For this week’s blog feature we decided to focus on a story of monumental love and history, in honor of Valentine’s Day this Friday. If you’re a romantic, there’s a love story for you. If you’re not a romantic, never fear! We’ve included our usual focus on historical buildings and materials, and in this case, renovation and rehabilitation efforts at the site. This post includes something for everyone!

 

Boldt Castle. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

 

First, for the romantics among our readers:

Set on Heart Island (how apropos!) in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York, Boldt Castle – a castle reminiscent of palaces scattered throughout the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany and built in the chateauesque architectural style – and its surrounding buildings originated from the love of a man for his wife. More specifically, that man was George C. Boldt, the proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York. His wife was Louise Boldt, a native of Pennsylvania, and the daughter of his former employer. Various accounts note they fell in love within a short time of meeting and that they were close companions in love, life, and business; Louise’s hostess and decorating skills were said to complement Boldt’s hotel business beautifully. They had two children and the family frequently vacationed to the Thousand Islands. Boldt decided to combine his love for his wife and the islands in an over-the-top show of affection, and no standard box of chocolates or bouquet of roses would do. He put his significant wealth to use creating a monument of his love for Louise on his newly-dubbed “Heart” Island (formally known as Hart Island after the previous owner); note the oft-repeated heart motif in the photos below.

As with many love stories, this one has a tragic twist. In January 1904, not long before Valentine’s Day, Boldt’s beloved wife Louise, the inspiration for this fairy tale island project, suddenly passed away still in her early 40’s. The grief-stricken Boldt immediately called a halt to construction on the project and never returned, reportedly unable to bear setting foot there without Louise. The magnificent work of countless artisans was left to deteriorate for most of the next century, a decaying representation echoing Boldt’s heart-break. Years later, the Boldts’ granddaughter even co-authored a book about the  story. 

 

 


Tile detail of heart motif. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


Heart motif in stained glass dome. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


Heart motif on castle exterior. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


Heart motif hidden in stone corner. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

 

Now, for the non-romantics:

For lovers of historical architecture, the years of deterioration and vandalism of the Boldt Castle property on Heart Island could have been a heart-breaking tragedy in and of itself. Luckily, in the late 1970’s the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and agreed all net revenues from the castle operation would contribute to its rehabilitation and restoration. The full-size Rhineland castle and other structures on the island have slowly been rehabilitated over the years, and projects are ongoing.


Detail of unfinished and vandalized interior wall. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


Bedroom intended for Louise, fully restored. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

 

However, some concerns have been noted regarding the historical integrity of the site by astute preservation-minded people – including Thousand Islands author and architectural historian, the late Paul Malo – who have pointed out that as each room becomes renovated, little to no preservation is done on aspects of those rooms in their original state. Much of the rehabilitation efforts reportedly have been completed with entirely new plans and materials, with little reference to original plans and materials and ignoring replacement-in-kind, despite the proposed original intentions of the Bridge Authority. Further, little of the detailed historical context is presented on-site, and tours are self-guided with only small plaques with limited information throughout the property. Previous reports by those affiliated with the site and behind the rehabilitation acknowledge that compromises were made between restoration and preservation in some cases, in favor of economic sustainability and what would draw tourism to the site. Those same sources have asserted that, contrary to questions by preservationists, extensive research and expertise were involved in carefully assuming what the project might have originally looked like had it been completed as planned.             

The treatment of Boldt Castle over the past 40-plus years serves as an example of important discussion points for historians, preservationists, history-buffs, and even private-home owners and the general public, including deciding when restoration or rehabilitation are more appropriate than preservation. What is the best way to marry such projects with modern needs such as tourism, education, and cost?  More specifically, should we focus on what makes the general public happy and creates the most revenue (including romanticized stories that are possibly embellished and may even promote more deviation from the truth in the form of updates to a property driven by the legendary tales) at the cost of historical integrity? Should the love of love, or any questionable history or desire we have about how we wish things had been, be allowed to dictate how we care for or update a historic monument?

Regardless, no matter where one stands in terms of their romantic or preservation-mindedness, no one can deny the beauty of Boldt Castle. Its beautiful love story and aesthetic beauty remind us of all the ways we can show and feel love.  

