Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Eyes Have It

The Hollow finally has complete period reproduction windows that were installed by the Restoration Crew the week of November 2nd, 2009. Making the sashes took about four weeks and $1400 worth of select grade heart pine. The time frame is a bit inaccurate due to absences and vacations of the crew. Tasks yet to be accomplished include installation of the backband trim on the three downstairs windows, making and installing a winder tread on the stairs, acquiring and installing heart poplar siding on the plywood covered back side of the house, and installing the bed molding under the eaves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We are lumberjacks and we're okay

The restoration department took advantage of the cool weather October 8th to remove a very large tree limb from the side yard at Bacon's Castle. The Castle is having a Twilight Tour on October 24th, and Education Director Jenn Hurst, who is organizing the event, had enough foresight to visit the grounds, and promptly requested its removal. It took all day with three men, a chainsaw and a trailer to remove the debris. The Restoration Dept. gratefully acknowledges the assistance of James Winfield, who has been a tractor operator for the company for 30 years. James just celebrated his 85th birthday on October 4th. It is interesting to note that although the huge limb has laid for five months, it was as wet as the day it fell. Jenn owes the Restoration Department big time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hollow Sashes

The Restoration dept has spent the last few weeks setting up tents and milling and shaping heart pine stock for window sashes. Jon Miano exhibits the first of nine sashes completed for the project. The sashes are peculiar in that the glass panes are 7"x9" instead of the normal 8"x10" panes. The pane size was reverse engineered, as we had the original window openings but no original sashes. The materials cost for this job will be about $1400.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The view from heaven

Surprised to see it looks like a cow pasture, aren't you? For some of you, this is as close as you'll get to that. Others will realize this is the view from the west side gable window of the Hollow. The restoration department has finished the stairs and paneling in the Hollow as of August 27th, and are now back at the shop to manufacture window sashes and backband for the house. The successful completion of these will finish the departments preservation efforts at the Hollow, pending the acquisition of poplar siding for the back of the house. The department is looking foward to working on Preservation Virginia properties, and are anxious to see what Louis will come up with for our next outside project. No pressure, Louis.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stairway To Heaven?

The Restoration Dept has at last finished adjusting, flattening and anchoring the partition wall and installing the interior paneling, all prerequisites for installing the stairs. The newels that support the upper flight have had 3 inches of height added to their bottoms and are anchored to the floor. The lower flight had to have new carriages, made in kind with heart pine, then set in place. Two winders, two treads and two risers are all thats left to complete the stairs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer 2009 at the Hollow

The Restoration Department is starting another phase in the Hollow restoration. One of the goals for this session include strengthening the existing floors to the extent that laymen may walk upon them without fear of breaking through. Plywood had been laid on the weak spots as a safety measure previous to this. The west chamber had a 20th century floor consisting of rough-sawn oak fence boards. Tenants had chopped firewood on this floor, causing extensive damage to it. The department replaced the damaged sections in kind. The East chamber existing floor is 19th century random width pine. This floor is worn thin from foot traffic, and is worn through in some areas. For this room, the crew is removing the pine floor and infilling oak boards supported by strips even with the top of the floor joists. The worn thin pine floor will then be reinstalled and consolidated as needed. Carefully cut pine pieces will be used to fill holes now missing in this floor. The "infill technique" will be used in the upstairs where the original heart-poplar, splined floor has been weakened by water damage. These floor repairs will enable everyone to walk on and to fully view the existing types of floors at the Hollow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New frame

The Restoration department sucessfully remade and installed the window frame for the porch tower window that had been so badly deteriorated that trim could no longer be attached to it. The new frame is made of pressure-treated pine. The original joinery was faithfully replicated. It took one man four days to make the new frame, and two men one day to install it. The existing trim will be consolidated and reused.

