TONALITY: MATERIALS AND COLOR
The great majority of Stoughton’s downtown buildings, over 73%, have masonry facades. Both red and yellow brick, as well as limestone, have been used in the past, creating an overall uniformity to buildings of diverse architectural styles. Trim materials include cast iron, pressed metal, terra cotta, limestone, and wood. These predominant materials are important to the identity of Main Street.
It is important to realize that modern technology has developed new construction materials that can have the appearance of historic materials without some of the cost or maintenance worries of historic materials. Stoughton’s City Hall clock tower is an excellent example of the use of modern materials to replicate historic elements.
The color of a building material, whether natural or applied like paint, can obscure or highlight the architectural features of a building. Colors that are muted seem more appropriate to historic buildings; use of a single, light color allows natural daylight to cast shadows and therefore reveals detail; use of multiple colors can display the detail to great advantage; use of a single dark color makes shadows more difficult to see and therefore hides detail. Black paint is inappropriate on the cornice because it obscures detail.
Paint can be mixed in any color imaginable, and multiple colors can be used together in an even greater number of combinations. There are four basic approaches to color selection today. The Natural Approach uses the colors of the building’s natural materials as its starting point: paint colors are selected to match the natural materials. The Authentic Approach favors reproduction of actual colors found on the building through historic paint color research: the original layers of paint are analyzed and matched to paints in current manufacture. The Period Approach allows selection from palettes of paint colors known to have been used during the period of the building’s construction. Historically, different color palettes are associated with different architectural styles. For example, late 19th-century Queen Anne style buildings were often painted in deep, rich, jewel-tone colors, while early 20th-century Classi-cal Revival style buildings were most often lighter tints and off-whites. Art Moderne buildings of the 1930’s frequently used black, white and grey in combination with other colors. A book by Roger Moss, A Century of Color, describes in detail the appropriate color palettes for each architectural style. Paint manufacturers offer color charts based on documented historic colors. Some of these are: Benjamin Moore, “Historical Color Collection”; Pratt and Lambert, “Early American Colours” from the Henry Ford Museum; and Sherwin Williams, “Preservation Palette”. The Boutique Approach offers an unlimited palette of colors based solely upon the preferences of a design professional or an individual building owner. These “Painted Ladies” are inappropriate for an historic building.
It should be remembered, too, that color is directly affected by the building’s orientation: buildings on the south side of Main Street will rarely be washed with sunlight and colors on these facades will appear “cooler” than the same color placed on a facade on the north side of Main Street. Colors on facades that are washed with sunlight can be deeper without being overpowering; subtle combinations of colors may be most successful on sunwashed facades but difficult to distinguish on facades in shade.