Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Drying Time Again in Virginia

What you see before you is almost $1000 worth of pressure-treated yellow-pine, racked and drying in the peanut barn at Bacon's Castle. This material will be the twenty foot by fourteen foot stockade fence at the John Marshall House. The stockade will hide the new HVAC equipment in the back yard. This was necessitated by the City of Richmond transferring ownership of the Marshall House to Preservation Virginia. Up until now, the city had provided steam or chill water for the houses' air handler to use. Now, Preservation Virginia must provide it. Ah, the complexities of home ownership.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mr. Drummond's Springfield

Gloucester County is home to many historical sites including the 18th century mansion Rosewell, and the Powhatan village of Werowocomoco. But I was recently there to visit another historically important site — Springfield— and to meet Springfield’s owner, Phil Drummond who works diligently to keep his family’s history alive.

Springfield, located in the Ark community, is not an easy house to identify due to later alterations, but it appears to be an early-mid 18th century hall and parlor type house with large side-end brick chimneys. An early cemetery sits just outside with several 18th century graves and above-ground tombs. One of which was a young man of 27 who had apparently been murdered.

The most interesting feature about Springfield, however, is not the house— but its owner. Mr. Drummond was full of remarkable stories about his life and about Springfield, such as the legend that Nathaniel Bacon may be buried on the property or the Native American ossuary that was disturbed while his neighbors were digging a well.

But what I found most appealing about Mr. Drummond was how content he is with his mixed ethnicities. Old photographs of Mr. Drummond’s relatives line every wall in the house— including ones of Confederate soldiers. Other ancestors include independent free blacks and Revolutionary War Colonels.

As I was driving home and the experience continued to sink in, I thought about how classically Virginian the entire experience was and how I wanted to go back and hear more stories.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Deja-Vous, All Over Again

The Restoration Department was working at Bacon's Castle to replace some fire doors and repair moisture damage in the hyphen, when they discovered extensive termite damage to the floor joists on the first-floor. Since they just finished replacing floor joists at Monumental Church in Richmond for the same reason, they are all tooled up and ready to go. The damage occurred after the 1983 Bacon's Castle renovations were complete, but there are no current signs of active termites. This is another wake-up call to owners of historic structures, not to trust pest-control contracts as a guarantee against infestations. In this instance, the damage was between the plaster ceiling and the floor, so it was completely invisible to even thorough inspections. When the department consulted a trusted pest control agent, he recommended that a barrier treatment be applied every five years around the structure and under concrete pads within the structure. He further recommends whenever any work is done to historic structures, that pest control be called in to opportunistically apply chemical at that time. Old structures are somewhat unique, because of all the voids that exist within them, making them perfect termite habitat. In this circumstance, because the joists have been so badly damaged, because of the chronic moisture problem associated with the front porch, and because the joists will once again be enclosed by floor from above and plaster from below, the department will use modern pressure-treated lumber to replace the period, heart pine joists.