Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Various Duties

The week of April 28th to May 2nd was very disjointed. On monday,Wes Watkins delivered 1000 oak shingles to Jamestown. After unloading, Karl laid out the pattern and purchased brick for a plaque at Scotchtown, while Mike and Jon made shelves for the HJ gift shop, then pickets and gates for the Marshall house 9th street entrance. Tuesday, the crew spent an hour cleaning storm damage at Jamestown, then installed the gift shop shelves, then took the trailer with the Hollow shingles to Bradco, where they picked up additional cedar shingles for the BC pumphouse and offloaded the works at the peanut barn. Wednesday, Jon cleaned and primed the steel frame for the Fort model. Mike and Karl went to BC where Karl worked shingles on the saw while Mike installed the starter courses for the North side roof of the pumphouse. Are you bored to tears from reading this already?

Other duties as required

Last Friday, the restoration crew joined Benjamin out at Scotchtown to install the security camera. This new feature was funded through a duPont grant and adds greatly to our ability to monitor the grounds on a round-the-clock basis. Here you see Karl heading up the ladder with chain saw in hand to clear the line of sight for the camera to the rear portion of Scotchtown. Although it may not show here, full safety procedures were taken into account in planning this operation!

A visit to Greenway Court

I had the opportunity yesterday to join in a continuing discussion on the preservation of outbuildings from Greenway Court. These are all that remains of the complex built by Lord Fairfax in the mid-18th century as the 'headquarters' of his vast landholdings in Virginia. Among his surveyors were both George Washignton and Thomas Marshall (father of John). The stone building pictured here is the original land office, where transactions took place and records were stored in managing the vast holdings. Clarke County has courageously stepped forward and purchased easements of the land office, a powder house with a wonderful conical roof that was most likely used for long periods of time as a meat house, and a carriage house. The main house is lost and an 1830s house dominates the site now. It is all privately owned, but the county has easements on the buildings. They also have a General Assembly grant for their care but have yet to raise the money to match the grant. The meeting yesterday was to continue to explore ways to raise the money and then the best preservation strategy for the buildings and finally the best programming for their use as educational tools. The Lord Fairfax story is not widely told and hence not wildly known, but he was the only British peer to make his permanent residence here in Virginia (according to one historical account I read). His erudition and especially his library are said to have greatly influenced a young John Marshall, whose boyhood home (The Hollow) is relatively nearby. As you can tell form the photo, there is much to be done to stabilize and preserve the buildings and this is a conversation we will continue to participate in with members of the Easement Authority, the County and DHR. As always, stay tuned!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Sunny Day at Wilton

Friday, 25 April was Wilton Day for Gardent Week. Sarah, Mindy, Betty and I greeted more than 1000 people that came to see the remarkable house. Somethimes the line numbered 45-50 waiting to come in the front door. Many people commented that they had passed the house for eyars and always wanted to see inside.

Mr. Ballentyne held court in varios places on the grounds--sharing his views, his family stories and his reading of the history of Wilton.

The Garden Club gussied up the place with flowers on the mantel and in the corners. There was even a little lamb that sat on the well.

And with any luck--the future owner of Wilton was in the crowd, is dialing the phone and calling Sarah to write a contract and begin the restoration. Maybe five years from now a newly restored Wilton will be open for Garden Week 2013!

Friday, April 25, 2008

April 24, Progress

On Wednesday, Mike and Karl went to Wilton while Jon took the day off. They took down and removed three good size trees and boarded up three windows in the slave quarters. Back at full strength on Thursday, the crew headed to Bacon's castle to resume work on the pumphouse. Karl spent the day rounding shingles while mike shingled and Jon went to Saunders supply to acquire material for the 9th street gate for the Marshall house. Upon his return, Jon joined in the roofing party, and the result is the completion of the South side roof, up to the ridge.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Touch 'em all!!

