With all the renovations and restoration that were to take place on this project, everyone – starting with the homeowners – was mindful of finding ways to re-incorporate features that were original to the structure or the grounds. We did so, even to constructing a period-style wood picket fence to replicate the one that was found in a late 1800’s photo of the homestead.
In what was originally a dining room, evidence of a former floor-to-ceiling corner cupboard was clearly seen. After some selective demolition, paint profiles were found on the ceiling joists. The side profiles were evident on the walls, and the flooring revealed information about the base. It took an equal amount of detective work to determine the true original door style and transom, as well as the window sash configurations. The long-abandoned house yielded only one original interior door which we used as a pattern for the cupboard doors and to reproduce all other interior room doors.
200+ years of foot traffic up and down the spiral staircase had loosened everything, making the staircase “springy” which in turn cracked and loosened the plaster. Restoration carpenters removed all the plaster and plaster lath, reinforced the underside of each step from the 1st-floor entry to the 3rd-floor attic, and inspected and tightened up any questionable components. Plaster walls were repaired, new plaster applied to the underside of the staircase, and original paint colors applied throughout.
A derelict winder staircase, its board partition wall, a crumbling cooking fireplace, and the ghosts of adjacent cupboards provided all the information we needed to reconstruct and restore this hospitable room. In reconstructing the cabinets, the doors were patterned after the only original door found in the house. The configuration and style of the open shelf unit were guided by markings left from the original shelves. A new mantle shelf was made to fit the original outlines above the fireplace. During the Victorian era, the ceiling had been comb-painted; a decorative feature the owners wanted very much to preserve. We repaired the plaster damages, carefully cleaned the surface, and then infilled all the missing comb painting.
The house in which this magnificent fireplace and paint-decorated paneling are now restored stood empty for many years. During those dormant years, salvage thieves broke in and ripped the fireplace surround and many other valuable items from their place. Dogged determination on the part of the then-owner tracked down the fireplace surround – albeit in hundreds of pieces – and dogged determination on the part of our restoration carpenters reconstructed it. Many hours of meticulous paint scraping revealed the original colors and faux graining which were then recreated.