A Grave Affair


After external restoration of Apse at St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster City, Lancaster, PA
Before external restoration of Apse at St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster City, Lancaster, PA
Inscription reads: “Ann Caroline Coleman Daughter of Robert and Ann Coleman”

Recently the LimeWorks.us Technical Install Crews completed a project in Lancaster Pennsylvania at St. James Episcopal church, and while we were there we walked among the graves at the rear of the building, reading the placards and faces of several stones. We stumbled upon several graves closest to the church where the Coleman family lay to rest. Judging by the size and number of the graves, we assumed they were of significant importance and most likely wealth. At this time we were told by one of the local masons who had been around during the job that there was a story buried with that of Ann Coleman, daughter of Robert and Ann Coleman. A story that involved our fifteenth president, James Buchanan. And so it begins.

Robert Coleman, Ann’s father, migrated to America in 1764 and ironically, the Coleman residence in Ireland was just about twenty miles from the ancestral homestead of the Buchanans. Robert Coleman would become an iron-master capping his fortune through his marriage to the daughter of the then famous iron-master of Reading, Ann Old. Robert came into possession of several iron properties in southern Lancaster County. After 1800 he served Lancaster greatly through his service as associate judge of the Court of Common Pleas, a trustee of Dickinson College, and a warden of St. James Episcopal Church where he himself would come to be buried. Robert had been acknowledged as one, if not the wealthiest man in Lancaster and perhaps even one of the wealthiest men in the state by around 1819. In being self-made, Robert Coleman became very self-conscious of his wealth and suspicious of those who might be looking to exploit it.

James Buchanan came to Lancaster in 1809, at the same time when Robert Coleman had settled there with his nine children and wife Ann. The Jacobs 600px-Presidents_James_Buchananfamily, another wealthy family in the Lancaster area were James Buchanan’s connection to the young Ann Coleman. Cyrus Jacobs had worked alongside Robert Coleman when they worked for James Old as laborers. Just as Robert had married James Old’s daughter Ann, Cyrus married Old’s other daughter Marguaretta, making the Coleman and Jacobs children first cousins. Cyrus Jacobs had a son who carried his name and would later study law in Buchanan’s office in 1818. One of Jacobs’ daughters, Eliza Jacobs, became the sweetheart of Buchanan’s law partner, Molton C. Rogers around 1818, and around the same time Buchanan began to gain interest in Eliza’s cousin Ann Coleman.

ColemanIn 1819, Ann Coleman had the eyes of Lancaster due to her wealth and social position. Her friends often characterized her as proud, gentle, full of sensibility, lovely in person, tender and affectionate, and intelligent and thoughtful. James Buchanan had built for himself a significant reputation in politics and law around this time, so much so that he was making around $8,000 a year, a fortune in that day. In the summer of 1819, James and Ann got engaged. Serving the typical role of a father, Robert Coleman examined all things James Buchanan. He researched family history, education records, and even the backgrounds of past associates. Robert found instances where he did not approve but unfortunately for Buchanan, he wasn’t perfect, and because of that Robert Coleman was not a man to ease the path for his daughter, although there was no record of hostility against Buchanan from Ann’s father.

Autumn of 1819 became a nightmare to property owners and the lawyers who handled said property. Panic reached its peak in august and James became extremely busy. Not only was James overwhelmed with the case which had ramifications in Philadelphia, which required his presence every so often, but the political scene was also in trouble. The local Federalist party was going to the wayside and as a leading young federalist, Buchanan was needed to remedy the damage. When you think his troubles were over you are wrong, the Missouri question was consuming the nation at the same time, and Buchanan was appointed to a committee to prepare official resolutions to instruct district congressman that would represent the sentiment of voters in Lancaster on the question of slavery in Missouri. To say James Buchanan was busy would be an understatement, and because of his legal and civic responsibilities, Ann Coleman took second place in priorities. Unfortunately for James, his engagement prompted the town’s observation of his every act, exposing him to special scrutiny.