Yesterday, April 23, 2008 after nearly 26 years with APVA Preservation Virginia, I finally visited the one property I had never been to in all my years. The Sarah Winston Henry grave site in Amherst County had never needed any of our direct assistance or care and I had never taken the opportunity to drive to the site. After a day-long meeting at Sweet Briar College, I drove the extra 6 miles up Route 29, to Route 151 to Winton Golf Club and its Historic Cemetery. I admit the cemetery enclosure was much larger, and contains many more burials, than I had expected. The cemetery is under the care of the Sarah Winston Henry Branch, which has generally been based in Lynchburg, where most of its directors have lived. The site is obviously well cared for by the golf course, although I expect our branch uses the modest trust fund for the care of the cemetery to cover the cost of the maintenance inside the enclosure. It, as you can see, has not been trimmed as nicely as the golf course, but it still in relatively good shape. I will try to confirm the status of the inside care and report on that in a future post. But for now, I can revel in literally having touched them all!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Corotoman Easements

One of our lesser known, and actually newest, property is Corotoman in Lancaster County. Now down to 6.3 acres, it was once the home seat of Robert 'King' Carter and the site of the mansion he built in the 1720s. Carter at his height owned more than 300,000 acres in the colony. The mansion burned in 1729, barely four years after its completion. The archaeological remains of the house and many outbuildings are still on the site. We purchased the property in 2000 to keep it from being further developed. The previous owners had given easements to the Commonwealth, but reserved the right for two subdivisions and residences to allow for their children to build there in the future. They choose not to, but the right remained and when the property was offered for sale, it was feared that another owner could build there if he so chose. We stepped in to by the site and have held it pretty much as it was for the last eight years. Ther is a1940's rental rsidence on the property that is leased.

We are now working with DHR to strenghten the existing easements by removing all right to subdivide. This process is similar to placing new easements and will take a bit of paperwork, but once done should provide complete protection for the site so that future researchers, when the time and circumstances are right, can continue the archaeological investigation of the site.

We are currently working with appraisers to determine the value implications of this measure and to see if there is the possibility of receiving and then syndicating tax credits that might result from our actions. As with many other intiiatives you have read about below, stay tuned - there's more to come!

Week of April 21-Shifting gears

Two days of rain chased the restoration dept. indoors. Monday Karl took care of some VC gift shop chores, provided on a handy list by Dia, while Mike and Jon went to Isle of Wight Courthouse. The East courthouse wall had moisture damage caused by all four of the roof gutter downspouts being clogged. The rain poured over the gutter on the East side and the splashback soaked into the wall. We unclogged the downspouts, then Jon repaired the damage to the paint and plaster on the interior. Meanwhile, Mike had to replace some of the subfloor and two pieces of the early heart pine flooring in the bathroom. The floor had some inactive termite damage around the commode. This damage eventually caused the floor to settle, which in turn caused the commode seal to leak slightly. The moisture exacerbated the floor deterioration, leading to a woobly throne. Wouldn't want to get sued for that one! Isle of Wight took two days. Karl was sick Tuesday and Jon is off Wednesday. Wednesday Mike and Karl will go to Wilton for some tree removal, genral cleaning and to secure some windows. Friday is scheduled for the security camera at Scotchtown, leaving the dept. one day to work on the BC pumphouse this week.

Monday, April 21, 2008


On a rainy day in Spring, a young man's thoughts turn to ...GUTTERS! I had occasion to be at the John Marshall House this afternoon in the midst of a downpour. I was meeting with the contractor who is preparing to begin the roof replacement there, hopefully within a week or ten days. As part of the job, they will be adding half round copper gutters to the roof edges in an effort to control the disposition of rain water.

Some twenty years ago, we added the brick ground guttering shown in the photograph above. This was best practice at the time, as gutters were considered not historically accurate. The gutters that had been on the building for some time were removed and not replaced during the 1974-76 major restoration of the house. You can still trace the staining left from the many years they had been in place against the bricks on the edges of the house. In the 80's moisture infiltration into the basement walls was very evident and growing worse. The gravel that was meant to absorb the rain falling off the roof and disperse it to the storm drain was dug out down to foundation level and a French drain system installed. The shallow V-shaped brick ground guttering was meant to channel the majority of the rain water into drains piped directly into the storm sewer. The water that escaped this first system would then be captured by the French drain.

