Edward Reilly, a window preservationist, talks to Bella Rielly about replacing glass on historic windows at a preservation trades workshop at the Victoria Mansion in Portland on Sunday. Rielly grew up in a 1750s house in Massachusetts and a few of their windows are broken, so she wanted to learn how to fix them. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

On the lawn of the Victoria Mansion in Portland, Edward Reilly held an old window, explaining how it should be restored.

“It takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master,” said Reilly, before showing how to carefully remove panes of glass, then apply glaze, which looks like putty, to hold the glass in the window frames.

If the window has multiple squares, Reilly recommended remembering which one each pane of glass came from, because over time they won’t fit in other squares.

Reilly’s demonstration Sunday was part of a historic preservation workshop showcasing three trades: window sash glazing, woodwork repair and sand painting. The goal was to share knowledge on how to maintain Maine’s thousands of historic buildings.

The Victoria Mansion receives high-level care by experts, said Executive Director Tim Brosnihan.

“We’re lucky in Maine to have a lot of people who have the particular skills to care for historic buildings, but we have an awful lot of historic buildings that need care,” he said. “There aren’t enough hands to go around.”


A short learning opportunity began Sunday.

Peter de Paolo was there to talk about sand painting, a technique used to make wood look like stone.

“Sand painting is blowing on a fresh coat of paint on wood. You blow it until it won’t accept any more. You get the look of natural stone,” he said, pointing to wood of the porch, wood that looks like the mansion’s sandstone.

De Paolo sand paints on the mansion’s porch when needed, he said. He uses brownstone sand from the same quarry that supplied the stone of the mansion, a quarry that’s no longer open.

He knocked on the wood to show that it wasn’t stone. Sand painting is rarely used today, especially for a typical home, de Paolo said. It’s used to restore historic buildings and match the restoration to original colors.

“It was used in the 18th and 19th century homes as a cost-saving measure,” de Paolo said. Sand painting wood would be safer than using actual stone depending on how much weight the foundation or weight-bearing beams could hold, he said.


Sand painting is a durable finish, de Paolo said, but it doesn’t last forever. When the paint cracks and wears, the wood will need to be sanded and sand painted again.

John Leeke, a historic preservation expert who has worked on the mansion, demonstrated how wood can be matched to missing pieces of historic, ornate trims.

Pointing to the columns on the mansion, Leeke said that the carvings on the columns were done in 1850, a style of column “that goes back to 2,500 years ago to the Romans, and further back to Greece,” Leeke said. “It’s astonishing we’re still carving these exact same shapes.”

He learned his trade from his father as a young man at a time when historic preservation was almost lost.

The demand, and appreciation of restoring historic buildings is in a resurgence, “a post-modern revival,” Leeke said. “We’ve gotten over with everything being made in factories. Now there are more people carving” a plank of wood and transforming it to match historical, decorative carvings on buildings.

Historic home owners are looking for help from experts who know how to carefully preserve the building, Leeke said. When someone knows how, missing pieces of roof trims can be replicated, he said.


John and Eunice Wilcox, of Falmouth, were there to learn how to obtain expert help on historic preservation. They’re involved with the Falmouth Congregational Church, a 200-year-old building.

Bella Rielly, of Portland, was also among the small group who attended.

Her family owns a 1750s home in Groton, Massachusetts, Rielly said. The windows on the historic home need help, and the family is struggling to find someone to repair them, she said. “I’d like to know how to do that myself.” The home has some of the original, wavy glass, a sign that the glass is historic.

Rielly said she’d like to work in a career preserving historic buildings. Growing up in a historic home “has impacted what I want to do now,” she said. “General preservation architecture, taking care of old buildings is important to me, and to do it the right way.”

The shortage of craftspeople won’t be solved overnight, Brosnihan said, but the Victoria Mansion plans to offer future, hands-on training workshops to people who want to do historic preservation.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.