P.S. If you would like to experience Boldt Castle for yourself, visit the website to learn more. If the Boldt Castle project has inspired you to learn more about maintenance and preservation, visit our post on maintaining your historical house and other resources on our blog. If you’re looking for a gift for yourself or a loved one for Valentine’s Day, consider sharing a free copy of our “Maintenance is Preservation” Booklet report – just send us a request via our contact page.  

 

We recently completed a restoration project of some truly massive doors at the Wilmington Public Library in Delaware.

The library was built in 1922 with the bold shapes and lavish ornaments of the Art Deco style of architecture popular at that time.

We restored a pair 22’6’ tall, 10-panel White Oak and Mahogany pocket doors.  The doors were 4” thick, 4’6” wide each, and badly distressed from years of use and lack of maintenance.  The biggest challenge on this project was getting these giants off.  Obviously this was not your ordinary door removal.

To see just how tricky the removal process was, watch a video of the removal at: http://bit.ly/1riG1tL

Once we hauled the mammoth doors back to the shop, we set to work restoring them with five guys at workstations around the doors.

 

 

When will you be able to upload them?

 

Historically Sensitive Storm Windows

A Product Recommendation from Chuck

When storm windows first came into use to promote energy efficiency, they were installed on the outside of the house.  Not only did this take away from the architectural integrity of the house by impeding the view of major architectural features in windows, they also often created moisture on the outside of the window.

Fortunately for historic homeowners today, we have better options now.  And the option we recommend here at Historic Restorations are the interior storm windows by Allied Window.

historic preservation contractors, historic restorations contractors, historic building maintenance, historic building energy efficiency, storm windows for historic buildings, historically sensitive storm windowsAllied offers an “invisible” storm window installed on the inside of the window.  One of the major benefits of this storm window option is that it has a low profile that doesn’t limit visibility of a window’s historical architectural features.  Made from aluminum they can also be painted any color – send them a sample of the color of your trim and they’ll match it for a seamless integration into your window’s look.  They also have a good seal with an aluminum u-channel across the top, magnetic strips that the aluminum frame attaches too, and a rubber or brush seal that sits on the sill.

They do offer an exterior option with the same features of the interior.  Some people think this would be the better option, that an exterior storm window would help protect the wood in their window.  I don’t recommend this option – wood needs to breathe moisture and if there is a storm window installed on the exterior moisture will be trapped in the wood and promote rot.

We’ve had a good long-term experience with Allied.  We’ve tried other companies, much to our dismay, and Allied is the one that has provided a consistent service and product performance over time.

You can learn more about the products that Allied Windows offers by visiting their website at alliedwindows.com.

 

Increasing energy efficiency in historic buildings is always a hot topic. Here are our Top Six Tips for improving the energy efficiency in historic buildings:

 

Number 1

Have a Maintenance Appraisal Performed to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

When not properly maintained, there are many ways energy efficiency in historic buildings suffers – one of which are air leaks into and out of the home.  A maintenance appraisal performed by a qualified contractor will locate any source of air leakage and provide you with a plan-of-attack to remedy the leakage without damaging the historic aspects of your home.

 

Number 2

Schedule an Energy Audit to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This could really be tie for the #1 spot – both the maintenance appraisal and an energy audit are absolutely essential things that need to be done BEFORE you implement any energy-improvement measures.  The energy audit will evaluate current energy efficiency in your historic building and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or the mechanical systems.

 

Number 3

Implement a Maintenance Plan to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

After you have these two critical reports in your hand, set to work implementing them.  Hire a qualified contractor to eliminate any air infiltration, repair windows, and perform the other maintenance affecting your home’s energy efficiency.  Hire a qualified energy contractor to replace any mechanical systems they’ve found to be detrimental to your home’s energy efficiency.  Make sure both of these contractors have a proven track record of working with historic buildings in a way that does not damage the architecture and its features.  Maintenance is one of the most critical aspects of improving the energy efficiency of historic buildings.

