At first glance and from a distance, the Peony Garden Gazebo appeared fine. Up close, it was all too evident that its delicate lattice-work was deteriorating, and the intricate roof structure was failing. Reproducing all the replacement parts, especially the roof structure, was no mean task: No two pieces, anywhere, measured the same. As each piece was dismantled, it had to be measured, documented, photographed, and then templates made to reproduce and reconstruct the structure in its existing location.
Although it’s a rather humble little structure, this muskrat skinning shed represents a very important part of our nation’s history, particularly that of the state of Delaware. Replacing the very aged roof on this structure was not a huge or complicated matter for Restore ‘N More, but it was very important for the big plans Historic Odessa had for this little building. Now, with adequate and long-lasting protection from the elements, this small shed is being used to demonstrate to today’s young scholars one of the important commercial trades and vocations of our nation’s past.
Built in the early 1700’s, the Collins-Sharp House was moved to Odessa, Delaware, and restored as a museum house in the early 1960’s. By 2007, it was in dire need of exterior repairs and maintenance. The wood roof was deteriorating and creating an enticing environment for damaging mosses, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and woodpeckers drilling in search of the insects. Sensitive to the need to maintain all historic aspects of the structure, we replaced the roofing in like manner to its original fabric, but employed modern materials beneath the wood shingles to prevent future moisture problems. We also replaced damaged wood sidings, crown molding, and fascia with materials hand-milled on site to match the original pieces.
As part of the congregation’s plans for celebrating the synagogue’s centennial, the sanctuary’s interior underwent extensive renovations and refurbishing. Our primary role was to rebuild the platform at the front of the sanctuary. Known as the “bema,” the rectangular raised platform originally had a set of narrow steps on either side making it unsafe for stepping on or off the bema. We removed the old steps, rebuilt the platform as a broad sweeping radius, and then built radiused steps around the entire platform. In addition, we constructed a removable platform for the rabbi’s lectern. The lectern can now be quickly removed for special events such as weddings, thus creating a more intimate setting.
The congregants at Old Leacock Presbyterian Church welcome one and all, but they draw the line at “critters.” One presumptuous groundhog decided to come inside while the organist was practicing. Unaware of the unusual visitor, she locked the doors when she had finished. Several days later, the doors were re-opened only to reveal the destruction that one imprisoned groundhog can wreak: Six windows and the door had been clawed and gnawed in his attempt to gain freedom. Reproducing the century-old trim profiles, using vintage woods to match the existing, staining the new replacement pieces to match the old color, and then applying the varnish to subtly mimic the years of wear and tear were all part of our job in restoring these windows and door.
Restoring old windows is one of Restore ‘N More’s all-time favorites, and restoring the windows at the old kierch (church) ranks up there with the best. These windows are huge! Six feet wide and fourteen feet high! But it was their immense size and weight that was causing problems: The weight of all that glass caused the frames to sag which invited moisture problems and eventual rot. Rather than restore them, we faithfully reproduced new sash out of water resistant hardwood, re-installed the original old glass, and then imbedded reinforcing angle across the bottom of each upper sash to prevent any future deflection.
The belfry, built in 1804 and original to the church structure, is an excellent example of Federal design and detail, but the years had taken their toll on the structure. All the exterior wood components had to be stripped from the 6-sided belfry. We salvaged enough pieces to reconstruct 2 sides, and then reproduced new parts to reconstruct the remaining 4 sides. Reeded pilasters, chip-carved radiused spandrels, hand-planed keystones, railings, even the 12” diameter ball caps – it was a carpenter’s dream! The project was completed on time, within the congregation’s budget, and only days before the first onslaught of winter weather.
A wild wind storm sent a towering oak tree crashing into the roof and gable end of the historic Donegal Presbyterian Church, crushing nearly a third of the roof and crumbling a sizable hole in the thick, stone, gable wall. The gable wall was re-laid and stuccoed. The roof structure was dismantled and reconstructed using vintage framing materials, mortise-&-tenon joinery, and hand-split cedar shakes. The unique “basket handle”-top chimneys were re-built. The sanctuary’s plaster ceiling and walls were repaired and painted, and the carpeting was professionally cleaned. And we did it all ahead of schedule and under budget!
For today’s connoisseur of smoked meat products, one can simply run to the deli or grocery store to pick up whatever quantity of beef, ham, or bacon that you desire, any time of the year. Things were not always that simple. Preserving meats was hard work, and if any step of the butchering, curing, or smoking processes didn’t go right, a family could lose an entire year’s supply of meat. We have a huge respect for our forefathers (and foremothers) who used these smaller farm structures out of necessity to feed family and neighbors. With the advent of refrigeration, smokehouses fell out of use and only the lucky ones have been “repurposed” as storage sheds. All too many have been razed. One such lucky smokehouse still stands in Lancaster County, but time and storms took its toll.
A storm literally lifted its roof and several upper courses of logs, but that didn’t spell the end of this relic of our past. The roof frame, though tossed upside down, was still solidly intact and suitable for re-use. Deteriorated or damaged wall logs were replaced using half dovetail corner joinery. All the walls were re-chinked, trim boards reproduced, and a new cedar shake roof was installed.
The lowly springhouse is often overlooked for maintenance on many farms because, well, they have no real use anymore. In this age of wells, indoor plumbing, and refrigeration, many springhouses are abandoned and eventually fall to ruin. Thankfully, Lee & Nancy recognized the importance of preserving their own slice of rural life.
Although at first glance the completed preservation doesn’t appear much different than “before,” that’s the point of restoration and preservation: Stylistically, a preserved structure should remain true to its original design. It may appear fresher and brighter, as does this springhouse, but its original design elements should remain the same. The failing chimney was torn down and re-built along with new copper flashing; the badly deteriorated wood shingle roof was removed, all the original lath was repaired or replaced with like kind, and a new wood shake roof was installed; window and door frames were repaired; the original window sash were repaired and re-glazed; a new period-style door was constructed and installed along with vintage hardware; and the stone walls were re-pointed.