Saturday, March 31, 2012


There comes a time in every Communications Coordinator’s life when they have to face their mortality. That time came for me Friday, March 16th. To be more accurate – that time came for me Friday, March 16th while I was free-falling down the stairs at my home. I was trying to carry both a laundry basket full of clothes and my youngest child (mid-tantrum) down the stairs at the same time. One misstep in my socks on my wood stairs and away we went. (To be fair, I thought the combination of the hole in my sock and the dirt and grime coating my stairs would provide enough traction for me to manage the stairs but evidently I was wrong.)

They say when a person is facing death that their whole life flashes before their eyes. That was not the case with me. What mostly passed in front of my eyes was all of the laundry that went spilling out of the basket and fluttering down the stairs. But I did experience an almost unbelievable sense of time coming to a halt. Seriously – the fall could not have taken very long, maybe 10 seconds at the most but I remember watching the laundry fluttering down the stairs, at the same time I also registered each jarring smack of the steps; I could tell that my youngest child’s tantrum had given way to terrified crying; I was able to steer my fall so that I missed the large stack of loose papers on my stairs that I had been ignoring for weeks and which I really didn’t want to smash into on my way down the stairs because it would make such a mess; I also realized that maybe trying to carry two things down wooden stairs in socks wasn’t the best idea in the world.

That realization helps to explain the decision I came to recently. This will be my last post in the Ultimate Home Improvement Project blog as I am resigning my position as Communications Coordinator and focusing on my other job at the museum – that of Manuscript Specialist. For two years I have been Communications Coordinator and for a little less than two years I have been blogging about the museum’s restoration project. Even though I have been silent for many months now, (online that is – the director isn’t so lucky to have me silent for months in the real world), the restoration project still remains near and dear to my heart as do all of the blog’s fans (thank you – all five of you – you know who you are:  Mom, Dad, Sharon, Scott and that guy who keeps leaving me the creepy gifts on my front doorstep – seriously dude, thanks for your support but that doll’s head was a little disturbing).  

I leave the restoration project with the first phase finished and the first half of the second phase almost complete. The sill is repaired, interior windows restored. All that remains is for the storm windows to be installed. To finish up the second step and begin the third step, work will be focused on roof repairs and the installation of modest environmental controls. Although my fingers itch with all of the untold tales of future restoration work, and my mind boggles at the idea of no longer trailing after the restoration workers armed with my pad of paper, my pen and my idiotic grin – I’ve made the decision to focus on carrying only one thing down the stairs in my socks instead of two, as it were.

But please, no tears – this is not a time for sadness (or in the case of the Director, a time for rejoicing). This may not be the last you hear from me. I’m thinking about floating some ideas for a manuscript blog based on the museum’s amazing manuscript collection – and the Director might actually go for it since it wouldn’t involve me interrupting her work to get the material for it.

 In the meantime please remember me as I was – taking the time to smell the roses while falling down my stairs. By the way, the roses smell a lot like dirty laundry…and terror.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Based on Real Events...

A day in the life of a chipmunk….

It’s been several weeks since I took up residence in this here historical house. Ma always said I wouldn’t amount to nuttin’ (mmm, I just got a little hungry) in this world but considerin’ I found myself a big ol’ house to hole up in for the winter I would say I’ve done pretty well for myself. I would love the opportunity to lord it over Ma but she had an unfortunate run in with a neighborhood cat which did not end well. (God rest the mean old fur ball’s bones.)

I saw my opportunity to get into this house one day when I was out scrounging around for nuts for the cold season. There I was scurrying across the ground when I see a sight I don’t get to see every day – a door standing wide open into a house. Sure there’s a guy who kept coming and going through the door but it only took a little patience and timing and I was in that door easy.

Course I didn’t plan on encountering nobody while I did a little reconnaissance work. Slipping around corners here, diving for cover under a table there. Things were looking good, the place had more than enough hiding places for me to stay out of the way of the humans but then my luck ran out. Temporarily that is. You see I thought the coast was clear for me to make my way into a nice dark room when this human comes walking around the corner and cuts me off. Did she ever scream. And scream. And scream. The good thing was no one else came running to see what the problem was, I only had her to deal with, which was hard enough. She was screamin’ and jumping all over the place – if I tried to go one way, she screamed and stomped her foot, if I tried to go the other way, she screamed and shut a door. It was ridiculous – I was like – ‘Lady all I want to do is get outta your way so make it a little easier on a rodent!’ But there was no reasoning with her. Finally she went running for help or somethin’ and I hightailed it outta there.

