Sunday, November 27, 2011

Into the Cellar

Way back in January of 2010 we took you up the roof access stairs for a quick peek in under the eaves. I'm very belatedly following up on my promise back then to show you the cellar next.

The current access to the cellar is through the bulkhead doors on the south side of the house. Originally it was from the east end, and the supporting arch is still visible in the stone work. It is not known when or why the access was changed, but a photograph from 1903 shows it in its current position. The architectural historians who prepared the Historic Structures Report (HSR) concluded that it was likely moved before the paneling was installed in the parlor and therefore done by Dr. Graeme as part of his renovation campaign.

Descending the old stone stairs inside the bulk head doors, you may notice the arched brick header or you may be preoccupied with watching your head and your footing.

The cellar has a dirt floor and head clearance for a shorter person to stand. It goes only under the parlor with a crawl space under the office and dining room. Due to our high water table, it floods easily now and most likely flooded then - I can't help but think that that is why they didn't bother to put it under the entire house - it was a lot of digging for a space that most likely couldn't be used for major storage.

To the left you can view the supports for the fireplaces above. People often think that these are fireplaces, and some "working cellars" did have a winter kitchen in them, but there is no flue so this is purely to support and bear the weight of the fireplaces and chimneys stacked above.

To the right you can view more of the support beams that carry the house. According to the HSR, the joists, which run from end to end are the orginal straight-sawn oak, the posts and beams, running from the front to the back of the house, were added for additional support during the state's restoration in the 1960s.

If you look closely, you can see the original up and down straight saw marks on the joists. Saw mills, which made straight cuts (unlike today's circular sawn timbers) were in existence back when the Keith House was built, and often times timbers were pit-sawn on site with one man standing on the timber and another standing in a pit below working a two man saw up and down.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed this brief tour of another area of Graeme Park we don't show to visitors.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Support Graeme Park with Your Online Shopping

About four years ago Graeme Park partnered with Shop for Museums, a portal which allows you to link to over 900 online retailers who then donate a percentage of your purchase amount to the museum partner you've designated, which we of course hope will be Graeme Park. A few times a year we receive a check, usually in the $20-$30 range, and the best part is that this money is coming from the retailers as a marketing expense, not the consumer, so it doesn't cost any more to purchase through the site. Registration is easy, you do not give Shop for Museums or Graeme Park your credit card information - this goes straight to the online retailer like any other purchase - and you can choose whether the museum gets notification of your donation amount or you can keep this information totally private too.

So, how can you get involved with making your online shopping make a difference? Lots of ways! Of course try to get in the habit of checking for your favorite retailers before making any online purchase: lots of the big online stores like Amazon and eBay participate. But what about stores like Home Depot, Sears, Target, and Walmart where it is just as easy to go in and pick up what you need? Did you know most of these places will allow you to order online and pick up in the store? How easy is that! Just run in with your order slip and your purchase is ready and waiting, no delivery charges, no trying to find someone on the sales floor to get stock out of the back for you or help you with larger purchases.

Are you in a position to order office supplies for your workplace? Or on friendly terms with the person who does? Staples and Office Max offer free shipping for orders over $50, and many of the online toner companies have great prices AND donate a very large percentage. Corporate/client gifts are another way to get your company involved. Or maybe you plan your company's travel? Car rental agencies, hotels, and airport parking agencies participate, and if the travelers want to load up on music, books, video games or movies for entertainment on the journey, they can do all that through Shop for Museums too.

And lastly, who doesn't need more time at the holidays to get it all done. You can shop online for gifts of course, but you can also have flowers, pet supplies, party supplies, even your Christmas tree delivered. So there you have it, lots and lots of ways to support Graeme Park (or another favorite museum or historic site) and just maybe make your life a little easier in the process.

In case you want to know even more about Shop for Museums and how it works, they've prepared this helpful video.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Before and Afters: Pre-Restoration Photos of the Keith House

Everyone loves a good home improvement project with lots of before and after photos right? In cleaning out some computer files, I came across some old photos of the Keith House at Graeme Park from before the restoration work was done and thought they might be of interest to our readers.

