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.


  1. Thanks for this great post. I always enjoy before and after "themes." And I love the Keith House, so this is very satisfying. Keep up the good work!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it John. Thanks for reading. Maybe we'll see the silver box out here sometime.


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