Unique un­veil­ing

An­cient mu­rals hidden un­der wall­pa­per re­vealed.


The Annapolis Her­itage So­ci­ety of­fi­cially opened The Painted Room at the Sinclair Inn Mu­seum Na­tional His­toric Site last Tues­day, show­ing off wall mu­rals and paint­ings that were done more than 170 years ago but cov­ered with wall­pa­per for more than a cen­tury since.

The first hint of a mu­ral was dis­cov­ered in the 1960s, when the owner found it be­cause a leak­ing roof peeled off the wall­pa­per on one sec­tion of one wall. Most of the 300-year-old build­ing was not be­ing used at that time, and it wasn’t un­til the Her­itage Canada Foun­da­tion bought the build­ing and handed it over to the her­itage so­ci­ety that mem­bers could even be­gin to con­tem­plate what to do with the sec­ond-floor room and what they as­sumed would be four walls of mu­rals.

But even then they had to wait, be­cause work sta­bi­liz­ing and re­pair­ing the build­ing was more press­ing. It was only five years ago that the so­ci­ety was ready to do more with the room, and once fund­ing was in place in 2016, work could get un­der­way by con­ser­va­tor Ann Shaf­tel, who painstak­ingly re­moved the wall­pa­per in tiny pieces to pro­tect the work.

So­ci­ety pres­i­dent Barry Moody — who was shown the wall when the water dam­age first hap­pened 50 years ago — said it’s be­lieved the paint­ing was done over a pe­riod of about 30 years, and that it cov­ered some pre­vi­ous work be­cause icons of the Freema­sons seem to be vis­i­ble un­der­neath. The build­ing was home to the lo­cal lodge meet­ings in the 1700s.

It’s be­lieved that the walls were first cov­ered with wall­pa­per in the late 1800s. Moody said they haven’t had the wall­pa­per an­a­lyzed to de­ter­mine how many lay­ers there were, but “gaug­ing by the thick­ness, I would say five to 10. Quite a few years of just adding an­other layer and an­other layer and an­other layer.”

He doesn’t think any other rooms have mu­rals. More than $140,000 was re­quired to pre­pare the room and un­veil the mu­rals, as well as pro­duce an in­ter­pre­tive video and ma­te­rial.

“You’re us­ing Q-tips to dampen the pa­per and take off (tiny) pieces,” Moody said. “That’s months of work by an ex­pert to get to this, and then once you’ve re­moved the wall­pa­per you’ve ex­posed these mu­rals to a very dif­fer­ent cli­mate, so you have to make sure you have hu­mid­ity control.”

The room was never heated in the win­ter, so the so­ci­ety also had to come up with a heat­ing sys­tem that would have min­i­mal heat so the tem­per­a­tures didn’t fluc­tu­ate.

“All of these things are as ex­pen­sive as the restora­tion of the paint­ings them­selves,” he said.

Now, he said, the so­ci­ety is ready to try to un­ravel the mys­ter­ies of the paint­ings. The her­itage so­ci­ety has found one record of some­one stay­ing at the inn in 1848 who noted that the walls of his room were cov­ered with mu­rals, but noth­ing else can be found. The artist and the date of the paint­ing is un­known.

The four walls in the room have land­scapes, a paint­ing of a train with a steam en­gine, and a por­trait of an of­fi­cer painted inside a paint­ing of a pic­ture frame. The uni­form seems to be a com­bi­na­tion of styles, the so­ci­ety says, and it has no idea who the im­age is meant to de­pict, if any­one.

Annapolis Royal Mayor Bill Mac­don­ald said the open­ing of the project is a proud day for ev­ery­one in­volved, and for the town.

“This is a na­tional trea­sure, the build­ing it­self has al­ways been a na­tional trea­sure, and (the room) is just an em­bel­lish­ment that nobody an­tic­i­pated. Its dis­cov­ery was re­mark­able.”


Barry Moody, pres­i­dent of the Annapolis Her­itage So­ci­ety, shows Faith Wal­lace of the Depart­ment of Cana­dian Her­itage, one of the details in a wall mu­ral at the Sinclair Inn Mu­seum Na­tional His­toric Site. The mu­rals, which were painted some­time prior to...


A por­trait of an of­fi­cer is one of the works among mu­rals found be­neath wall­pa­per at the Sinclair Inn Mu­seum Na­tional His­toric Site in Annapolis Royal. The mu­rals which were painted some­time prior to 1848, were un­cov­ered from be­neath wall­pa­per start­ing...

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