James Buchanan’s final resting place at Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster, PA

James Buchanan’s most favorable traits became an unfair judgement in regards to his persistent ambition to become financially successful and his unfailing good manners. These manners in particular, which to some, seemed to take the form of affability towards young ladies. Gossip swarmed upon these observations and eventually landed on two ideas that would misrepresent Buchanan; Buchanan loved the Coleman fortune, and he did not love Ann Coleman. Ann caught wind of these rumors and so did the whole Coleman household, and her parents did nothing to convince her otherwise. Over time Ann became convinced of the rumors and she wrote James, telling him that his object was her riches rather than regard for herself. Upon reading the letter Buchanan was hurt deeply, especially his pride and self-respect, and because of these same traits he was unable to solve the problem in direct terms. He answered Ann’s note politely, but came to no explanation. Since there was no formal break in their bond, matters still could happily be resolved, although another incident involving false assumptions arose. Buchanan had to go out of town on business and before the trip was over he casually dropped in to see Mrs. William Jenkins, whose husband was one of James’ intimate friends. Mrs. Jenkins’ sister, Miss Grace Hubley informed Ann of James’ visit and she became ridden with jealousy. She penned an angry note and released him from his engagement. James received the note while in the Court House and persons who saw him receive it observed him turning pale upon reading it. Buchanan only saw Ann’s large fortune as an issue if he were to try and persuade her to reconsider her breaking of engagement.

Ann Coleman’s resting place at St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster City, Lancaster, PA

Ann became low in spirit and was encouraged by her mother to go to Philadelphia to ease her depression. Ann brought along her younger sister Sarah and caught a cold on her way to the city on December 4th. They both stayed with their sister Margaret who lived on Chestnut Street. A series of plays and operas served as a distraction for Ann. Buchanan on the other hand immersed himself in business. He successfully concluded a case on December 6th and was winding up some details, which served as a huge triumph for him, although it most likely paled to rescue his pride from the upset of his marriage plans.

Ann Coleman died on December 9th shortly after midnight. Judge Kittera of Philadelphia who knew the Colemans relived the events in his diary where he mentioned she had been engaged to be married and that some unpleasant misunderstanding occurred. He said that the circumstance was preying on her mind. Kittera also summarized daily happenings including fits of hysteria that later after night turned into strong convulsions which caused Ann’s sisters to send for doctors who though that it would soon end, and it did although her pulse continued to weaken until midnight when she died.

The news did nothing less then drown Lancaster. No one could explain exactly what happened. As for the friends of Ann, they all looked on Buchanan as her murderer and the Colemans felt the same way. When Buchanan received the news he wrote an anguished letter to Mr. Coleman asking for permission to see the corpse and walk as a mourner. His letter never reached the Coleman home, in fact it was refused at the door and returned unopened. In the letter, James wrote that he and Ann had been much abused and the he felt happiness had fled him forever. Ann Coleman’s body arrived in Lancaster on Saturday December 11th, and the next day it was buried in the churchyard of St. James Episcopal Church. At that time the church was under construction and lay half dismantled, described as a symbolic depiction of the life of Ann Coleman and the wreckage it now lay in.  James tried to get back to work but he simply could not do so. Buchanan disappeared for a few days before his return to Lancaster where he prepared himself to start again. He would never marry but would hold onto Ann’s letters throughout his life implying that he never recovered from her tragic death.


This story is an abridged version created from the cumulative research of Dr. Philip Shriver Klein, Head of the History Department of the Pennsylvania State University from “James Buchanan and Ann Coleman”. To read the complete work with complete citations from several sources including George Tichnor Curtis, Franklin Ellis, and E. C. Watmough, visit: https://journals.psu.edu/phj/article/viewFile/22321/22090

St. Astier Natural Hydraulic Lime for Historic Restoration, Conservation and New Build Projects

Prior to the 1940’s many brick and stone buildings were constructed with lime and sand for mortar. Many times these limes were inadvertently hydraulic limes. The lime putty used may have had a hydraulic set because of impurities in the limestone when a limestone contained various degrees of reactive silica and was burned along with the pure calcium carbonate stone. Today, it is unfortunate that many of these pre-1940 buildings have been repaired using Portland cement based mortars and stucco. There are some consequences with this remedy. All buildings move and cracks develop in rigid Portland cement mortars and stucco. When a Portland cement mortar is stronger than the brick or stone laid up in the mortar, cracks that develop will transfer to the face of the exterior masonry allowing water penetration. Water can then be driven deeper into the masonry as it migrates to inside spaces.Portland-needle-lime-hexagonal

A contribution of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Portland cement has a dense pore structure and a needle-like crystal structure that has the same expansion and contraction coefficient as steel, the unyielding joints and stucco will eventually crack in various places. This is especially true with free standing church bell towers and the like. Water that does not migrate to the inside of the building may evaporate out of the more porous soft brick or sandstone and only accelerate its decay. The mortar on the other hand will remain proud as the masonry units will decay back and finally hollow out from their original face plane.