 

Number 4

Change Your Habits to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This can be the toughest one to do, but if we truly want to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings then our habits have to change.  Some of these changes can be easy – install timers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hag open, install fans and raise the thermostat temperature, use CFLs in your lights, unplug “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or whenever they are plugged into an outlet (most chargers, DVD players, etc.).

 

Number 5

Install Insulation to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Installing insulation in strategic places can be a cost-effective solution to energy loss – but make sure you are not installing the insulation in ineffective places and ways.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there of the best ways to insulate your house, and some of them can even permanently damage your home.  Have the historic contractor and energy consultant you hire work together to devise an insulation plan specifically tailored to increase the energy efficiency of your historic building that won’t compromise its architectural integrity.

 

Number 6

Use Shading Devices to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

There are several ways you can make use of shading devices in ways that are historically compatible to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings.  Many historical homes made use of exterior awnings and if there is evidence your home may have originally had awnings you can consider installing them again.  Some homes may still have their awnings on them – if yours does, maintain it well for maximum benefit.  Trees, bushes, and other foliage are another good way to shade your home during the summer to increase energy efficiency if you have the space.  As is hanging drapes and curtains on any windows receiving direct sunlight  and keeping them closed during the sunlight hours.

 

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The Technical Preservation Service at the National Park Service offers Preservation Brief #3: Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings that provides an in-depth look at this topic.  You can read the brief online at: nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm

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Maintenance Plans for Historic Home & Buildings

Recently we completed a maintenance appraisal for the Trinity Church Oxford in Philadelphia.  The church purchased the appraisal to evaluate several key areas they knew needed immediate attention and ended up with not only our recommendations for remediating the emergent needs on their buildings – but a five-year plan for fixing other maintenance needs that were threats looming on the horizon.  Below is the process of how that maintenance appraisal and long-term plan were developed.

historic preservation contractors, historic restoration contractors, historic preservation, historic restorations, maintenance of historic buildings, historic home maintenance

The church purchased our Tier 2 Maintenance Appraisal and scheduled an appointment for us to perform the appraisal.

Chuck and Lois spent a morning evaluating three separate buildings on the church property – the Gathering Hall, the Church, and the Rectory/Archive building.

During that appointment,  Chuck and Lois recorded a detailed assessment and made thorough documentation of the current condition of the roofing, windows and doors, foundation, exterior walls and woodwork, interior features, projections, etc.

historic preservation contractors, historic restoration contractors, historic preservation, historic restorations, maintenance of historic buildings, historic home maintenance

Back at the office, Chuck reviewed all of the maintenance needs he and Lois had documented to compile an itemized list of specific repair work that needed to be done on the building to make sure it wasn’t deteriorating any further.

Next he prioritized which needs were immediate (needing repair in the next 1-2 years), which needs were intermediate (needing repair in the next 3-5 years), and which needs were long-term (needing repair in 5+ years) for each of the areas they evaluate.

The 18-page report was then submitted to the Trinity Church Oxford.

After the Church reviewed our report and worked with Chuck to determine which maintenance needs they could address within their budget, they contracted with us to perform the work.

historic 2

Is your historical building deteriorating?  

Do you need a maintenance plan for your historic home?  

Find out in these four easy steps:

#1: Contact us to decide which maintenance plan tier is best for your building

#2: Purchase the maintenance appraisal

#3: Schedule the maintenance appraisal appointment

#4: Sit back and have a cup of tea while we work our magic and get you’re your report!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

 

1995 – Leap-the-Dips, Blair County

 

Leap The Dips

Photo by  Inferno Insane on Flickr

 

• SAVED •

Amusement parks first appeared in the latter half of the 19th century and quickly became a common and significant form of popular recreation.  The development of the roller coaster occurred parallel with the development of the amusement park and was signature attraction at nearly all parks.   Erected in 1902, Leap-the-Dips is the oldest standing roller coaster and the last known example of a side-friction figure-eight roller coaster in the world.  In its heyday, it was one of approximately 250 of its type.  Because of this remarkable significance, Leap-the-Dips was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Leap-the-Dips was closed in 1985.  It was listed in Pennsylvania At Risk a decade later, its condition having deteriorated significantly as a result of insufficient maintenance.  The nonprofit Leap-the-Dips Preservation Foundation, Inc. formed to preserve and restore the coaster.  They began fundraising in 1995, raising more than $100,000 in donations and approximately $225,000 in grants, including $100,000 from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  The remaining $650,000 needed for the restoration of the roller coaster was borrowed from 10 different sources.  Restoration began in 1997 , and Leap-the-Dips reopened at Lakemont Park in 1999.  Today, the Foundation and owner Leap, Inc. work together to operate the ride from May through October and preserve it for future generations.  Proceeds from ridership, fundraising and merchandise sales are used first to pay the debt and then to support operation and maintenance of the historic roller coaster.

