Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vote for John Marshall’s Supreme Court Justice Robes to be one of Virginia’s Most Endangered Artifacts

For the past several years, Preservation Virginia has been pursuing funding to preserve the Supreme Court Judicial Robes of John Marshall. In his 35 years as Chief Justice, John Marshall shaped the Supreme Court into the third equal branch of the U.S. Government. His judicial robes are the most significant surviving artifact documenting his extraordinary legal career. On constant exhibit for decades, the robes have deteriorated due to the black dye used to color them. Today the textile is shredding and turning to dust. Without immediate stabilization and documentation this important artifact will be lost forever.

Help Preservation Virginia raise awareness for this important conservation project by voting for the robes as one of Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifacts, a project of the Virginia Collections Initiative. Virginia's Top Ten Endangered Artifact campaign is designed to complement the existing Most Endangered Historic Sites program run by Preservation Virginia, drawing attention to the threats described and to encourage citizens and organizations to continue to advocate for their protection and preservation.

To vote for the robes, visit: You can view photographs of the nominees and vote using a secure form or by “liking” photographs of the robes on Picasa.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moisture Control at the Cole-Digges, Part II

While the Restoration Department was doing roof repairs at the Cole-Digges, the ever deligent headquarters staff pointed out two areas of interior plaster damage that could only have been caused by moisture. The common factors of the two areas were that they were both up high on the wall and they were both under a parapet wall. The top of the parapet walls at the Cole-Digges are about 7/8 wrapped in sheet rubber, which virtually eliminates the possibility of moisture penetration through the top. Examination of the outer faces of the upper brick courses revealed that the mortar in these upper courses had substantially failed, and had been like that during the 1995 restoration of the house. A good quality caulk had been used at that time to repair the mortar joints. This caulk was now at the end of its life. There were visible cracks where the caulk no longer adhesed to the brick. Removal of the caulk revealed that the vertical joints between the bricks were functional on the outside but void of mortar on the interior. So, rain would run into the caulked joints and down into the interior wall cavity via the vertical joints. Eventually this collected moisture would migrate to the two outer surfaces, doing no visible damage to the exterior of the wall, but damaging the plaster on the interior. The solution to this was to repoint the upper courses of brick and then repainting to match the building exterior. The wall cavities will be allowed to dry this summer, saving the plaster repair for the winter, or for when the diligent headquarters staff gets fed up with looking at it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Archaeology at Corotoman

In preparation for a replacement septic system drain field, staff from the James River Institute of Archaeology are clearing a 29 foot by 22 foot area at Corotoman. This is the 'back yard' of the house that Robert 'King' Carter built in the 1720s. The mansion house burned in the early 1730s but the archaeological remains were uncovered in the 1970s. Because of the proximity to the Rappahannock River, a standard drain field was not practicable. A new design that will work (or so they promise!) requires the absorption area be completely excavated, then covered over with 12 inches of sand on which the effluent ejection apparatus will lay. Under terms of the easement donated to the Commonwealth earlier this year, any ground disturbance must be preceded by archaeology. As of today, which is Day 2 of a 3 day excavation, no features have been found.