A fine line separates Melville Holmes’s craftsmanship and the scholarship that has gone into it. The results of his original artworks, interior design work, as well as art and statuary restorations are owed to his diligent research. It is not unusual for him to grind his own paint pigments in the old-fashioned way or to test formulas for glazes and varnishes. The painting at left commemorates his search for the lost secret of making Congo copal varnish and the recipes he tested while living in the wilds of Idaho.

Best known for the aesthetic renovation of Spokane, Washington’s Davenport Hotel, his other projects have included the Davenport Tower, the Post Street Ale House, the Hotel Lusso, the Centennial Hotel, and the Davenport Grand Hotel. He has lent his expertise to Spokane’s Empire State Building, St. Aloysius Church, Riverview Corporate Center, The Bing Crosby Theater, the Patsy Clark Mansion, and private homes. More recently, he was consulted for the renovation of Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh.

In 2003, Holmes was recognized as a master craftsman by the Spokane chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Photo of Elements of Varnish Making: Susan Dirk/Under the Light