offers specialized work
in historic preservation
is a tradesman skilled in
ornamental creations of plaster
(June 2009) - Terry Wullenweber is an expert at taking
something old and using an even older technique to make it look new.
While that sounds confusing, its not to Wullenweber, a master
plasterer from Milan, Ind., who owns Wullenweber and Sons Plastering.
by Don Ward
his partner Joanne
Siebert pose in front
of the state-owned Culbertson Mansion in
New Albany, Ind.,
following a recent
renovation of ceiling medallions there.
He began his career in the plaster trade as an apprentice
in 1972. Today, he is at the top of his craft and has done specialized
ornamental plaster work and historic restoration at many well-known
historic sites throughout the state and region.
Wullenweber, 50, will be one of the historic trades people showing his
craft at the June 13-14 Historic Trades Fair at the Lanier Mansion State
Historic Site in Madison. During Lanier Days, an event that celebrates
the early-Victorian period of life in Madison, artisans will demonstrate
19th century crafts. Historic trades craftsmen will also be on hand
to talk to offer visitors advice on repair and restoration of historic
buildings, give information about career opportunities and explain the
purpose and growing needs of their skills.
He began learning the art of plastering during his seventh grade year
at school. He went out on weekend jobs with his father, Clarence, who
worked for his great-uncles, Chris and Elwood Wullenweber. Clarence
began his career in the trade after the 1937 Ohio River flood.
I learned from one of the best, said Wullenweber. Theres
nothing like going to work for your father to make you understand how
things should operate.
He said he picked up the tricks of the trade after years
of side-by-side work with his father, and then took over running operations
when Clarence retired. Today, while many plasterers have turned toward
the drywall business, Wullenweber is one of the few who doesnt
work with the more modern technique of hanging wall boards. Instead,
he works exclusively with the traditional plaster materials that include
gypsum and sand mixtures.
The traditional restoration and building trades are getting lost
today, said Wullenweber. The old way is still good.
He said there is an art to making the proper mixture of plaster, and
many variables need to be considered.
Whether a mixture is rich or poor depends on such things as humidity,
water quality for the mixture and what substances need to be mixed,
he said. You really have to know whether to add more gypsum or
sand aggregate depending on the conditions that exist for that particular
Historic ceiling medallions and ornate cornice work have become specialties
for Wullenweber, whose restoration focus includes decorative, ornamental,
conventional and veneer plastering. His work at the Culbertson Mansion
State Historic Site in New Albany, Ind., involved tedious and time-consuming
restoration of work that had acquired numerous layers of paint.
by Don Ward
restored ceiling medallion by
Terry Wullenweber is among the
renovations at the Culbertson Mansion.
We had to take tiny little picks and meticulously
remove every bit of paint from the medallions, said assistant
Joanne Siebert, who has been working with him for 15 years.
Siebert, 43, began working for Wullenweber when she found herself unemployed
after a layoff from Batesville, Ind.s Union Furniture Co.
I began by sweeping floors and cleaning up the sites, she
said. I then moved up to holding the lights for him while he troweled.
She said her daughter liked to joke that she was an illuminating
Now, Siebert is considered a skilled apprentice. She does the scratch
coat for many of the jobs the team works on but says she doesnt
feel ready to tackle the finish work.
I have no plans to ever go out on my own because I work for the best,
she said. She finds the work interesting and fun, particularly the ornamental
Some of those sites Wullenweber has worked on in addition to the Culbertson
Mansion include the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site in Madison, Ind.,
Hillforest Mansion Victorian House Museum in Aurora, Ind., Blue Front
historic property in Harrodsburg, Ky., and the Vincennes, ind., Territorial
Currently, Wullenweber is working on several restoration projects in
Madison, including the Jeremiah Sullivan House, a historic property
owned by Historic Madison Inc., and the Front Porch Coffee Shop and
He is a member of the Preservation Louisville and sits on the Preservation
Curriculum Advisory Board of Ivy Tech State College in Madison, Ind.
For more information about Wullenweber
and Sons Plastering, call (812) 623-2338.
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