This greatly improved the moisture problem in the basement, but resulted in another unintended consequence. Raindrops falling two full stories onto a brick surface tended to explode upwards and create a constant moisture on the bricks above the ground gutter. These got moist, and because of the showing caused by the surrounding buildings, never were directly exposed to drying sunlight. As a result, moss grew and held the moisture there even longer. So back to the simplest system of controlling rainwater - roof edge gutters. When these are in place, the brick ground gutter will be removed and the grading corrected to slope away from the building. We likely will go back along the surface perimeter with some pea gravel for both decorative and moisture issues. The French drain system will be left in place, as there is no evidence that it is failing.

Rain is a good thing and we certainly need it in good season, but it can be a threat to an insufficiently protected historic house!

Board Planning Process Continues

I wanted to give everyone an update on the planning session with the Board on Wednesday, April 16. I would first offer the appreciation of the Trustees for the input provided by many of you to the survey earlier in March. Your unique perspective about how to strengthen the organization gave context and specifics that helped enrich the conversation.

The discussion Wednesday was a dynamic and focused on charting the next steps in evolving this century old organization. With the support of key staff, new vision and mission statements are being drafted for review at the June 18 Board meeting. Additionally, the goals and objectives for the next seven years are being determined--using the input you, the branches and key partners have provided. Prioritizing the opportunites will be key to our success. As we have all long known, we cannot be all things to all people. That being said, APVA Preservation Virginia is a multifaceted organization with a wide range of stewardship responsiblities. Articulating a vision, prioritizing the goals and creating acheivable strategies will ensure that APVA is around for another century of presevation leadership.

As I shared with you last Monday, the final and key element will be to craft the strategies, timeline and responsibility for implementation that will move APVA Preservation Virginia to the next level of leadership. Each of you will have a role in developing and acheiving those strategies. In advance of the June Board meeting, we will be looking for some additional input. After the June meeting, we will have the goals and objectives in draft form for distribution and discussion within departmetns of strategies and timelines. Board Committeess will also be developing input. The final strategic plan will be adopted by the Trustees at the September 17 meeting so that it may guide budget planning for 2009.

These are exciting times for the organization. There will be hard work, difficult decisions, but in the end having this plan and acheiving its goals will help us all to articualate the possibilities for APVA Preservation Virginia's success in the future.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Year of the Roof

2008 is indeed the year when many of our properties are receiving much needed new roofs (rooves?) An earlier post celebrated the completion of the one on Historic Smithfield and the John Marshall House is waiting the start of that replacement process. Yesterday, I stopped by The Old Stone House here in Richmond to view progress on that project. This is of course not directly operated by APVA Preservation Virginia, but is an owned property. The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation raised the money and is overseeing the project. We did have approval on the type of material used. As you can see from the photos of the completed rear face, they are using a good quality cedar shingle. This is encouraging in that the same company doing this job (Paul Saunders Roofing) is under contract for the Marshall House roof. I suspect the Marshall House may have to wait until this one is completed before they move there for that job. The staff member at the Stone House says that Saunders is expected to undertake the front face next week.

Note the deteriorated shingles on the front face in the shot taken yesterday afternoon. Wooden shingles are the most authentic and historically appropriate roof covering for this and for the Marshall House. The urban environment will certainly shorten the life of a wood shingled roof. However, with the accessibility of this roof to view, using a synthetic product is more problematic. We have chosen to go with a cement based Hendricks Tile on the Marshall roof in the hope it will last longer. Being a two story house with even more elevation from the street, the roof of the Marshall House is less visible to the average viewer. We expect that the trade off in life versus strict authenticity will work in the Marshall situation where it may not have worked as well at the Old Stone House.