Friday, July 3, 2009

In The Gutter

The restoration department recently had to repair squirrel
damage to a soffit on the 1854 wing at Bacon's Castle. Close inspection revealed that a clogged and leaking downspout had started to rot the soffit, which in turn drew the squirrels to take advantage of the distressed wood. With their attention now focused on the importance of fully functioning gutter systems, the department checked the Isle of Wight courthouse. Here you see Karl breaking up a gutter jam that was so bad, he had to disconnect the downspout and physically break it up. His earlier attemts with a snake and a water hose had failed. Jon shows you some of the tree material removed from the downspout. Had they not unclogged the downspout, the rainwater bubbling out of the spout and onto the porous brick would have eventually soaked through and caused the interior plaster to fail.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pear Valley Update

We had a local groundsman over to Pear Valley last week to cut the grass and trim the area immediately against the house. As a follow up, Jim Sturgis, the Northampton Branch Director, took this picture last Friday. The grounds look great and we will certainly use the local guy again to keep the place neatly trimmed. But the photo does show the growing need for a bit of paint to protect the clapboard and keep the house from looking too shabby. Perhaps this should be added to our (ever growing) Fall priority list

Monday, June 29, 2009

Surry Surprise-Bacon's Castle Style

The Restoration department has been busy at Bacon's Castle in Surry County, scraping, reglazing, and painting windows and exterior trim. When Jon Miano removed a loose piece of trim from a window on the porch tower he was unpleasantly surprised to discover the entire window frame was substantially compromised through wet rot. A close examination of the mortice-and-tenon frame revealed it was made out of heart poplar. There are no discernable tool marks left, due in part to its poor condition. The header has a paint ghost and a line where earlier trim had been attached to it. The existing trim on the window matches the 1854 wing in style and material, indicating that the poplar frame may indeed be quite early, since it was on the house long enough before the 1850's period trim to acquire the ghost. The department will replace the frame reproducing the early joinery, but using pressure treated pine instead of heart poplar material. This is in keeping with our policy to only use period replacement materials where it actually can be detected, preserving that scarce resource.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Patrick Henry's Birthday

Today marks the 273rd anniversary of Patrick Henry's birth at Studley in eastern Hanover County. Although neither it is among our promoted sites, we do own both the site of Patrick's birth and the graveyard where his mother is buried. Studley is long snce lost, although it's site is known and marked. Two years ago, the Freeman Branch sponsored an archaeological investigation that uncovered much more than had previously been known about the site. Even with this broader understanding in hand, the future use of the site is uncertain. Preliminiary discussions with the Polegreen Foundation have not deveoped a specific plan. For now, the site is re-covered and within an argriclutural area, safely awaiting some determination of it long term future.

Sarah Winston Henry's gravesite is also well cared for, being in the midst of a golf course just outside Amherst. It was the last of the Preservation Virigna properties I had not seen when I visited there last summer. Larger than you might think and containing quite a few marked graves, it is seen, if not fully appreciated, but many golfers every day.

So Congratulations Sarah, and Happy Birthday Patrick!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hang'em Low?

Ten of the twelve new garden gates for Scotchtown have been hung. The pressure-treated yellow pine gates are replacing the red cedar gates of unknown age. We would have preferred to use cedar this time as well, but the price of cedar is many times that of pine. The department is experimenting with the use of this material, trying to determine if its lifespan is equal to or greater than the less abundant and more expensive woods. One thing we did notice, was that treated pine is more susceptible to checking and warping. We have had to epoxy cracks in the curved diagonal braces quite a bit during and after the construction of the gates. Western red cedar would not have checked like that. The straight posts and rails have not had the checking problem, with the exception of one post. It has taken three men about 31 days each to make and hang these gates. There are two left to be done, and they are about 2 days from being finished.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Scotchtown Gates Progressing

The Restoration crew is progressing at super glacier speed in the construction of the replacement garden gates for Scotchtown. Karl and Jon are moving a gate after drilling and pinning it. They were utilizing the nice weather we had Friday to escape the cluttered confines of the Mule barn during a major shop project. The other pictures show Jon shaping the pins with the pin driver, a steel plate with assorted holes bored into it. Once the pins are split and roughed to close dimensions, the pins are driven through the correct size hole to true them up so they won't bind or split the wood when they are driven into a joint. the other picture shows Karl and Jon in the process of clamping and pinning a gate on the work station in the Mule barn. There are 12 gates to be made. Each gate has 13 mortises and requires 13 pins for completion.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Scotchtown Gates et al

After two weeks of shuffling offices and furniture at Cole-Digges, the Restoration Dept. started the manufacture of the Scotchtown gates in earnest. The picture shows the 12 middle posts mortised. The taller end posts have yet to be done. This work took one man almost a week to perform.