I’ve only had a couple more run-ins with humans here but luckily I have escaped any harm. They’re a shrieky bunch – it’s hard on a chipmunk’s ears you know. But I have my ways of getting revenge - like leaving a walnut on the floor of one of their offices just to see their reaction.

Found on the floor of the Education Director's office.
It’s my way of letting them know – look I’m here, I’m not going anywhere, I have now found a way to get in and out of the museum without using a door and your have-a-heart trap is a joke. Seriously – that thing is like a 7-11. I crawl in, eat the peanut butter they use to bait the trap and walk right back out. They should get their money back on that thing.

Yup – I like the way things are looking for me this winter. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll find that special someone who completes me and we can start our own dynasty here at this house on the hill. The possibilities are endless – unless they get a better trap. I am a sucker for peanut butter on just about anything.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This next post goes out to....

…Emad Andarawis. It was Emad’s insightful and hard-hitting suggestion “I need you to do a post about plaster” that was really the catalyst for this piece. Although I fear this post may not have the level of detail that Emad is looking for (after all – this is the man who has read the entire internet and finds it lacking in answering his questions about plaster) I hope it may prove somewhat helpful. Emad if it does prove helpful, I will take all the credit and if it doesn’t, I blame #3 and #4.

Unbelievable – you don’t check in with the restoration workers for a measly two weeks and they plaster all the walls in the house on you! Maybe not all the walls, just the lower portion of the walls in the North and South Parlors and the Center Hall that were in need of plastering. On the one hand I want to be positive about their work ethic and dedication but on the other hand I wish they had taken a page out of my book and worked SUPER slow so that I would have had the time to snap some pictures of the process. Or make a plastering video – how exciting would that have been?  Don’t all respond at once or anything.

This is obviously not as exciting as watching it live on a video but it's the best I could do. 

Admittedly, I have been preoccupied with back-to-school stuff the past couple of weeks. I’m thinking about starting a campaign to save trees from schools. I have three kids in school this year and they easily get about 9 handouts to take home with them. Every single day. That’s 27 handouts that come into my house on any given day. That’s 135 handouts every week. That’s 540 handouts every month. That’s…that’s a lot of paper. Those poor trees. And what do I do with all of these many, many handouts? If I’m not using them to write down phone messages in illegible handwriting or to mop up yet another spilled cup of milk (whoever said “There’s no use crying over spilt milk” clearly didn’t have four children who spill milk twice a day on average. They’d be crying too if they were on their hands and knees soaking up milk from the stained and dirty fibrous mat formerly known as a carpet), I’m giving them to the garbage men so they have something to throw in to the recycling truck once a week. What I’m not doing is saving them, and I’m usually not even reading them. Wasteful.

But I can’t say there was anything wasteful about the way plaster was made prior to the 20th century. (How’s that for a transition? I’m telling you I could be a TV news anchor - ‘…the blast wiped out the entire town leaving no survivors. [pause, turn the frown upside down and go…]  If you’re looking for a blast of fun this weekend, check out the doggy fashion show being held at the Downtown Community Center where you’re sure to see some real barkers strutting their stuff.’)

I found #3 and #4 in the house last Tuesday and by the very nature of the work they were doing, they were unable to escape me. #3 was perched atop a ladder in the South Parlor and #4 was squatting down in the Center Hall with a trowel full of plaster in his hand which he was systematically smoothing over the lath. These boys weren’t going anywhere and they knew it, and they knew that I knew it. I took my time, snapping pictures and then I settled in on the floor with pen and paper in hand and began the interrogation.

#3 begged off talking to me – insisting that #4 was the plaster expert. Maybe he was, or maybe #3 was still recovering from last week when I cornered him for a restoration update.  (I wouldn’t have twisted his arm behind his back so hard if he hadn’t tried to run).  #4 is no spring chicken so he wasn’t going to get the leg up on me and run out of the place. Having my subjects secured, I had to get them to talk. But how? I couldn’t open with an obvious question like, “What are you doing?” That would make me sound ignorant and I can’t afford to lose my restoration street cred. Instead I tried a much more subtle tack: “Can you explain what you are doing?”

