joel Lane chose a rich, distinctive, dark red - almost garnet - for the siding of his new house. Tan trim highlighted the drama of the unusual hue. The result is a handsome facade, fitting for a home reportedly called the “Best House for 100 miles.”

The research that revealed the original colors is the result of a major preservation project made in conjunction with the house’s 250th anniversary. JLMH embarked on a mission to replace the house’s current, failing paint in order to save the wood beneath. Normally, preservationists avoid removing old paint at all costs, because those layers are irreplaceable evidence of the history of a structure, and beneficial in preservation. Sadly, our paint is so badly compromised that instead of keeping water out it is instead trapping moisture within and causing the beginnings of rot. To save the wood, we must sacrifice the paint.

Fearful of losing the evidence captured in centuries of accumulated color, we commissioned a study to analyze each paint layer. There was a bit of old-fashioned, hands-on detective work involved, as we hunted for the best-preserved samples armed with flashlights, scalpels, and meticulously labeled sample bags. Those samples were subjected to modern analysis, performed by Dr. Susan Buck, a leading expert in historical paint analysis. Going in, we knew that it was possible that the colors we thought were accurate from the house’s restoration in the 1970s may be incorrect. We hoped Dr. Buck would be able to determine the precise pigments that decorated the Lane House in the various phases of its long history. She found more than we dared to hope: some samples revealed as many as twenty-six layers of paint, representing all 250 years of the house’s history.

Now that we have this knowledge, we are going to use it. In the winter of 2019-2020, we will undertake an enormous preservation effort: to remove the old paint, repair and stabilize the wood beneath, and refresh the house’s appearance with a new coat of protective paint. With our newfound information, we will be able to restore the original color the Lane House wore in 1796. The oldest house in Wake County will be red once more.


Check out the photos to see a preview of what the Joel Lane House will look like after its repaint!