To support the Leap-the-Dips Preservation Foundation and Leap, Inc., go to Lakemont Park and ride the roller coaster! 

 

 

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition.  It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered  historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost,  having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

 

1993 – King of Prussia Inn, Montgomery County

1993 - King of Prussia Inn, Montgomery County

• SAVED! •

Built in 1719 at a rural crossroads, the King of Prussia Inn operated as a tavern for approximately 200 years, giving rise to the community that still bears its name.  In 1952, the Pennsylvania Highway Department (now PennDOT) acquired the former inn in order to make roadway improvements to Route 202.  Because of the high cost and engineering challenges associated with moving the large stone building, it sat idle and boarded up, deteriorating in the median strip of Route 202 for nearly 50 years.

Area residents never forgot about the King of Prussia Inn.  The King of Prussia Historical Society got the inn listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  A Keystone Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was used to complete a historic structures report that documented the building’s history and condition.  When it was listed in Pennsylvania At Risk in 1993, there was consensus that the only way to preserve the King of Prussia Inn was to move it.

After years of planning and negotiations, a plan was developed to relocate the historic building.  The King of Prussia Chamber of Commerce secured a new location for the inn and committed to rehabilitating and maintaining it.  The Federal Highway Administration and PennDOT paid $1.6 million to move it.  PennDOT’s Engineering District 6-0 assembled a team of consultant who carefully planned the relocation effort of the 580-ton building.  They braced the inn with limber, metal plates and steel cables, and used computer-controlled jacks fitted beneath I-beams that held the structure to lift it off the ground, and moved it inch by inch to its new site.  Thanks to the joint effort of Pennsylvania’s transportation and historic preservation communities, today the Chamber of Commerce occupies the relocated King of Prussia Inn.

For more information on relocating the King of Prussia Inn, read PennDOT’s article on the project.

the King of Prussia Inn

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE INN
From the National Park Service

Pennsylvania was still a British colony when the King of Prussia Inn was built in 1719 at the intersection of Swedesford and Gulph Roads. Though that building was but a small farmhouse, the house later grew to a prosperous tavern and inn at the heart of a town by the same name.

For more than two centuries, the inn and farmhouse functioned with varying degrees of prosperity and fame. The inn provided hospitality to travelers when the colony was just a scattering of farms around the very young city of Philadelphia. It is likely the inn attracted traders on the road from the port of Wilmington, Delaware, who were going north to Norristown, Pennsylvania, where barges could take their goods east on the Schuylkill River to Philadelphia. It also seems likely that the crossroads–upon which the inn was built–influenced the making of this home into a tavern and inn.

The King of Prussia, like other historic inns, links us to the day-to-day lives of travelers, inn keepers, and merchants; and to important trends in the commercial and social history of our country. Historic inns, like the King of Prussia, dotted the major transportation routes and were usually located at important crossroads. Their histories are very much tied to the history of the American transportation network. In the course of providing food, rest, and entertainment for generations of travelers, the inn witnessed many events, trends, and ideas that are central to American history. These included the early network of roads and turnpikes that were essential to the rise of Colonial commerce and trade; the comings and goings of armies during the American Revolution; urban and suburban growth that followed the improvement of local roads in the 19th and 20th centuries; and the rise of the modern American transportation network. After extensive efforts on behalf of preservationists and transportation officials to save this structure from encroaching suburban growth, the inn now serves as a wonderful example of the importance of preserving our past for the future.

