The first surprise came in February, as they inspected the stucco on a Haddonfield house before repainting it. They removed pieces around the windows and discovered beautifully preserved red brick.
Over the next few months, Mark Welsh and his son Ted knocked off 10 tons of stucco, revealing a side of a historic house that hadn't been seen for centuries.
Out of its shell emerged the stately home of Thomas Redman, a prominent Quaker businessman who settled in town in the 1730s and owned a portion of the colonial-era building that houses the Indian King Tavern.
Here was the way Redman's place looked in the 18th and early 19th centuries - before it was encased in lime mortar, before the front door was covered with 50 coats of paint, before 10 pounds of paint was applied to the huge four-panel shutters.
"I felt a sense of the antiquity of the house," said Mark Welsh, who with his son owns Welsh Family Painting & Historic Restoration in Berlin.
"It transports you back to a time when there were horse carriages on the dirt road out front, British troops marching down Kings Highway, and workers tending the farm," added Welsh, 55, of Berlin. "You can let your imagination go."
But there were more surprises.
Working on the property, on Redman Avenue at Westmont Avenue, the Welshes came upon wavy, bubbly imperfections in glass panes that date to the 1700s. They found an attic window frame inscribed with a painter's name and the date March 9, 1776. Brickwork from a beehive-style oven and 200-year-old soot on the brick wall of a long-vanished smokehouse were also among their discoveries.
"It was time travel," said Marcus "Ted" Welsh, 23, of Montclair. "The amazing condition of the brick was the biggest surprise. The stucco definitely preserved the brick and mortar."
The elegant, three-story Redman site is a historically significant house "made more significant by the removal of the stucco and paint," said Paul Schopp, senior historian for AECOM, an international infrastructure and engineering firm, and a longtime professional Camden County historian.
Thomas Redman 2d built a log cabin in the 1730s, and the earliest brick portion of the present house later in the 18th century. The larger three-story sections of the house were added in the 19th century.
"This is a history mystery-detective story," Schopp said. "You can learn quite a bit from an old house like that, so this [restoration] is a very good thing. . . . I would like to see it as accurate as possible."
Redman owned the eastern end of the Indian King Tavern building, which was used as a hotel and later as a general store. His outspoken pacifist views against the Revolution landed him some jail time in the town of Gloucester in 1777.
The family's property once took in an area from Haddon Avenue to Hopkins Avenue and Kings Highway to Crystal Lake Avenue, Ted Welsh said. Now a community of homes, it was once covered by crops and timber.
The Redman home was expanded and modified, especially after a roof fire in the early 1800s. Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival and Dutch Colonial influences were added while the family lived there, until the Depression.
The latest owners - Marv Lawson, 57, an occupational therapist for Fox Rehab in Cherry Hill, and Anthony Andalft, 45, site director for anesthesia at Kennedy Hospital in Cherry Hill - purchased it seven years ago and began restoring the interior.
"The only reason we started working on the exterior was because it needed repainting and stucco repairs," said Andalft. "Finding the brick was a big surprise."
With the stucco removed, the house began to draw attention.
"It brings us such happiness to restore the house to the way it once was," said Andalft. "I can't tell you how many cars stop by the house. People are amazed at the condition of the house, the transformation. Our neighbors say we're the talk of the Haddonfield Historical Society."
"There's virtually no one alive who has seen this brick until now," Lawson said. "How many generations have come and gone since it was covered up?
"One guy who said he grew up in Haddonfield and has lived here 50 years said he had no idea this was brick. It's like an architectural dig instead of archaeological dig."
Andalft and Lawson, whose home has been on Christmas house tours, said they plan to move their kitchen to the rear of the house, where the 18th-century kitchen was located. The exterior work will be completed in about a month.
For the Welshes, the job means more than income - the work will cost "six figures," they said. The father and son are honored to work on one of Haddonfield's venerable treasures.
The inscribed window frame "blew me away," Mark Welsh said. "It was autographed.
"I'm a painter and I sign my work in hidden areas. I put down who was president, the status of the economy - like a time capsule," he said. "So seeing the painter's name and date was a connection across centuries."