If you are lucky enough to have travelled the great cities of the South, you may have seen Haint Blue detail work on a mansion in Charleston, a Haint Blue door in the New Orleans French Quarter or maybe a Haint Blue Porch or two in Savannah. In this region, there is no color more historic and as long-lived in the buildings of the South. This colors’ past is so intertwined into Southern culture that one might see it plastered on every other mansion in Savannah and also on the window trim of an abandoned rural homestead in Florida.
The history of the shade (or shades, actually) began with the Gullah (Geechee) people who were slaves and slave-descendants in the coastal Southeastern United States. Primarily from Western Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, etc) they worked on coastal rice and Sea Island cotton plantations. They are known for the preservation of their distinct cultural beliefs, traditions and stories. The Gullah’s believe that haints (or haunts) are malevolent and vengeful spirits trapped in between the world of the living and dead. These haints cannot cross water however, so, they created a rustic paint blend that resembled the color of water to confuse these spirits. This color has always encompassed a wide range of colors in between blue and green and was originally made of lime, milk, dirt and whatever pigments were available (usually indigo). The paint mixture was then smeared on to windows, doors and entryways to prevent bad spirits from entering.
Interesting to note is that the use of lime in these original milk paint formulas unintentionally acted as insect repellant.
As time passed, Haint Blue found its way to larger and more stately homes throughout the Southeast. Partly because it is believed that the color will confuse insects with the sky and deter them from building nests.
In contemporary times, the color has seen a revival amongst historic preservationists and has found some popularity in Northeastern architecture, ensuring that even as their culture dwindles, the Gullah footprint can be seen across the region in so many different styles of architecture.