Restoring the Latimer House’s walls
New Like 1852
by SIMON GONZALEZ | photography by ALLISON POTTER
WHEN YOU RUN a historical society
out of a historic house, histori-cal
accuracy is of paramount
importance. So while the
Oprah wallpaper was
greatly appreciated at the time, it was well past time
for it to go.
Twenty years ago, the Latimer House Museum
in downtown Wilmington was used as a set for
a miniseries called “The Wedding”. The story
revolved around a wealthy family in the 1950s,
so Oprah Winfrey’s production company
installed wallpaper to match that period.
It wasn’t ideal, but it helped to beautify
north-facing walls that still hadn’t been com-pletely
restored since a fire in 1981.
“My understanding is the home was still in
terrible shape from the fire,” says Travis Gilbert,
manager of the facility that has served as the
home of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society
since 1963. “It was better to put up historically
inaccurate wallpaper for the home than nothing
The Latimer House is one of the oldest in
Wilmington, an Italianate Revival-style mansion built in
1852 by Zebulon Latimer. It was the longtime goal of the
society to restore the walls in the front foyer and stairway to their
“It’s the first room you’re in when you walk into the house,” Gilbert says. “It’s
where guests wait for tours to begin. A good first impression will bring an air of historic accuracy.”
The society received a grant in 2016 that allowed them to undertake the restoration. The project kicked off in late
December 2016. The wallpaper was stripped away, the plaster was repaired, and Wilmington artist Mark Gansor began to
apply historically accurate colors and stenciling.
It sounds simple, but it was an involved process that included some historical and architectural detective work.
The walls had received many coats of paint over the years. After the fire in 1981, the society called in architectural histo-rian
Ed Turberg to determine the original color.
“It was a matter of scraping down to the original colors,” Turberg says. “The neat thing is it’s all there. You just have to be
patient and carefully scrape down.”
Wilmington artist Mark Gansor restores the walls in the front foyer and stairway of the Latimer House to their original
form in April.