Curator on the Move

Yesterday I made a trip up to Washington, DC with Loreen Finklestein, a conservator in private practice who has worked on projects related to John Marshall, Dolley Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other early American notables to visit with Matthew Hoffstedt, the Associate Curator of the Supreme Court.

We discussed possibilities for collaboration between the Court staff, APVA staff, and private conservators and exhibit designers to ensure the preservation of the John Marshall robes as far into the future as possible. The robes are in critical condition, and a unique exhibition/storage solution is in the works, although it will take time to work out the details and raise funds for this nationally significant project.

In the photo, Loreen and Matt stand in front of a display case at the Supreme Court featuring the chair in which John Marshall sat as Chief Justice. The chair is still used today as each chief justice is sworn in.

We also met with Kathleen Shurtleff, Assistant Director of the Supreme Court Historical Society. The Historically Society has been very supportive of the project and Kathleen brought along a check to help support the conservation! Many thanks to Matt, Kathleen, and Loreen for a great and very productive day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reproduction of John Marshall's Travelling Desk

Several years ago I had a pleasant visit with Mike Craw at the John Marshall House. Mr. Craw is a talented craftsman of period furniture reproductions, and was interested in making a reproduction of our desk as a gift for his sister. I'm excerpting some information from his letter describing the construction technique below along with photographs of the desk in process, and you can see finished photographs of the desk (as well as one of the original in situ at the Marshall House) here:

I have to say that working with interesting and talented folks like Mr. Craw is what makes my job so much fun! It makes the mountains of paperwork (which I don't blog about daily, out of kindness for the PS Blog readers!) worthwhile.

"[The] wood... was obtained from a local cabinet shop. It is end cuts of Sapele, also known as African Mahogany. The original desk was probably made of Cuban Mahogany, which is no longer an option.

Each of these pieces is approximately 2 ¼” thick, 4” to 6” wide, and range from 13” to 24”. The sides were first sawed square to the faces, and then one face was sawed to expose relatively smooth wood. This gave me a better idea of the grain and any defects in the board that might have been hidden under the original rough surface. I milled these down to just over ¾” thickness on my table saw and then planed the edges straight.

The boards were then “book matched” so that the two surfaces which were separated by the saw blade were opened like a book and the two edges which met were glued. This resulted in a board just over ¾” thick and between 8” to 12” in width.

Book matching is a fairly common practice in cabinet making. It affords the craftsman the opportunity to create interesting grain patterns and, as in this case, it also effectively doubles the width of the board. Since the original box was made with single boards on each side, sawed to separate the top and bottom, book matching allowed me to do the same with a limited supply of wood.

Once the boards were relatively flat and smooth, they were cut to size. Each side was cut to the overall dimensions of the box, and then they were cut lengthwise to separate the top and bottom pieces. This way, the grain of the wood matches on each of the sides, all the way around the box. The end with the drawer was cut slightly oversize, then ripped lengthwise to form the drawer. The upper piece was then cut at an angle, forming the upper and lower side pieces.

On the original box, the interior of the lower part of the case, the storage area under the hinged writing surface, the piece that separates that area from the small compartments for the inkwell, pounce pot, pencil till and storage areas, and the dividers inside the storage areas, are all made from mahogany.

Once all the interior pieces are cut and dry fit, a finishing oil was applied and allowed to dry. Once the oil was dry, the case was dry fit again, and then disassembled with the pieces all placed within easy reach and every clamp I own was stacked within arm’s reach. The wood glue has an “open time” of approximately 30 minutes, so there is no extra time to try and find a part or a clamp once the glue process is started.

The upper carcass was glued in the same manner, the mating corners were mortised, and the hinges installed. As soon as I could hinge the entire assembly closed, I located the position for the lock in the lower half, and the lock plate in the edge of the upper half, and both areas were chiseled out to receive the brass plate and lock body.

As I mentioned, each end and each side are made from single boards, and are sawed either straight across or diagonally across their lengths to form the upper and lower parts of the box. Additionally, the end with the drawer was cut slightly oversize, then ripped lengthwise to form the drawer. The upper piece was then cut at an angle, forming the upper and lower side pieces. With the carcass assembled, I had the exact dimensions to construct the drawer.