The dept. also reset the the fence and brick edging, backfilled the stump hole and resurfaced the stone dust pathway following the removal of a walnut tree by the East corner of Smiths Fort Plantation in Surry. The walnut was in declining health and was a real threat to the house. Tom Forehand, the site administrator, had the usable part of the wood sawn for the purpose of making and selling reproduction furniture at the plantation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eagle Scouts Invade The Castle

The boy scouts invaded Bacon's Castle in Surry to assist the Grounds and Restoration Departments in upkeep of the Historic Landmark. Despite the very inclement weather, the scouts were able to raise the bricks outlining the foundation of the Gardeners Outbuilding back up to grade level. They did this by removing the bricks, filling and tamping stone dust beneath them, then resetting them. This will greatly assist the Grounds Dept in manicuring the lawn in this area. The scouts also were able to do the prep work for repainting the Slave's Quarters by scraping the old, loose, siding paint from the building. Unfortunately, the rain prevented the scouts from repainting the Slave Quarters or the barnyard fence. These are projects that they may pick up at a later date in more favorable conditions. The Restoration Dept had two men repairing the fences March 13th, in preparation for the scouts paint job.

Now You See It, Now You Don't

The restoration Dept traveled to Charlotte Court House to the Tucker Brothers Store, circa 1830, on March 18th and 19th to remove a non-period wood stove flue. The flue was suspended from the second floor joists, placing them under stresses they weren't designed for. The chimney roof flashing had also failed. After the chimney was removed, the penetration hole was patched to prevent any further moisture problems. It took a 2 man crew working a 24 hour period to complete the work.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow at Historic Jamestowne

We received 2" to 3" of snow on the island today. The dig site is covered in snow, but only four short weeks from now we will be back in the field to continue the excavations.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Historic Jamestowne Days

The restoration department is working at its home base on Jamestown Island late February and early March, addressing maintenance needs before Island events in May. The church foundations were brushed clean of moss and algae growth, then treated with a biocide to retard regrowth. This procedure is normally done annually and takes about two days.

The Yeardley house foyer floor is being replaced. The house is considered an historic structure, so the floor is being replaced in kind. Powder post beetle infestation ruined the existing, period, yellow pine floor. Some superficial plaster repair and paint was also done to the ceiling of Bly Straube's office in the Yeardley, while she is away in England.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yeardley Flooring

Jon Miano stands, undaunted and ready apply varnish, in front of the drying rack where the Restoration Dept has placed the bulk of the new flooring for the Yeardley House foyer area. The existing yellow pine flooring had been riddled with powder-post beetle damage. It was sanded and refinished during the Yeardley's earlier renovation, but because of the beetle damage, normal foot traffic broke up its surface. The replacement floor copies the existing floor, tongue-and-grooved, clear yellow-pine, three-quarters of an inch thick with a three-and one-half inch exposed face. The pine is stained with minwax, "ipswich pine" stain and will be given at least two coats of oil varnish. The floor is being pre-finished to avoid disrupting normal Rediscovery activities as much as possible during the installation. The rack behind Jon holds 125 floor boards.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Got Snow?

The restoration dept went to the Hollow the week of 1/26/09 to clean out the detritus between the first floor ceiling and the second floor. There was about 4 inches of snow and ice that fell in Fauquier while we were there. We removed about 200 pounds of material (dirt and feces) from the voids. It was disappointing that we found no period artifacts when we sifted through the debris. It was a crappy job, but somebody had to do it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

1801 Reenactment takes shape at the John Marshall House

This Friday guests will get a chance to go back into time and experience John Marshall swearing in Thomas Jefferson as it was March 4, 1801. Marshall inaugurated more Presidents than any other Chief Justice----five heads of state resulting in nine inaugural ceremonies! Mark Greenough will portray John Marshall and Bill Barker will serve as Thomas Jefferson during the 11:30am event. Even Marshall's clerk, Jacob Wagner and his good friend Daniel Call will be in attendance. The ceremony will culminate with dancing by the Richmond Colonial Dancers. Parking will be available outside on Marshall and 9th Streets. Come early, as seating is limited and the response has been strong.