 

A number of years ago, we had the very fortunate luck to be given the opportunity to completely restore the Denn House in southern New Jersey.  Below is the story of how that restoration happened, excerpted from Lois Groshong’s book, “2001 Restoration of a Southern New Jersey Colonial”.

Be sure to check out the pictures at the end of the article that we took just this month of how the Denn House looks today, and the pictures of other Patterned Brick houses in Salem County, New Jersey.

 

INTRODUCTION

Built as a private home in 1725, (the John Maddox Denn house is) two stories with the front entrance facing Alloway Creek.

English Quakers founded in the town, known as Salem, in 1675 as their “New Paradise in the Providence of West Jersey” has much history.  The Dutch, under Captain Mey, explored the area, as wella s the English in the 1630’s, experimenting with growing tobacco.  Swedes and Finns began arriving in 1638, landing in the New World of what is now Wilmington, Delaware.  For twelve years, Salem was a military post of Sweden.

A Chandler form the parish of St. Sepulche in London, John Maddox and his family arrived in Salem aboard the ship “Surry” in 1578 and purchased one half of William Hancock’s allotment of ground.  The grandson, John Maddow Denn, born in 1693, built the home that we see today, a charming remembrance to England in the days of Cromwell and Charles the Second.  Surrounded by towering Spirea Plants, well-kept lawns, and beautiful shrubbery, the old John Maddox Denn house is without a doubt one of the show places of Fenwick’s old Colony.  It sits along the south bank of the Monmouth River on the road, which leads from Hancock’s Bridge.  Like its neighbors on the same road, the Denn property heard the thunder of Major John Graves Simcoe’s Rangers the morning of March 21, 1778.  William Hancock was a Loyalist to the King, yet the English Calvary had wounded him and massacred the Colonials who had sought shelter in the Hancock House.  The Denn house was put to use as a field hospital.  This house is registered in the library of Congress as a National Historic Site

 

Denn House Before Photos:
historic restoration colonial architecture historic architecture historic building restorations Denn House Historic Denn House Restoration of Denn House

 

Restoring the Windows

White Oak Denn HouseA load of White Oak was purchased from an antique wood dealer.  Raw material taken from an old building that had been demolished, 3’x8′ beams that ranged in length from three to sixteen feet.

January 13, 2001, Chuck and Lois take a Saturday trip to remove existing windows.  Halfway through the process the wind picks up and snow flurries begin.  “Press On” was the decision; all windows were disposed and openings boarded up before nightfall.

To begin the process of transformation the wood is run on the planer, making all the sides straight and smooth.  Sections are measured, cut and set aside.  Cracks and imperfections are filled “Bondo” and sanded smooth to the touch.  Next the ends are mortised or tendoned, depending on if it is a vertical or horizontal section of the window frame.  Side jambs are tendoned to fit the head and sill mortise.  The pieces are sized and glued together.  Historic Restorations also uses steel clamps to insure that the fit is square and tight as it can be.  Clamps are kept on for 24 hours; there will be no movement that can be detected in any unit.  After the window frames are all together, an oil base primer is applied to all surfaces to seal the wood; this is also an effective method to prepare for the finish coat to be applied on site.

Sash size varies because the window openings are all different.  There are five twelve-over-eight windows on the first floor, three eight-over-eight and three twelve-over-eight windows on the second floor.  Old glass is purchased for the “new” old windows.  Each pane is measured, cut, and glazed to fit each section of sash.  The effect is complete; newly made window frames and sash complement the 276-year-old house.

 

Working on the Walls and Ceilings

The walls are covered with paint, layers of wallpaper and plaster.  The ceilings are covered by plasterboard, resembling a seven and one-half foot modern flat ceiling.  Upon removing the added-on coverings, the walls revealed the original brick, badly deteriorated from years of settling and time had weakened portions of the interior structure.  A 12″x15″ Chestnut Summer Beam spans the length of each room, with the joist system for the second floor 5″x4.5″, at right angles.  Originally these exposed rafters were white washed; the lye used in the white wash prevented infection of insects as well as supplying a finished look for the wood.