“Plastering.” #4 responded.

Darn, I was back to square one. Time to pull out all of the stops – “Can you explain what you do when you plaster?” The Spanish Inquisition I am not, but effective I am, cause #4 sang like a little birdie.

The first thing he stated was that the lath only existed as a platform against which the plaster is applied. It has no function beyond that – it’s like an artist’s blank canvas, and the plaster is the masterpiece smeared on for display. The plaster alone, once applied and dried, has the strength to hold up the walls.

#4 is quite the artist.  The art world is all afire!

Typically three coats of plaster are applied to lath to make a wall. The first coat is called the scratch coat. The scratch coat is flexible, it can move with changes in temperature. Plaster is a lime product, which makes it very hard, solid, durable, but it can break easily which is why the scratch coat is applied - to provide the flexibility that the top coats of plaster do not and cannot have. After the scratch coat come two veneer coats. The veneer coats are smoother, the lines left behind by the trowel used to apply the plaster are no longer visible. When the last veneer coat is applied, there may be a need for minimal sanding to smooth out the surface, and perhaps some filling but basically the top veneer coat, once in place, means the plaster wall is ready for the next phase of its makeover – painting or wall-papering.

In Cherry Hill’s case – some extra coats of plaster were needed in order to build the wall out to where it was supposed to be. So Cherry Hill had two scratch coats and two veneer coats of plaster applied to the walls. It takes about 24 hours to let a layer of plaster set. As I write the walls have all been plastered and are prepared for the decorative phase of the restoration work. But why did I mention the non-wasteful nature of plaster prior to the 20th century? I thought I told you that was a transition point. And not such a strong one the more I consider it.

North Parlor - totally plastered
South Parlor - totally plastered
Center Hall - probably get the point

Plaster, as I said earlier, is a lime product and when it dries it is super duper hard. Not only is it functional for use as a wall because of its strength and durability, but it is also an effective means of preventing rats and mice from having the run of the walls in a house. Rodents don’t particularly enjoy eating through plaster precisely because it is hard. They’ll do it in an emergency situation but plaster walls are an effective means of pest prevention. But what was mixed in with plaster to make the scratch coat? (Note – here is where the transition point is explained.) Fibrous materials. Once upon a time, animal hair was an essential ingredient in plaster. Hair from cows, horses or pigs, obtained from slaughterhouses or what have you, were mixed into the plaster to help boost the flexibility of the plaster as the wall moved. That’s what I meant by early plaster production not being wasteful. Get it? Okay, it’s official, my transition was terrible. Nowadays, wood fiber is mixed in with the plaster instead of animal hair, for the scratch coat. More wood – poor trees.

The veneer coat has sand in it. Sand, somehow, lends strength to the veneer coats of plaster which is essential for the top coats of a plaster wall. Sand is always used in the veneer coats of plaster – the Greeks and Romans did it, as do #3 and #4. #4 explained they have to add the sand to the plaster mixture for the veneer coat. Particularly with restoration work, one must be sure to match the size of the grain of sand used in the plaster of the original walls with the grains of sand used in the restored portion of the walls. By taking a piece of original plaster and mashing it up, #3 and #4 can look at the size of the sand and then be sure to add sand of a similar size to the plaster they are mixing for the restoration work.

Who knew getting plastered could be so much fun? Besides college kids, and people at football tailgate parties, the bride’s embarrassing Uncle Steve, grumpy old Mr. Smith at the end of the street, attendees at museum conferences, people who ride mechanical bulls, anyone who has ever sung karaoke….I guess a lot of people knew.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Excavate and sniff!

