An Irish-born stucco artisan employed by John Rawlins of Baltimore, Richard Tharpe was the "principal workman" on the ornamental plasterwork in Mount Vernon's New Room. Tharpe arrived at Mount Vernon on April 19, 1786, and supervised the work on the New Room. Two months later in June, Washington hired Tharpe to do "my Plaistering in any of the Rooms in, or abt. the house and to repair the lathing at 7d. pr. Square yard."1
Tharpe returned to Mount Vernon in August of 1786 to measure the work he had done for Washington and to get paid. However, Washington withheld payment until July of 1787, when Tharpe and Thomas Hammond came back to wash the stucco work. Although Washington had initially found that Tharpe "has demeaned himself soberly and well," he complained afterwards, because "the Stucco work in the Parlour is much cracked and Stained, the plain work in the New Room and in every part of the House, is in fact but little better than the plaster which was pulled down." Washington continued, explaining that "Mr. Tharp said something should be done to hide the Stains and blemishes, but that it was not proper to do it when he was here."2 It was those complaints and the lack of payment that led Tharpe and Hammond to visit Mount Vernon again in July of 1787.
1. "June 1786," The Diaries of George Washington. Vol. IV, 1784-June 1786, eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978), 345.
2. "George Washington to John Rawlins, 13 April 1787," The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office).
"George Washington to Sir Edward Newenham, 10 June 1786," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 28, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office).