Restoration company repairs Washington, Lincoln china

Updated: Mar. 25, 2015 at 5:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond business is celebrating two milestones this year: 35 years in business and being asked to restore two precious American artifacts. McHugh's Restorations just restored plates from the White House china of U.S. presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

It's like a museum inside McHugh's Restorations. On the shelves are artifacts from historical families to modern families. In fact, the business itself is an artifact of the McHugh family history.

Owner Kimberly Overman explained, "Our parents were antique dealers in Philadelphia and New Jersey in the '70s and McHugh's Restorations started as a doll hospital."

Now run in Richmond by daughters Overman and Brigid McHugh Jones, they repair broken porcelain, crystal, and dolls, solving puzzles one piece at a time.

"We have different things where people brought in baggie fulls of parts," said Jones, showing off a baggie of broken porcelain pieces.

This year, the sisters say they restored two damaged plates: one from the White House china of Abraham Lincoln, the other from George Washington, which was later owned by Robert E. Lee.

Even a prior repair of the George Washington plate can tell a story of its own. On the back, you can see the staples that were used in the 1800s to repair broken china. But today, repair materials are far more advanced.

The McHughs recreate missing pieces of porcelain using a sort of proprietary putty, or filler, showing us as they filled in the chipped lip of a vase. They can also reattach figurines' lost heads and fingers.

Said Jones, "You have lladros where the fingers are missing. We can make the missing fingers."

And they paint the pieces, matching the exact colors. Jones showed how she's repainting a rebuilt side of an Oriental vase, "This had all this missing that we made the missing pieces, so I am starting to build up from there to match."

Not all the porcelain and pottery is old. Much of their work is from modern family history.

"That was something that had all the grandchildren's handprints," Jones said, holding up a bowl. "So obviously it's sentimental."

Overman's daughter Emily is now training to be a restorer and may carry on the family tradition of preserving history for generations to come.

"I really truly believe you have to stop sometimes and just smell the roses," Jones said. "And looking at a piece like that, you say okay, who ate dinner from this?"

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