Brick slave cabins at Magnolia Plantation, part of Cane River Creole National Historical Park, located near the Magnolia community south of Natchitoches, Louisiana. These cabins date to the midninteenth century and are significant because they are built of brick. Brick was an expensive alternative to the more commonly used wood.

Brick slave cabins at Magnolia Plantation, part of Cane River Creole National Historical Park, located near the Magnolia community south of Natchitoches, Louisiana. These cabins date to the midninteenth century and are significant because they are built of brick. Brick was an expensive alternative to the more commonly used wood.

Introduction

The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) recently completed a study of the durability of traditional and modified limewash formulations. The study tested a variety of limewash recipes for possible use on historic structures located in the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, located in central Louisiana.

Limewashes have long been used as surface finishes on buildings and other structures, on both the interior and the exterior. As limewash slowly dries, it reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air, carbonating and creating a tough finish. During the height of limewash’s popularity, prior to the industrial age, the knowledge and skills needed for effective application were passed on from craftsman to craftsman. The basic ingredients, lime and water, were readily available in every community. Additives used were commonly available and often varied from place to place.

As the popularity of limewash waned in the U.S. and modern paints began to be used widely, experience with limewash recipes and their application began to fade. Today, instead of every community having someone knowledgeable in limewash, experienced craftsmen are spread thinly across the country. The waning popularity of limewash did not result solely from the rise in popularity of modern paints; other factors were the increased cost of labor and creation of more durable, inexpensive materials that did not need a finish for protection.

NOTE: This publication originally appeared in APT Bulletin: Journal of Preservation Technology, 38:2-3, 2007

 

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119