I’m baaaccckkkk. It’s been well over a month and I wish I had a good excuse for my silence. Believe me, I really wish I had a good excuse for my silence, if only so the Director would stop looking at me with such disappointment and disillusionment in her eyes. I can say with all honesty that there was a space of a couple weeks at the end of August when work came to a screeching halt on the restoration project. #3 was gone. Just gone. We had already said goodbye to #4 in a heart wrenching farewell, heart wrenching for us of course, not so much for #4. We thought they both had gone on to greener pastures, or, perhaps more appropriately, older structures. So imagine my surprise when one fine day #3 and #4 came a’knockin’ on our door. (I didn’t hear them a’knockin’ cause that door is thick. Thankfully they remembered to ring the bell.) And, even better, imagine the surprise of my colleagues when #3 and #4 came a’knockin’. Actually, instead, imagine the horror of my colleagues, horror being the more appropriate adjective to describe their reactions. They had all been lulled into thinking they no longer had to show up at the house to let the workers in at 7am every morning. Restoration work started back up on September 1st. Staff coffee consumption increased starting around September 2nd as did staff grumpiness.

‘What?’ You ask. (Actually, it sounded more like a shriek to me.) ‘Work started up again on September 1st, and you are only posting an entry in the blog today, Saturday, September 24th? Why the delay?’ You ask/shriek again.

First of all, I say to you (holding my head to stop the ringing of my ears caused by your screeches) shrieking questions at me is not necessarily the best way to communicate. It hurts my ears and makes me defensive. (Note my defensive tone.) I’m sorry for the long silence. I’m not proud of it. I would like to say that I suffered a crippling illness or devastating injury to make you feel better, but that would be a lie and though I am many things (some of them quite unsavory), what I am not, is a liar! You deserve the truth. You can handle the truth, and the truth is…over the past month I have been part of a secret government committee working on identifying alternative sources for energy– I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but I will say this…we’re very close to a solution. Now that I’ve made my truthful confession maybe you realize that you were wrong to jump to conclusions (especially given the sensitive nature of what I have been working on) and maybe you could stop shrieking at me.

Needless to say I was thrilled when I was able to pull #3 aside on his first day and coax (read: bully) him into giving me the skinny on what he was doing. #3 is a patient man and, what’s more, he is a patient man with me. The first thing on his restoration work agenda was to finish the restoration work on the remaining windows in the garret – in particular the window sills. Cherry Hill is always full of surprises, and it’s not a place where anything can be done simply and easily – why would it be any different for the restoration? Apparently the damage of one of the windows that #3 was working on was not caused by age or exposure to the elements but instead was caused by an earlier epoxy restoration. Yes, it seems even restoration work needs restoration work at Cherry Hill. #3 was amazed at this “first” in his career. He has never run into a situation like this in all of the buildings he has restored, so he found it quite interesting, and, believe it or not, so did I. But then again, I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’ve developed into a bit of a restoration groupie. The story begins 20 to 30 years ago, when epoxy application in restoration work was in its infancy. As #3 pointed out to me – there is no huge body of literature available today that addresses all of the ways and when, where, why, and how epoxy can be applied. The restoration field of experts is not an overly large one, and information is probably shared mostly by word of mouth. So imagine when epoxy was first being used in the field – when there was no history of best practices for epoxy use - there was bound to be some misapplications or mistakes. Cherry Hill is so fortunate to have an example of this beginner mistake.  (Note my sarcastic tone.)  What #3 found with the old epoxy repair was that the epoxy had been applied as a top coat, as opposed to being used to bond wood together. What happened was that while the top coat was able to keep water out for a while, in the long run it failed. This coat of epoxy trapped moisture inside of the wood.

This is a piece of the window sill that was removed.  The white part is what was once the painted surface of the sill.  Where the chisel is pointing shows the location of the original epoxy application which was just coated over the wood to act as a sealant of sorts. 
The garret window sills were made from yellow pine wood, not oak, which, it turns out, was a very fortunate thing for the windows. Had the sills been made of oak, the oak would have very quickly rotted once it got wet. In addition to the rot, we probably would have got some funky fungus to grow inside of it as well. Yellow pine is a wood of a different sort, namely – it is much more rot resistant then oak. So why wasn’t yellow pine used in all of the windows of the house? While yellow pine may be rot resistant it does not have the same weight bearing qualities that oak does. Oak is a much stronger wood and when it is sealed properly, it will last forever. This explains why yellow pine was used in the windows in the garret, as opposed to the oak used in the windows on the bottom three floors, which have the weight of the house and roof to contend with.

The rotted wood is the dark part of the fragment being held and the still healthy pine is the bottom part.

