St. George Tabernacle receives fresh coat of historically accurate paint

Scaffolding covers the historic St. George Tabernacle as renovation efforts move forward, June 23, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Recent restoration efforts on the historic Tabernacle in downtown St. George include the application of historically accurate paint colors to the building’s tower and trim as exterior renovation nears completion.

A newly applied coat of light green paint on the historic St. George Tabernacle’s tower mirrors the building’s original 1870 paint color, June 23, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Construction on the 19th century edifice has been ongoing since June 2016 in an effort to both modernize its structural integrity and more accurately portray the building’s historic character.

“One of the big project goals has been to restore this building to the way it looked in the 1870s,” Emily Utt, historic sites curator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said. “So basically, the way the Tabernacle looked when it was dedicated in 1876.”

Applying new paint to the exterior has been the focus of current restoration efforts.

“When the scaffolding went up on the building, we went and took a bunch of samples, and we sent those to a lab for analysis,” Utt said, “and the study came back, and there are lots of coats of paint on this building.”

The original paint color, found underneath about a dozen layers of paint, was found to be in contrast from the various shades of white and cream that were painted over it in recent decades.

Historically accurate paint colors adorn the St. George Tabernacle as renovation efforts move forward, June 23, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“The tower was a light green. All of the trim around the building had a kind of a white background,” Utt said. “And there was a dark gray, a light gray and kind of a peachy white detail. The window trim and the doors were a red color paint.”

Workers are currently in the process of painting with the original colors, some of which is visible between the scaffolding.

The original paint was hand-mixed using linseed oil and white lead with a dry powder for the color.

“Historically, the paints would have had a very high gloss finish because of all of that linseed oil,” Utt said. “We can’t put lead paint on a building now, so the new paint will have the same colors and high gloss finish, but it’s using the modern pigments and the modern ready-mix things that you can buy.”

“It will look just the same, but the materials are slightly different.”

An all-white paint scheme previously covered the building for approximately 60 years.

Scaffolding covers the historic St. George Tabernacle as renovation efforts move forward, June 23, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“Most people who live in St. George today won’t really remember this very rich and dark paint scheme,” Utt said.

Once the building is painted, the exterior renovation will be nearly complete. Scaffolding is expected to come down within the next two months.

At that point, work will begin on the building’s interior as the project moves forward.

“We’re on schedule. Everything is moving just as it should. The contractor is working as quickly as he can, but we’re not ready to announce a completion date yet.”

While the Tabernacle currently remains closed to public access while construction is underway, those curious about the building’s history can find more information at an interactive website run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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