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.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Communications Coordinator, Reporting for Duty Sir!

Summer is here! Back in January when I was having two frostbitten toes on my right foot amputated as a result of the cold working conditions at the museum, I dreamed of the hazy, lazy days of summer. Now those days are here and frankly, it’s just too nice out to work. Apparently #3 and #4 feel the same way because we haven’t seen hide nor hair of them for a couple of weeks now. With no restoration workers to approach and annoy, I’ve had to turn my attention back on the Director (you can imagine how thrilled that makes her). Right off the bat the Director let me know that #3 and #4 were not off enjoying the sun somewhere but were actually working on the windows at Western Restoration’s shop.

Half of the exterior storm frames are sitting here on the premises. I know this not just because the Director said it was so, but also because I walk by them everyday where they are stored in the south kitchen right outside my office. What I didn’t notice was that the stack of exterior storm window frames have been shrinking in number. As much as I would like to believe that #3 and #4 are highly trained ninjas who have mastered the skill of sneaking into a building and removing large rectangular objects shaped like windows with no detection, the truth is I’m not the most observant lookout in the crow’s nest. If I were on duty the night the Titanic hit the iceberg I probably wouldn’t have realized anything was amiss until I felt the icy Atlantic lapping at my toes. Those exterior storm window frames have been systematically removed and carried off to the shop where they are being finished and prepared for installation. The majority of the exterior frames still in the kitchen are painted already, and #3 and #4 have already fitted all of the exterior storm window frames to the openings of the windows. That’s not all, the shutters are also finished and apparently waiting at the shop for a visit from the Director.

In regard to interior windows: Overall, 30 of the 46 windows in the house have been removed, restored and reinstalled. The attic windows, removed over the past month or so, are in the process of being restored at the shop. The basement windows are a little bit more needy. Turns out given their condition, they will have to be rebuilt. Hey Jude would like to use a different wood than was originally called for in the specifications to rebuild the windows with which will involve a change of work order.

Since #3 and #4 aren’t actually off catching the sun’s rays anywhere and since it seems like someone ought to – I have made the ultimate sacrifice and offered to volunteer myself for this duty. So the week of July 9th I report for duty at Long Beach Island, NJ where I promise to do my best to soak up as much of the sun as I possibly can while taking breaks to eat fresh sea food and sleep. It’s a tough job. I hope I can handle it. I’ve given myself plenty of time to try. Wish me luck.