To restore the window, #3 had to excavate the sill (dig out the rotted wood), and he epoxied “new” yellow pine to the surviving original yellow pine to make the repairs. By “new” yellow pine, I mean 150-year old yellow pine with the right moisture content, originally grown in the northeast, and which Western had a surplus of from another restoration project. So the “new” old yellow pine was epoxied properly to the “old” old yellow pine to restore the window sill which I am happy to report is sloughing off water quite nicely.

Isn't it a beaut?  Look at that new sill and note all of the water sloughing action.  I have no words...I am speechless.
But the truly amazing thing about yellow pine (which is my new favorite wood…hello, haven't we establishe dthis already? Groupie here!) is that, since it is rot resistant, the surviving yellow pine from the original sill is in really good condition. No, you don’t get it. A shaving of the surviving yellow pine which was removed during the restoration still smells like pine. I tell you no lie (for real this time). #3 gave me a sample (to keep!) and I walked around the museum forcing all of my colleagues to “sniff the wood.” At first they thought that was slang for some new street drug, but once it became clear that I literally wanted them to smell a piece of wood, they sniffed and were…whelmed by the significance. (I use whelmed here because they were neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed, they were just… whelmed.) Apparently I’m the only crazy wood sniffer on staff and I now have the wood shaving sitting on my desk. No one will step into my office for fear I will insist they sniff it. But I don’t care how….eccentric…I may seem – I’m sniffing pine (fresh pine) from wood that was cut down over 224 years ago – if you don’t find that impressive, then you are obviously not a restoration groupie like me and, chances are, you’re not too into this blog either!

Pine-sol has nothing on this wood chip.
Any of you who play the Curatorial Curiosity game on HCH's facebook page will recognize this picture.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who you gonna call?

#4 left us. He left us! He is gone. On Thursday, July 21st, (which also happened to be the 150th anniversary of the first battle of the Civil War at Bull Run), #4 packed up his car, said his fare-thee-wells and rode off into the sunset. Coincidence that his last day happened to be on the 150th anniversary of a civil war battle? Let’s hope so for all of our sakes.
Actually it would be more accurate to say he rode off into the late morning sunshine. But even more accurate would be to say he rode off into the late morning sunshine obscured by the heat haze hanging over Albany on what must have been a day to make even the Devil shift his pitchfork in discomfort between his cloven hooves. What I’m saying is that it was hot that week, so even if #4 was sorry to leave us, I don’t know how sorry he was about not having to climb up and down stairs to work in the attic in this heat.

Since his departure, work at the site has come to a standstill. It feels a bit like a ghost town in recent weeks without the hustle and bustle of restoration activity. Certainly if you look at the house from the outside, with its missing siding and metal fence, the place looks like it has been abandoned and is now the playground of the spirit world. Which gave me an idea. Ghost tours and paranormal investigations at historic sites seem to be all the rage these days. Maybe Historic Cherry Hill should use this national craze as an opportunity to make something positive out of the current external appearance of the house. But how does a historic site go about offering this sort of “special tour” to the general public. Sure, Historic Cherry Hill conducted its own “ghost investigation” last fall but it wasn’t open to the public. (Click on the following link or click below to watch the "investigation.")

While I scratched my head in thought, an opportunity arose that really was quite fortuitous. A historic site in central New York was offering a Haunted History Investigation to the public at a “reasonable” $25 dollars a ticket. The Director, the Curator and I decided that we should attend to see how this sort of thing worked. For the purpose of research. Perfectly objective research.

I learned a couple of things from the research trip (please note, the following lines are delivered in a heavily sarcastic tone):

• There are four types of ghosts: residual, intelligent, poltergeist and non-human entities.

• Apparently measuring electromagnetic fields is really big in the ghost hunting world. You wouldn’t believe the number of gadgets that exist to measure electromagnetic readings. I’m serious. You would not believe it.

• Clearly there is a growing need for colleges and universities to offer a Bachelor Degree of Science in Ghost Hunting. One of the ghost hunters who addressed the full capacity group was forced to waste years of his life on a college campus, accumulating various Bachelor of Arts Degrees in really random subjects, (I think one of them may have been Basket Weaving but I’m not sure), just to get the appropriate training for this line of work. Don’t even get me started on the poor girl who had to get a degree in Animal Behavioral Science before she could finally be qualified for ghost hunting.

