Thursday, July 29, 2010

Investigating the House...

If you have been to the Great House in the past couple of weeks, you probably noticed that a few things are out of place. This is due to the fact that we are in the middle of investigations for a Historic Structure Report (HSR). What is a Historic Structure Report you might ask? It is a report that provides historical, physical, and graphical information about a historic structure (you can read the National Park Service's Preservation Brief here). They often include current condition assessments, but ours will not since the Preservation Department conducts assessments on a regular basis.

We have hired the firm of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects to prepare our HSR. They have been working hard to collect all the historical information they can on the Great House from the past 270 years. Armed with this information and years of experience, a team descended on the Great House last week for three days of intense physical investigation.

Prior to their arrival, we opened multiple probe areas throughout the first floor so they could see what evidence might be behind the plaster. Other physical evidence they examined and scrutinized included
nail holes, wear patterns on the floors, scars and patches in the wood work, and wall framing that could be observed from the attic. We are waiting for the team to analyze their finds before we share too much, but I can share one or two discoveries. One question we think we answered is that the unique niches in the East and West Passages appear to be original with a little reworking by "Light Horse Harry" Lee. One other discovery we were not expecting is that the evidence points to a closet being present in the back section of the Nursery that would have been accessible from the adjoining Chamber.

We are very excited about this report being finished and sharing the information with everyone. This HSR will be a invaluable resource for the Preservation, Collections and Education Departments here at Stratford Hall. The HSR will be a guide for all of us as we continue to restore, refurnish, and interpret the Great House for our visitors. And we would all like to thank everyone for their patience as we work to make the Great House an overall better educational experience.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cultural Landscape Report in Progress

Hi Stratford Hall blog followers, my name is Tim Barrett. I am a Master of Historic Preservation student in the University of Georgia’s (UGA) College of Environment and Design. A summer assistantship has brought me to Stratford Hall (SH). This opportunity has been made possible through from a recent multi-year partnership between SH and UGA. The result of this partnership will be reports, recommendations, and management strategies to improve the interpretation and stewardship of the SH cultural landscape.

Initially, a cultural landscape inventory, or “CLI,” is being developed with assistance from the Jaeger Company (a private landscape architecture firm based in Georgia). A CLI typically includes an inventory of historic features and an assessment of their condition, integrity, and significance. This field has become familiar to me through an internship with the National Park Service’s Cultural Landscape Program, nonprofit consulting work supporting the acquisition of historic sites, and a mapping project with National Geographic Society staff on the Chesapeake’s “Treasured Landscapes.” However, the depth and richness of SH’s cultural landscape is unparalleled. From its beginnings, SH has been defined by its people and landscape, and undoubtedly these forces have had a profound influence on American history. Where else can you find early 18th century buildings, nesting eagles, old sunken roads, world-class geological resources, two miles of contiguous waterfront, and 1900+ acres affording unspoiled historic viewsheds all in one place?

The SH cultural landscape inventory is still in its early stages. Thus far, we have begun to identify and document the historic landscape features that can be found throughout SH’s significant land holdings. Field work has been both fun and revealing and has even required occasional bushwhacking through some of the property’s remote, densely-forested areas whose landscape has stories to tell but is no longer accessible by roadway or trail. Here, the ticks and chiggers thrive, the poison ivy is thick, and the summer sun is unforgiving. Sunscreen and calamine lotion are constant companions.

I have had the privilege to work with and learn from Stratford’s exceptional staff, including former education director, Ken McFarland, and research and library collections director, Judy Hynson. Ken and Judy’s collective knowledge and commitment to Stratford’s landscape resources is truly remarkable. This work has taught me a lot about the proud legacy of stewardship that SH has enjoyed over its long and storied past and the people who have made it possible. Living and working on the site has been an experience that I will always remember and treasure.

Please stay tuned for research developments, state of the art maps depicting SH’s cultural landscape, and perhaps even a few surprises as the work of this exciting partnership continues to unfold in the fall and beyond.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What's Cooking in the Kitchen?

Well, there may not be anything stewing on the coals (yet!), but the kitchen is getting a makeover! I'm Brenda Hornsby Heindl, summer intern and recent graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and I'm reassessing the furnishings, room use, and interpretation of the Southeast Dependency/Kitchen building.

After researching the restoration of the space in the early 1930s, I've been reading through original documents of the Lee family, period recipes, archaeological reports, and other eighteenth-century documents from the region. I've also been comparing the kitchen to other eighteenth-century sites (intact and archaeological) such as the Shirley Plantation, Menokin, Kenmore Plantation, Mount Vernon, and Montpelier. I recently returned from a research trip in Williamsburg, where I met with curators, archaeologists, and historic architects and architectural preservationists who helped me with assessing the context of an eighteenth-century kitchen. Because of Philip Ludwell Lee's surviving 1776 probate inventory, as well as the strength of other Lee family records from that decade, I'm leaning toward a kitchen setting of the third quarter of the eighteenth century.

One of the most exciting things listed on the 1776 inventory is a chocolate stone! During a recent conversation with Frank Clarke of Colonial Williamsburg, I learned that there were two types of chocolate stones. Perhaps one day Stratford Hall will have a foodways program that includes making chocolate!

Did you know that Stratford's kitchen likely once had a large closet space located near the hearth? After examining pre-restoration photographs, as well as a 1763 document mentioning materials stolen from the "kitchen closet," the kitchen proposal will definitely suggest looking for evidence for that closet! (Look at the ceiling and wall to the left of the hearth in this pre-restoration photograph--see the outline where the plaster is missing?)

Working with curator Gretchen Goodell, my hope is to create an interpretative space that can be visited without an interpreter, but also a useable space for cooking demonstrations. Combining original sources, objects, and archaeological and architectural material will provide for an in-depth look at the kitchen of Stratford Hall.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Preservation Interns at Stratford Hall

The interns of the preservation department, under the supervision of Phil Mark, are commencing work on their summer restoration project. Erin White, a graduate student from the Heritage Resources program at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, started the ten-week internship at the end of May. Jess Warren, from Georgia, is a student in the building preservation technology program at Belmont Technical College in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and he started his internship in mid-June.

This is what they have to say:

Our main project for the summer is the restoration of the reconstructed slave quarters near the Great House. Before Jess’ arrival, Phil and Erin started by removing the back window sashes on the east quarters. The sashes were labeled and taken back to the preservation shop. Using environmentally-friendly silent paint remover, which uses infrared heat, Phil and Erin began removing the glaze, glazing points, and paint from the exterior side of the sashes. We then removed the panes of glass, taking much care not to break them. After all of the glass was removed, the interior sides of the sashes were sanded.

Jess cut the Restoration Glass to replace the broken panes. Restoration Glass is cylinder glass made in Germany in the manner of early glass production before the invention of float glass in the 20th century. Restoration Glass is appropriate to the period of the main house. After the panes were checked to ensure a proper fit, Jess used Sarco glazing to set the glass, which requires a very steady hand.

Currently, we are removing paint and sanding the eaves and window frames of the quarters. We then use Boracare, a non-toxic insecticide, to protect the wood. After this dries, primer, then paint, is applied. If you come by the slave quarters and see us on scaffolding, this is probably what we are doing, so feel free to ask any questions. We’re there Monday through Friday, 9:00-5:00!