With that done, I constructed the two panels that are hinged along their adjacent edges to cover the storage areas in each half and, when closed, form the writing surface.

On the original box, the drawer locking pin is missing. Examining the hole for the pin, I’d guess it was about 1/8” diameter rod, probably brass, with a ball shaped head which may have been either brass or wood. For your case, I made the ball out of mahogany, turned on the lathe. In the photo above, you can see the hole for the pin in the edge of the lower case above the drawer directly above the near end of the handle, and a much larger hole in the upper case edge (directly above the white eraser tip in the mechanical pencil) for the head of the locking pin.

The brass escutcheon around the keyhole and the small brass swivel piece that keeps the lower writing surface from flapping open when the box is closed presented another challenge. I was pretty sure that I’d wind up having to make some sort of fastening mechanism for the lower writing surface, but how tough could it be to find a square, smooth brass escutcheon? Really tough, as it turned out.

After years of ordering all manner of woodworking tools and hardware, I get a lot of catalogs. Everything from Rockler to Restoration Hardware. They have round escutcheons, oval escutcheons, engraved escutcheons, escutcheons from every furniture period, but smooth square ones? Who would want one of those? So, since I was making the writing surface fastener, I made the escutcheon at the same time. Watch, I’ll get a catalog from the “Smooth Square Escutcheon Store” in the mail tomorrow!

This box has several different finishes in different locations. All of the cherry wood is finished with a hand-rubbed oil and wax. In the original box, the black pencil tray is a piece of soft wood, probably pine, that has been “ebonized” meaning stained or painted black to look like ebony. The pencil tray in your box is real ebony, sanded and sealed with polyurethane. Sharon wonders why I never throw out a piece of wood, but this is a perfect example. I knew that left over piece of ebony would come in handy. As in the original, if you push down on the right side of the pencil tray, it will pivot up, revealing another storage area.

All of the mahogany has been finished with three coats of shellac and two coats of varnish. Once the finish was cured, I rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool and furniture wax. A light coat of wax buffed on once a year should keep the box looking good for years to come. "

The boys are back in town (Surry, that is.)

Karl and Jon are back this week of April 14th, fresh and ready to work. After a grueling, all you can eat barbeque lunch at the all staff meeting at Gaymont on Monday, the restoration crew resumed work on the pumphouse at Bacon's Castle. We picked up 8 bundles of 24" cedar "handsplits" from Bradco supply Tuesday morning, and finished out the sheathing and trim by Wednesday afternoon. The building is now ready for shingles and siding. Items of interest for this job were the existance of a hatch in the old roof, probably to work on the well inside the building, the old pump with its manual intact in the house, and the burn marks on the roof sheathing, probably from when the office just South of the pumphouse burned. We were able to reuse the door, soffit, facia, and one side of the roof sheathing from the old house onto the new. Two people will be shingling while one works the handsplits into shape to round out the week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quebec Days

Enjoy Quebec Days
June 21st and 22nd, 2008
sponsored by First Landing State Park and the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse/APVA
Preservation Virginia.
Show proof of Quebec residence or a pass from First Landing State Park and receive
A $1.00 discount for each admission to the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse.

Photos from Gay Mont Meeting

Elizabeth giving her report.

The beautiful view.

Gay Mont in spring.

Staff Meeting at Gay Mont

APVA Preservation Virginia held its annual state-wide staff meeting at Gay Mont in Caroline County. It was a perfect day to share sunshine, BBQ and fellowship. Our fearless leader, Elizabeth, gave us a report on the past year and a peek into the future of APVA.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bacons Castle pumphouse-a good day

Mike was able to set all the rafters and start on the roof sheathing, while James cut the grass. There was a problem with the HVAC at the main house being inoperable, which was complicated by a lack of communication. There was a fire alarm pull station in alarm due to corrosion, and someone, probably a docent, had silenced the alarm but told no one about it. Not knowing that the system was in alarm, we assumed it was an HVAC problem and called a technician, who spent some time scratching his head before he traced the fault back to the alarm system. This was a completely avoidable cost, had the facts been forthcoming. After the alarm was discovered, we disabled the alarm, which turned the HVAC back on, and called Fire Protection to replace the faulty pull station. It might be time to call the Spainish Inquisition.