• The federal government needs to invest more money in support of the study of science at the high school and college levels. A lot more money. A lot.

• Museum professionals do not always act professionally when on a ghost hunt.

The conclusion? This isn’t Historic Cherry Hill’s thing, no matter whatthe house’s exterior currently looks like as a result of the restoration work. Besides, its outward appearance is only temporary – and who knows how long these ghost investigations at historic sites are gonna be around. For at least as long as the general public finds them fascinating…and we all know how long the general public’s attention span lasts. Coke II anyone?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vacations are overrated....

Everyone keeps asking me how my vacation was last week and although I know they mean well, frankly I just want to say: “I went on a beach vacation with four kids under the age of 8--how do you think it was?” That sounds a little nasty I admit, but you must cut me some slack. A beach vacation with four kids, ages 7, 5, 3 and 2 is not, well, it’s not a day at the beach. They can’t swim; they can’t apply their own sunscreen (30 minutes! 30 minutes is the length of time it takes to get all four children properly lathered with sunscreen); they can’t seem to keep the sand off of their wet hands or their wet, sandy hands out of their mouths (trust me, you don’t know embarrassment until you are standing on the beach telling your kid to stick their tongue out so you can wipe their mouth down with the one non-sandy square inch of beach towel left while they gag uncontrollably); they want ice cream from the ice cream truck but they don’t know how to eat it before it melts all over the place- you try explaining to the nice elderly couple strolling by with horrified looks on their faces that “No, my son did not rip open the flesh of some helpless seagull with his teeth but instead ‘ate’ a Spiderman ice cream stick that has permanently stained his face, his hands, his stomach, his legs and his feet blood red.”

Caution:  May cause others to think your child is stained with the blood of some evil deed.
You can imagine then how happy I was to return to the comparative calm of Historic Cherry Hill. I can sit at my desk and concentrate on what I’m doing, as opposed to conducting a head count of the Doehla children every two minutes, always coming up one short and then discovering that the one short kid is three blankets over trying to pilfer beach toys from an unsuspecting family of four. A well-behaved, family of four where there is a brother and a sister who dig sand castles together instead of trying to bury each other head first in the sand. Gosh – vacations are stressful – it’s so much nicer to be back at work.

At coffee time on Tuesday I sat down, relaxing in the comforting routine of the museum,. I pulled out a paper and pen to ask the Director what, if anything, was new with the restoration. The Director, startled, jumped and looked up from her coffee before saying, “I thought it was a little bit louder in here than last week.” I hoped she was referring to the oscillating fan blowing hot air around a hot room and not to the fact that I was gone all last week.

Between the Director’s sips of coffee, I gathered I didn’t miss much. A lift was supposed to arrive at the museum last week to allow #3 and #4 to work on the upper windows of the house – to fit storms, to paint [note of not particular importance—painters will do the painting, not them], (and if the Director asks really nicely), to clean out the gutters. The lift never materialized for which I am profoundly grateful, because I am hoping to talk the guys into letting me go for a little ride on the lift when it does come and I might have missed my opportunity if it came last week. Also we were awaiting the visit of the City Building Inspector to look at the sill work and pronounce it sound. Until the Inspector makes his determination, #3 and #4 cannot finish putting up the siding on the house.

When I arrived at work today, I found two things – 1) #4 waiting to get into the building to work in the attic and 2) my preference for the relative luxury of my air conditioned mini-van to the hot air in the museum. Focusing on my first finding, I asked #4 what he would be doing in the attic today. He explained that he is preparing the window openings in the attic for the reinstallation of the restored windows. He had a question regarding the window specifications. According to the specs, the architects are calling for four window sills to be replaced in the attic. #4 invited the Director and the Curator up to the attic to take a look at the four sills in question as he wondered if total replacement of each sill was necessary. I invited myself along because that’s what I do. And when I reached the top of the attic stairs, I kind of started wishing I had stayed downstairs in the comfort of the basement air because it was hot as Hades up in the attic and it wasn’t even 10:00 in the morning yet. The Director and #4 examined each window sill, testing it for soundness. One of the window sills clearly needs to be replaced, it is located on the south end of the house. The other windows seemed to be in better shape. I snapped pictures as we moved from window to window. The end result of this informal little inspection was that the Director emailed one of the architects to ask for more information on the decision to replace the window sills.