Tricalcium aluminates and Tricalcium silicates which form during the burning process of Portland cement have a detrimental chemical reaction when they come in contact with water that gets trapped in the bedding mortar and salts which are found in old buildings. This reaction results in what is called “The Sulphation of Cement”. It is known to bulge once sound masonry walls as expansion occurs with this reaction sometimes causing even massive stone walls to topple over. Lime, however, has an open pore structure and a hexagonal crystal structure which allows the plates to shift between one another and yields flexibility and high vapor and liquid permeability. Some advantages of lime mortars are:

  • Walls breath better and moisture can escape
  • Mortar and stucco does not set too hard
  • Thermal movement can be accommodated without damage
  • Expansion joints can be avoided
  • Insulation is improved and cold bridging reduced
  • There is a reduced risk of condensation
  • There is little risk of salt staining because salts get flushed from wall surfaces
  • Masonry life is increased
  • CO2 emissions in the manufacture of lime are 20% less than cement and during carbonation of the lime, the mortar and stucco reabsorb considerable quantities of CO2
  • Natural Hydraulic lime gives an excellent reproduction of sand color

All St. Astier NHL mortars can be reworked (8-24 hours), reducing waste of material and increasing work rate due to its hydraulic set. St. Astier NHL contains no cement, gypsum, pozzolans, tetra calcium Aluminoferrites, (high in Portland cement and contribute to expansion when reacting with gypsum.) St. Astier NHL does not have high aluminates, Sulphates, Alkalis making it suitable for marine environments.

For additional information or to purchase Natural Hydraulic Lime  click here

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Another Successful Straw Bale Building with Natural Hydraulic Lime Plaster – Little Rock Arkansas

Straw bale construction is the best of both worlds, it is a green and sustainable way of building and can be affordable with low maintenance and amazing insulation that will help keep energy prices low.

Natural Hydraulic Lime is crucial for success when building with straw bales. Two factors that make Natural Hydraulic Lime so great include its breathability and its ability to self heal and repair cracks through “autogeneous healing.”

Recently a team of volunteers spent 7 days working with Andrew Morrison of strawbale.com to construct a 10,000 sq. ft. straw bale eco center.

Presented by LimeWorks.us
Phone: 215-536-6706

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Limelight on the Restoration of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is the only US university with a World Heritage designation, it’s conservation is of the utmost importance and is currently undergoing the largest restoration campaign in decades. Matt Wolf and his team from Centennial Preservation are currently working on the repointing and window repairs for the Rotunda at Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.

Mortar studies showed the original mortar was made with hydraulic lime which led to the specification of a customized LimeWorks.us Ecologic™ Mortar for the repointing campaign. Ecologic™ Mortar is an environmentally friendly, breathable, Natural Hydraulic Lime based mortar available in 8 stock and countless custom colors.

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Repointing the First Congregational Church Hudson, OH – A Restoration Success

Here’s a brief summary of the project at the First Congregational Church of Hudson (OH) project by John Burnell, Principal, Mason’s Mark LLC.

The church was originally built in 1865 in historic Hudson, Ohio. It was repointed several decades ago with a cement-based mortar and started to develop brick deterioration problems in both interior and exterior upwards of 10 years ago. We performed an extensive survey of the building in 2003 and were contracted to undertake removal of the cement beginning in 2010. We completed Phase 2 last spring and are scheduled to complete the tower this summer. We used NHL 2 which we custom-tinted to match the original mortar color, and for sections that needed some brick repair, we used custom-tinted Lithomex repair mortar and some of the custom tints of Silicate stain, both to match the color and patina of the original bricks.