Our next project was to strengthen the walls in the two rooms on the first floor.  Old brick was carefully taken out and relayed in an interlocked pattern, three deep, modeled from existing brickwork.  This was similar to putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together.  Concrete lintels have been installed above the doors and window.  Wire mesh is nailed to exposed brick to prepare for a new layer of fresh plaster.

Woodwork in Denn House antique pine in Denn House

Main Room Stairway

In the artisan woodworking shop of Historic Restorations a staircase made from Poplar for risers and antique Pine as treads is made ready.  The staircase that had been taken out was not original.  That stairway had narrow treads and curved away from the room.  The handrail system was square posts and a Bullnose on the bottom tread.  Chuck has determined that originally the stairs were a straight run between the fireplace and a door that opened into the room from the hallway.  Paneling made in the Historic Restorations shop from Poplar was stained and included in the delivery.  Jonathan has found evidence of paneling as being part of the earliest home decor.  Custom paneling will be used in the more formal first floor room.  A Colonial handrail is purchased to be taken apart and fit into the stair and rail system.

Main Room Stairway
ick Work and History
Historic RestorationsDenn House Restoration and Preservation

 

Br

The John Maddox Denn House is a splendid examples of the English homes of the Cromwell Period.  The east wall is covered with a diamond diaper of only three diamonds wide, but covering twenty-three courses from point-to-point.  The largest such figure of any known American or English house.  The date of 1725 begins several courses below the eaves level.  The 4-course brickwork in this wall is the first time that numerals of different sizes were used in a date.

The history of the unusual brick work found on the walls of some of Salem County’s old homes begins as far into the past as Boos Manor, Rouen, France with a small brick dove cote or pigeon house.  Built early in the fifteenth century, these dovecotes were decorated with the diaper or diamond designs seen today on Salem County houses.  Flemish-Norman artisans introduced the design into England in the fifteenth century.  Ornamental brickwork, on the overall pattern of the house and diaper design are two examples from France.  The English method of brick making yielded to the Flemish influence, so much that the Flemish ideas virtually replaced the English.

The John Maddox Denn HouseEnglish bond was very irregular and uneven.  The English style had become popular and persisted until the introduction of Flemish bond around the second half of the fifteenth century.  English bond there (across the pond) were alternate courses of headers and stretchers with the second brick of the heading course used as a closer.  Flemish bond had a stretcher and header in the same course.  IN this method, the artisans used vitrified or blue header brick.  This used with the red stretcher brick gives the checkerboard effect still seen in Salem today.  The diaper design was strictly ornamental.  Colors used to make the diapers were grays, yellows, purples, and blues.  Vitrified brick, originated by the Flemish, was made by applying continued heat until the color changed.  “These patterns, diamonds, diapers, etc., were produced by over-burnt header bricks vitrified for the purpose.”  Vitrified, dictionary definition: “changed into glass or a substance like glass, give or having a glassy or glazed surface.”  It had been thought that glass was mixed with the brick, this is erroneous.

The English preferred the soft gray diaper pattern because it is soothing to the eye.  Today in England many houses show the gray patterns, some approaching a vermillion shade.  Naturally being close to France the invasion of the Flemish builders sex hundred years ago left is mark.  What transpired to bring this artistry another three thousand miles and to locate in one county of one province, a Quaker settlement where ornamentation and display were frowned upon?  Bricklayers immigrating into America sought to continue their art in the New World, these artisans settled in Salem county from about 1720-1764.  Nowhere in all of America do we find the profusion and intricacy flowering to the heights of artistic genius as in Salem County, New Jersey.

 

Bringing the Fireplaces Back to Life

The Denn House was designed with a central chimney.  A popular style in the late 16th Century Europe, it supports the ventilation system for the four fireplaces in the original house.  The two fireplaces on the first floor sit back-to-back directly below the two fireplaces on the second floor.

Over the years the fireboxes on the first floor have been decreased in size.  One fireplace on the second floor was hidden behind a wall.  A gem uncovered when Jonathan demolished the bathroom that had been added in the early 20th Century.  This fireplace has an arched opening with a “keystone” center top.  Chuck loved the look of this discovery so much he wanted to duplicate it in one of the first floor fireplaces.

