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Joel Wells Painting Company

Greenwood, IN

Don’t Forget the Cooler

A lot of prep work went into this “endangered” historic building.

It’s Frank Lloyd Wright once removed – Joel Wells Painting was called in to help resuscitate the Harry Cooler Conference Center, designed by Wright’s student Harry Cooler, who learned his trade from the master at Illinois College. It wasn’t very cool at the moment; the building, in Greenwood, Indiana, just south of Indianapolis, was on the list of Indiana’s 10 most endangered historical properties. From March through September last year a variety of trades came together to bring it back to life. “We cleaned and pressure washed to remove decades of dirt, silt, mildew, moss and other contaminants, then we properly cleaned the Brown County stone and used a custom mixture of PPG Aquapel to highlight and seal seal it," said Wells. It took months to restore the 65-year-old wood to an original-like finish.

With history under your hands, you’ve got to be careful, and Wells notes that cleaning and then maintaining the color consistency of the mahogany doors and window trim dogged them throughout the project. The wood had been abandoned to its fate decades ago – and with a goal of refurbishing this building as close as possible to its original colors, they had to determine the best way to not only clean and seal the wood, but also to bring the color back to the stone without altering its natural beauty. Product selection was especially important.

So, that’s why it took a while; it was time-consuming just to clean, bleach and sand the wood. “Then we used a transparent stain, followed by topcoats of spar varnish,” Wells recounted. “On the fascia we applied a stain/sealer to the new cypress wood, and on the stone we did a soft wash/cleaning, followed by application of a custom mixture of PPG Aquapel applied by low pressure spray and back brushed.”

But it’s not a bad deal – it only took six months to travel back 65 years.

Third generation painter, Sean Wells carefully sanding history.
The unique architecture demanded paying attention to historical detail.
Nighttime view.

Key Products

  • Sherwin-Williams SuperDeck Transparent Stain
  • Duration Exterior Acrylic Paint
  • PPG Perma-Crete Aquapel Water Repellent
  • McCloskey Man-O-War Spar Varnish