First up is an exterior shot of the south side of the house taken in 1903. This was during the time of the Penrose ownership of the property. You'll notice there are three dormers on this side of the roof, rather than the current one, and the makeshift "transom" over the center door was a 12-light window sash nailed to the outside of the frame. While you can't see the upper slope of the roof, according to the Historic Structures Report (HSR), Abel Penrose installed a new roof on the house in 1879 which consisted of shingles on the lower slope and metal on the upper - this would be the roof pictured here.

A more recent view of the south side of the house. The current roof, all oak shingles, was put on the house in 1989 and is slated for replacement again in the near future. Two of the dormers were removed in the 1960s because it was not felt that the framing was original and that they may have been added by the Penroses. There is uncertainty as to whether or not this was actually the case and also on whether all the dormer windows were originally 6-over-6 as they appear on the south side or 6-over-9 as they are on the north side. The blue paint on the trim was determined through paint analysis done in 1986 and was the color of the trim during the later part of Dr. Graeme's residency. The analysis also revealed that for a time the window trim and doors were unpainted and the center door below was also painted red (frame), white (stiles and rails) and green (panels) in one of its early incarnations.

Perhaps the more dramatic changes took place inside. This 1964 view of Dr. Graeme's office shows the marks on the wall to the right of the fireplace which indicated a closet had once been present. If you look closely you can see where the 4 shelves had been and the board partition that formed the front of the closet wall. This was the only room in the house missing its original paneling.

The closet and paneling were reconstructed and the fireplace stucco restored. Supposedly the profile of the crown moulding was determined by the shadow marks left behind on the ceiling and a "typical" paneling that would go with that style moulding was used.

Below is the dining room looking towards the north wall and closet and a sample of the wallpaper. I do not have a date for the photo, but the envelope that holds the sample is marked "Keith House Dining Room Wallpaper 1975(?) - July, 1983", so it would appear to be sometime between 1975 and mid-1983. It is a black and white photo so obviously colors are impossible to pinpoint, but it does appear as if the paneling on the fireplace wall was lighter than the chair rail and baseboard. The paint analysis wasn't done until 1986, which determined that the paneling and chair rail should be Spanish brown/red as they are currently.

And here is a slightly wider angle shot of that corner of the dining room as it appears today.

These two 1964 shots of the 3rd floor dormitory are probably the most stunning. Extensive plaster damage from the leaky roof reveals the joists and rafters above and the rafters, remaining lathe, and shingles or sheathing on the side slopes of the gambrel roof. The dormer in the photo below is one of the ones on the south side that was removed because it wasn't felt to be original.

This shows the opposite corner of the room, again, you can see the skeleton of the roof through the extensive plaster damage. The dormer in this photo overlooks what were once the formal gardens of the house. The 6-over-6 window was replaced with a 6-over-9 - I'm unsure as to whether or not the dormers were altered to accomodate the larger window sash - the sills appear to be lower.

The below photos show the same two corners of the room after the plaster was redone and the south side dormer removed.

This 1921 photo by Frank Cousins (NYPL Digital Collection) shows the ceiling in the parlor apparently being supported by a tree trunk. It is unclear what the pile of wood on the left is.

And the parlor, with all of its original paint, as it appears today, really not too much different other than some plaster restoration in the fireplace:

This photo of Elizabeth's bedroom appeared in the 1930 book Colonial Houses by Philip B. Wallace and is marked HLD on the back. It is believed to have been photographed by Herman Louis Duhring, Jr. who was an architect from the 1890s - 1950s with an interest in Pennsylvania farm houses and restoration of historic structures. Notice the hole in the paneling where a stove pipe went through, lack of tiling on the fireplace, lathe showing through the plaster ceiling, and the door appears too short for the frame, which has been rigged with extra trim to fill in the space. The fireback however appears to be the same that is still in place today.

Elizabeth's room as it appears today. Reproduction tiles have been installed, holes patched, the excess trim and too short door removed.

Since we started with the exterior of the house, we'll end there too. This final shot of the west end, also attributed to Herman Louis Duhring, Jr., shows the end wall covered in vines, so much so that the window believed to have been stoned in during Dr. Graeme's tenure, is not even visible.

And again, as it appears today after the overgrowth was removed, trim painted blue as per the paint analysis, and dormers possibly altered to accomodate the 6-over-9 window sash.

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