First floor first, both fireboxes are taken apart exposing the original dimensions for reconstruction.  A windfall is discovered down the road, a brick building being taken down provide hundreds of old brick.  The labor to pick through to find unbroken whole bricks, bring the brick back to the Denn House and clean them before the brick can be put back into service is a small price to pay for the quality and authentic appearance of the found brick.

Both fireplaces are taken apart creating an open look from either room.  The chimney is rebuilt a portion of the length up to reinforce the structural strength.  Hearths are remade; this is for adding stability as well as aesthetic purpose.

Bricks are placed on the hearth and and back in a Herringbone pattern.  The decision to do this was arrived at by searching local homes to observe the style of the tradesman when this area was first settled.  The Herringbone pattern is seen repeatedly in sidewalks, courtyards, and driveways, a definite eastern seaboard occurrence.

Herringbone pattern

 

 

 

The Denn House as it stands today:historic architecture
   historic building historic building Denn House historic building restoration historic building preservation Denn House the historic building historic restoration historic restoration

 

 

The Denn House 2013:

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Other Patterned Brick Houses in Salem County, New Jersey

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Patterned Brick Quaker Meeting House

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Our recent blog post from Ken Roginski about the mistakes and and “no-no’s” that are so often made by well-meaning historic building owners as they attempt to preserve a house through the years reminded us very much about a project we did a few years ago.  The John Maddox Denn House project was built in 1725 and over the years it had been remodeled several times, with mistake piling on top of mistake.  By the time we were hired, a complete restoration was required to return the historic home to its original period of significance. (You can also read an excerpt of the book our own Lois Groshong wrote about the restoration of the Denn House “2001 Restoration of a Colonial Home“.)

Given how commonly restoration and renovation mistakes are made when working on historic buildings, we’re also in the process of launching our very first Preservation Primer that addresses this very subject.  Look for the announcement of that release soon, but in the meantime, the following books (taken straight from our very own bookshelves) may help you learn more about how to work on a historic building without compromising its historic fabric.

 

Collins Period House: How to Repair, Restore, & Care for Your Home by Albert Jackson and David Day

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Collins Period House is intended for home-owners of period property who appreciate the beauty, tradition, and fine craftsmanship of their older homes and who wish to maintain and restore them in a way that is true to their individual histories.

A step-by-step guide, Collins Period House puts sympathetic restoration firmly within the grasp of all period-home owners.  Detailed instructions and nearly a thousand informative photographs and drawings explain exactly what can be done, using authentic techniques and materials.  The book also indicates what should be left well alone and when it may be necessary to call in a specialist.

The authors concentrate on the restorations of those elements that give buildings their special charm and character.  They explain how to renovate existing period fixtures and fittings, and suggest sources of authentic designs to replace those discarded or beyond repair.  And when there is little possibility of obtaining the genuine article, suitable reproductions are proposed.

Whether it is simply refinishing an antique banister or installing a period mantelpiece, Collins Period House will give readers the confidence to tackle restoration projects on their own by painstakingly guiding them through every stage in the process, until they achieve the home of their dreams beautifully restored for posterity.”

 

Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings by Melvyn Green, S.E.

images“Learn to apply the International Building Code and International Existing Building Code to historic buildings.  Written for architects, engineers, preservation, and code enforcement professionals, this is the only comprehensive book that examines how the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) can be applied to historic and existing buildings.  For ease of use, the book is organized to parallel the structure of the IEBC itself, and the approach is cumulative, with the objective of promoting an understanding of the art of applying building regulations to the environment of existing buildings.

Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings begins with a discussion of the history of building regulations in the United States and the events and conditions that created them.  Next, it provides thorough coverage of:

-The rational behind code provisions and historic preservation principles

-Major building code requirements: occupancy and use, types of construction, and heights and areas

-Building performance characteristics: fire and life safety, structural safety, health and hygiene, accident prevention, accessibility, and energy conservation

-Case study projects that reinforce the material covered

Additionally, the book includes building analysis worksheets – both blank and filled-in versions with examples – that illustrate how to develop a code approach for an individual building.  If you are a professional at any level who is working on creating a plan that meets the intent of the code for historic or existing buildings, Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings gives you everything that you need to succeed.”