A Friendly Reminder

A friendly reminder from your humble editrix to please remember to add labels to your posts. The label box is directly below the main text box for each entry. When you write something in the box, it shows up at the bottom of the post (I labeled this post "curatorial"). Clicking on that word will take you to a page that shows all posts with that label (so clicking on "curatorial" below will take you to a page with all of my posts).

This step just takes a second and will help us better use the blog in the future.

Please label all site related posts with the name of the site: John Marshall House, Bacons Castle, Scotchtown, Mary Washington House, Smithfield Plantation, Cape Henry Lighthouse, Historic Jamestowne, etc.

Please label departmental posts with your department name: curatorial, retail, restoration, revolving fund, etc.

Add any other descriptive labels that you would like.

Consistency matters. Try to use the same names whenever you label something!


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Smithfield Roof Dedicated

After much planning and figuring out of funding, then much work in very cold weather, Smithfield has a new roof! The one replaced had served valiantly in the harsh wind and weather of Blacksburg for nearly forty years and was well pass need of replacement. A combination of a grant from the Norfolk Southern Foundation and two successive years of dedicated funds from the Paul Murphy Capital Improvement Fund provided the cash necessary to allow the replacement to move forward. Since Blacksburg was bit far even for our intrepid crew, we contracted with New Valley Roofing for the job. They were able to bring a large crew to the job and it was completed in the middle of winter in very good time. The material is cedar shakes and you can see the new copper flashing shining now before it fades a bit in color. We did consider using Henrdicks Tile as a substitute material but the roof framing was judged not to be robust enough to support the added weight. The second photo shows site coordinator Lori Tolliver-Jones speaking to the assembled celebratory crowd with Virginia's First Lady Ann Holton and our own Elizabeth Kostelny on the porch for the event.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

BC pumphouse

Karl is on vacation this week, Jon is at pythagarus school and Mike is going it alone. On the 7th and 8th, he installed the door trim, ceiling joists and rafter plates. He also laid out and made the 7 rafter pairs, but only had time to set the two gable rafters. He spent the last hour loading the tent, in preparation for Wednesdays tent erection at the Customs House in Yorktown. Again with the no pictures!

Cape Henry Visitation

John Starling reports the week of April 1 (a six day week) brought 911 visitors to the Cape Henry Lighthouse. A good start for the month, and hopefully will continue a positive trend at the Lighthouse. The visitation counts for both February and March exceeded the 2007 levels and through the first three months, the Lighthouse is running 3.4% ahead of its pace last year! We have asked all sites to report on visitation on a weekly basis if possible so we can track trends more closely. To circle back to 2007, it proved a very good year for the Lighthouse: total annual visitation was 63,073 which represented an 8% increase over 2006, the first annual increase in visitation numbers since 2003 bested 2002! Well done John and crew!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Farmers Bank Shutters

Karl, Mike and Jon finished rehanging the 5 exterior shutters and removed the scaffolding back to its home at Bacons Castle. While in that area, they traveled to Isle of Wight Courthouse to meet Lanny Hinson and inspect maintenance problems. Lanny pointed out the chronic stucco problem on the porch, paint and plaster coming off the interior wall in the courthouse, and two floor boards under the commode showing signs of rot. It was a good day for an inspection, the overnight rain had partially dried, which highlighted the really wet areas. Lanny indicated that it had been years since the rain gutters had been cleaned out. The exterior of the wall where the paint and plaster were failing had a wash under the gutter and a mossy, wet area on the foundation. This is a good indicator that rising damp from the gutter wash is causing the paint and plaster to fail.