The sill that is in definite need of replacement.
Another window sill slated for replacement.
And yet another.

I have no further plans to walk up the three flights of stairs to the attic for the rest of the week ‘cause it’s going to be a hot one. I would rather sit in my little office, pretending the wind from my desk fan is really an ocean breeze and my cushioned office chair is really a blanket spread on the sand. Now that’s what I call a good beach vacation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An update from the Jersey Shore...

It turns out that even when I am on vacation I just can’t get the restoration project out of my head. So I’ve decided to post an entry from the Jersey Shore. But if I’m writing from the Jersey Shore I’ve got to do it right. You know what that means..well, actually you only know what that means if you have ever had the “privilege” of watching an episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore…but you’ll catch on quick. To look the part of a Jersey Shore-ite I’ve spent a lot of time under the gentle waves of a tanning bed so that my skin now looks and feels as smooth as a dried up piece of leather. The amount of hair products I have in my hair has allowed said hair to defy gravity in what I consider to be a very flattering hair style. And since the Jersey Shore is all about partying, I needed to make sure I was the ultimate party animal, dancing it up every night. The problem with that one is my husband wasn’t too keen on the idea of me staying out every night until 4am and then sleeping in until 1pm so we compromised and I have partied until 9pm dancing to my youngest child’s garbled rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (minus the majority of the correct words of the song).

Being properly suited up to play the part of a person from the Jersey Shore, I can now continue. After my post from last week was written, #3 arrived back on the scene at the museum. In my excitement I rushed to give him a warm welcome but got hung up on the wire fencing surrounding the house and settled for a “How are you?” instead. I think it was probably the better way to go. #3 explained that he was on site to begin putting the siding back in place on the front of the house which we certainly find exciting as it will greatly improve the house’s outward appearance. One little problem quickly became apparent with the siding reinstallation – and that is that the mason’s enthusiasm for his craft resulted in him bricking over the location of where the mailbox is supposed to be in the wall. That makes it awfully tough for #3 to put the mailbox in. The brick will have to be removed so that the mailbox can go back in place.

Behind that patch of insulation is the location of the mailbox which was mistakenly bricked over.

#4 also made a reappearance, literally outside my office door. He came in last Friday to reinstall a restored window. I know, I know, I’ve written before that the basement windows have not been restored yet because they are in bad shape and need more work. It turns out that I was 75% correct – somehow #3 or #4 snuck in and removed the window directly outside of my office to bring back to the shop for restoration. It was the only window of the four basement windows on the front of the house that was in good condition. The other three windows are on hold because two of them need new frames and one needs a new sill. #4 showed me the lower sash of the restored window he was reinstalling, mainly because I was sitting, staring at him and it would have been rude not to. #4 said that the window was hand made and showed me the grooves for sash weights on the sides. The interesting thing here is that this window, in its current location in the basement, does not have the need for sash weights, leading #4 to conclude that the window itself was reused from some other location . I found that fascinating and called up the Curator on the phone hoping she could tell me all about the history of the window and where it was used before. She couldn’t. When the Historic Structure Report was done between 1979 and 1981, the windows were described and included in the floor plans but they were only evaluated based on what was visible without invasive approaches (i.e. no one yanked them out).  We have no documentary evidence in the collection that can shed light on this question. We have the contract between Philip Van Rensselaer who built Cherry Hill and his builder, Isaac Packard. While the contract calls for reusing doors from the previous structure on the property, it does not call for reusing windows from any previous structure. This means one of two things either a) some later family member recycled the window from some unknown location or b) maybe Philip Van Rensselaer and/or the builder changed their minds but never noted it on the documents.

The newly restored and reinstalled window in question. 

The view from that window to my office.  #4 couldn't avoid me even if he wanted to (which he probably did).

That’s all I have for now – what do you want from me? I’m on vacation. I gotta go, I think my youngest child is getting ready to start tonight’s entertainment, I’m hoping I can persuade her to do her cover of “You Are My Sunshine.” That’s going to get the crowd going…the crowd being my three other children and my two nephews.