 

Restoring Old Houses by Nigel Hutchins

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“The many professional disciplines and trades required to restore a house would take lifetimes to master.  This book is not meant to teach those skills, but to aid the layman and preservationist in the process, pitfalls, and delights of this endeavor.

Evolving one’s lifestyle to suit a lifestyle of another decade or century is a challenge technically, socially, and visually.  “Preservation,” “recycle,” and “reuse” are terms we use in our day-to-day conversation.  When looking at the resource of four hundred years of domestic architecture, these axioms seem easy to follow.  Unfortunately, the process of preservation has given way first to neglect and patchwork solutions, and second to a wholesale popularizing of preservation, which in turn creates its own set of problems.

The process of neglect, while its very meaning is negative, has in many cases meant that change has not occurred.  This lack of change means details are undisturbed.  The layout of the rooms remains the same.  In fact, the vestiges of the original structure are often untouched.  The preservationist can then discern how and why restorations should take place, marrying past and contemporary.

Therefore, while neglect is bad, it is not as grave as the second problem.  The popularizing of period homes has in many cases destroyed the very elements that preservationists should be saving.  For instance, in an effort to glamorize a structure, neoclassical features may be stuck on neogothic facades, or windows may be transformed into T.V. colonial.  Often elements are replaced rather than refurbished.

The further evolution of this process is the setting apart from the general neighborhood of the “heritage” house or district.  The labeling of structures and areas as “heritage” may save them in the immediate; however, this approach also sets them apart from the general community, depriving them of their role as a working part of that particular neighborhood.  Heritage preservation should be part of the housing building process today.  The very term preserve means “to keep”.  Old does not have to be new again, but functional, both visually and technically.

It is important that we, as temporary tenants in a period house, make changes and maintain it for future generations.”

 

Restoring Houses of Brick and Stone by Nigel Hutchins

images (1)“In Restoring Houses of Brick & Stone, Nigel Hutchins has created a worthy successor to Restoring Old Houses.

This splendidly thorough work is at once a comprehensive history and a practical manual.  Its starting point is an exhortation to the well-intentioned old-home preservationist to know first and foremost the meaning of the term “restore.”  For the restorer, historical accuracy is the watchword, even if the results shatters our preferred fancies.  For the renovator, there are more options.  We may very well wish to rebuild a historic home according to our wishes for what history should have been, or we may take the earnest path and seek to return a structure to what it once was in actual fact – the important thing is that we are aware that we are making a choice.

A great wealth of pleasure accrues from a slow and sensitive reading of each chapter.  The historical introductory comments are a special treat, valuable if for no reason than to spare us the exasperation of repeating the mistakes of those who have gone before.  The historical erudition of these pages is matched by a wealth of sensible day-to-day insights regarding selection and repair of building materials, techniques of construction and reconstruction, methods of cleaning, principles of renovation and additions and invaluable discussions of things best not done at all.

For the professional and amateur alike, here is a clear-headed, wise and even witty account of a thousand useful topics.”

 

 

Practical Restorations Reports by John Leeke, American Preservationeer

Practical Restoration ReportsPractical Restoration Reports are a detailed technical series on preservation topics packed with practical methods you can use now.

The reports contain complete descriptions of useful techniques with drawings and photos that reflect the latest developments in the field of architectural preservation.  Information in each report is updated as new developments in preservation are actually used on projects around the country.  These reports are based on real projects and the author’s thirty years experience as a preservation tradesman and contractor.  He brings that experience to work for the readers of these reports.  He developed these reports in response to the needs of professionals, contractors, and homeowners for detailed and accurate information about their old and historic buildings.

Homeowners & Do-It-Yourselfers:
Use Practical Restoration Reports as do-it-yourself guides.  They give you all the information you need to talk with trades people confidently

Trades People & Contractors:
Bring your crews up-to-speed quickly on new preservation techniques with Practical Restoration Reports.  With their help, you can move into productive work with less time and hassle.

Architects & Professionals:
Refer to Practical Restoration Reports in your specifications, then just include a copy of the report.  The reports provide a hands-on approach contractors will appreciate.