New efforts to preserve Battersea, the 1768 villa of Col. John Banister, a founding father of America and the first mayor of Petersburg, will kick off with hands-on help from the community during a workshop on limewashing and using lime to restore historic buildings on Saturday, November 1, 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at Battersea […]
New efforts to preserve Battersea, the 1768 villa of Col. John Banister, a founding father of America and the first mayor of Petersburg, will kick off with hands-on help from the community during a workshop on limewashing and using lime to restore historic buildings on Saturday, November 1, 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at Battersea in Petersburg.
Members of Battersea Inc.’s Conservation Team, including conservator John Lee and other nationally recognized experts, will provide the free educational workshop for homeowners, architects, restoration specialists, craftsmen and the general public.
Lee said, “We want to offer educational opportunities and involve the public throughout the stabilization and restoration process.”
Tempy Barbru, Battersea Inc. executive director, said, “Our first goal is to stabilize and secure the house and property. It’s in remarkably sound condition considering its age – virtually two-thirds of the site is untouched by the ravages of time and decay – but it’s in need of immediate repairs related to moisture and drainage damage.”
Barbru said the initial phase of stabilizing the property is expected to cost about $500,000. So far, about half of that has been raised from public and private sources including the City of Petersburg, the Elmwood Foundation and the Cameron Foundation. A $50,000 matching grant was also recently offered by the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation.
To stop moisture damage that was caused by improper masonry repairs years ago, workshop participants will remove Portland cement parging from around bricks below the water table. Lee said this will solve the problem and the house should immediately begin to dry out.
He explained that historic homes were repaired with inappropriate materials instead of lime for about a hundred years until problems were discovered in the 1930s. For example, using cement in and around brickwork traps moisture and prevents bricks from moving as houses settle, which causes cracking. On the other hand, lime mortar is softer and more porous so bricks can shift as houses settle and moisture can evaporate.
Discussion during the workshop will include the chemistry of lime; using lime for mortar, plaster and finishes; mixing and matching historic lime mortars; and damage caused to older buildings by use of Portland cement pointing and renders.
Workshop participants will also help make and apply limewash to cover patches of red bricks that have been exposed as sections of Battersea’s white stucco exterior have broken off over the years. This will temporarily improve the overall appearance of the house until more permanent repairs are made to the exterior, Lee said.
Owned by the City of Petersburg since 1985, Battersea is one of the finest examples of a five-part Palladian house in the United States and a Virginia Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Battersea Inc. is a nonprofit organized in 2006 to partner with the City of Petersburg to protect and restore the site and its structures.
“Battersea has a rich history,” Barbru said, “and with citizen and community involvement the villa has the potential to be a focal point for educational activities, enriched cultural life and a variety of civic uses.”
Battersea Inc. has initiated studies of the site including a recently completed archaeological survey that revealed new information and a more complete story about how people used the site from prehistoric American Indians to early industrialists, slaves and freemen to British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
According to Barbru, “The survey provides a baseline of information that will protect Battersea’s cultural resources and guide our plans for future archaeological digs, preservation and restoration efforts, interpretive community and educational programs, and development of the grounds.”
For further information, call (804) 732-9882 or visit www.batterseainc.com
Directions: Take the Washington St. exit off I-95 towards Old Towne Petersburg. Continue west on Washington St. Immediately after West St., turn right onto Battersea Lane.