When we looked at the porch, we noticed a substantial percetage of spaliated bricks and salt stains caused by moisture moving through the bricks. Our theory for the porch is that there is trapped moisture under the porch, which is unvented and inaccessible. The mortar used for the porch appears to portland cement based. This combination forces the trapped moisture to move upward through the bricks and eventually through the stucco, causing it to fail. In case you didn't notice, I finally figured out why I couldn't post pictures. I had failed to check off an agreement with blogger, so blogger wouldn't post them. I really needed to deal with a vindictive computor program.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

On second thought...

I met this afternoon at the Marshall House with Ralph Higgins, a descendant of John Marshall and long time friend of the House, and Doug Welsh to consider the future of the now very large trees on the Marshall House landscape. We had requested a proposal from a local tree company to remove two trees and trim back the remainder. This was based on looking at a sketch of the property and a long time concern that the magnolias that flank the rear, especially the one pictured here on the west side are too large in that they: continually scrape the house fabric in a medium breeze, trap moisture and prevent sunlight from reaching both the foundation level and the brick exterior itself, and pose a threat in severe weather should they split or fall. The proposal that came back was exorbitant (in excess of $6K including stump grinding). Thus the on-site meeting today. The calculus once on site was very different. These are magnificent trees that dominant the landscape but are among the very few of their scale in the downtown area. Removing one, two or all would create a much different place and give the house a much different prospect. Before proceeding with outright removal, I plan to ask the tree company to provide one more estimate - this time to severely prune the large magnolia to allow for at least an 8 - 10 foot calm-wind buffer between the tree and the house. If this is affordable, we may have this done as an interim step before outright removal to see if there is away to preserve some of the shade and the park like setting around the house while achieving the goals mentioned above.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

HJ Visitation in March

Initial reports from the Park Service indicate that 25,396 visitors came to Historic Jamestowne in the month of March. Naturally this is considerably fewer than visited in the anniversary year of 2007. March 2008 was 34% below the numbers for March 2007. However, it was 10% higher than the number for March 2006. It matched almost exactly the five year average for March from 2003 through 2007. Easter fell in March this year, which only happens every few years. Easter was last in March in 2005 and the number for that year was 7% higher than 2008. All of these numbers are just for a sense of comparison. It is going to be very interesting to watch the visitation numbers for Historic Jamestowne this year. We could not budget for this year based on 2007 so this year will not only prove important for operations this year, it will set the budget levels for operations next year and influence that decision beyond. It will also be difficult to determine the impact of higher gasoline prices as we do not have "typical" numbers from a recent period to compare. But, it will be interesting to watch!

Farmers Bank

The restoration crew set up scaffolding in the front of Farmers Bank to hang or rehang 5 shutters that needed repair/replacement. We found that the existing shutters on the upper 2 floors don't fully function as shutters, but are there more to satisfy architectural decor. We had to consolidate behind the pintles of two of the 3rd floor windows. We have found the windows to be very much out of square, due to settling of the window arches. There is also a long diagonal crack in the masonry in the front, extending at least two floors. We successfully installed two shutters today and hope to finish by the close of thursday. No pictures again!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fools 2008

Mike and Jon killed the morning at an insurance meeting at the Cole-Digges, while Karl went to BC and picked up the Farmers Bank shutters for installation on the 2nd. Mike and Jon spent the pm lifting the back gate at C-D. They had to perforate the gate post and dig under the post so that the concrete would have something to key into. If this had been done at original installation, the post would not have sunk, causing the gate hardware to misalign and function poorly.

A New Season

April 1 is always a big day in our historic house year, and not just because we like paying tricks. This is the day that all the properties open for the season. Bacon's Castle and Smith's Fort, which have been open weekends since the beginning of March, resume a full six day a week schedule today. Scotchtown also opens officially. It's first actual open day will be Thursday as it runs a five day schedule Thursday through Monday. Of course Historic Jamestowne, Cape Henry Lighthouse and The John Marshall House are open year round. We hope for a successful year, despite climbing gasoline prices. Keep an eye on this spot and we will report results as we have them!