Products Used: Natural Hydraulic Lime 2, Lithomex, Silazur

Work Done: Repointed mortar joints, damaged brick repair, brick staining

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Preserving America’s Historic Barns – A Conversation With Historian Jeff Marshall

Screenshot 2015-08-04 09.58.49 (2)Watch our Limelight on America’s historic barns. Historian Jeff Marshall discusses his appreciation and understanding of barns, barn builders and their lasting legacy.

BARN AGAIN!!  Preserving and Repurposing the Past

Presented by LimeWorks.us
Phone: 215-536-6706

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Historic Lime Stucco and Plaster Repair in New Jersey

The Technical Install Team of LimeWorks.us was called in to reverse some of the inappropriate finish that had occurred over the years at this Historic New Jersey home. When the team arrived they found this 19th century brick home covered in layers of peeling latex paint and years of well meaning repair attempts using harmful Portland Cement based mortars and stucco.


Besides the peeling paint and gaping holes, water was trapped within the masonry walls which made it incredibly inefficient to heat which can often will lead to build up of mold growth within the building.



The LimeWorks.us Technical Install Team removed the layer of latex paint and localized areas of the Portland cement based materials which were contributing to an adjacent wall system failure. They repointed with lime-based Ecologic™ Mortar and applied Ecologic™ Mortar SCG (non-pigmented) as a stucco. Finally, the lime stucco was whitewashed using breathable St Astier Lime Paint “Natural” (non-pigmented) to finish the repair campaign with this traditional whitewash.




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ColorWash Stain, For Brick Walls With Mismatched Brick


Q: There are some bricks in wall that are mismatched in color. Is there a way to have them match without removing them?

A: While this question comes up from time to time, most often people don’t know that they can easily remedy such a problem and don’t bother to ask. By using silicate stains many colors and variations can be achieved to change the color of masonry permanently.

These stains are applied with a simple foam brush when the bricks are clean and free of moisture. They can only be applied in weather conditions above 40 degrees (F). Prior to a repointing campaign, bricks can be very easily stained and then repointed to achieve a uniform appearance. Since silicate stains are acid resistant gentle masonry detergents can be used to clean smeared brickwork after repointing. Make sure that the silicate staining work is fully cured before any light cleaning, as necessary, so that there is no damage to the stained finish.

Example of brick stained in two different solid colors and 1 example modeled with three different colors to achieve a more distinctive distressed appearance





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Preserving Historic Brick at the Shirley Plantation


The historic Shirley Plantation is situated along the James River right outside Richmond Virginia. It was constructed in the early 17th century and is the oldest family-owned business in North America as stated on their website. Today, unfortunately much of the brick that makes up the various buildings is literally falling apart. Spalling of the brick faces is occurring in a number of areas. One major contributor to this problem was the use of harmful Portland Cement installed in previous repairs throughout the structures.



Preserving the irreplaceable brick is currently the top priority. One method that has been very successful is the use of a very simple and natural product called Ecologic™ Waterglass Primer & Consolidant for Masonry. This is a mineral-based fixative, conditioner, and a mild consolidating repair material, sometimes also referred to as a “liquid stone primer.” It can turn the once brittle and crumbling historic red brick back into a more substantial and solid masonry unit once again. The use of Ecologic™ Waterglass Primer for brick and stone consolidation will allow the masonry to continue to breathe and possibly achieve a permanent repair, if the root cause of the masonry decay is also addressed.


Click here for more information on Ecologic™ Waterglass Primer and our other mineral based paints and stains.

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FAQ Friday: What are Silicate Paints?


Silicate Dispersion Paint is also known as Inorganic Mineral Paints and is unique in regard to its ability to breathe and supply a long service life to masonry materials. Chemical mineral paints are based on “Waterglass” AKA Potassium Silicate, which has been described as liquid stone. When silicate Paint petrifies a mineral substrate such as brick, stone or concrete, it chemically bonds to not only the surface but also beneath. Upon curing, called Silicification the paint becomes part of the substrate, forming a micro-crystalline coating. Because silicate paint becomes one with the substrate it will mimic the natural water vapor transfer and cannot blister or peel due to the laws of chemistry.

Learn more about silicate paints here

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