WV -- Harpers Ferry NHP -- Exhibit: Reading an Old Building:
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HAROLD_141111_008.JPG: Unraveling the Past
Come and see how the history of a building can be read. Clues to the past of this structure are all around for you to see.
Historic structures present a challenge -- and many questions. How did it appear originally? What changes have occurred? What treatment should it receive?
Historians, architects, and archeologists combine skills to answer these questions. Each searches for clues, and each contributes pieces to the puzzle. See what clues you can discover as you solve this building's mysteries.
The clues discovered help to decide this building's future. Options include:
Preservation: maintaining existing form and materials
Stabilization: reinforcing the structure and making it weather resistant
Rehabilitation: altering original design and adding utilities for present-day use
Restoration: returning the structure to its original form and use
HAROLD_141111_018.JPG: The Historic Record
Records in the local courthouse, newspapers, and photo collections tell us about a building's occupants and uses.
1751 Deed: Lord Fairfax grants 125 acres to Robert Harper.
1803 Map: A survey map shows a garden on this location.
1824 Lease: A stone stable on this lot is leased to the Harpers Ferry Hotel.
1844 Deed: The lot is divided in half and two separate owners construct this building; each owning a half.
1844 Newspaper Ads: At least nine
different businesses used the first floor, including "Solomon Snook and Bushrod Pine's Dry Goods Store" and the "New and Cheap Clothing Store."
Pictures are the best evidence of earlier appearance. Compare the 1862 Civil War sketch with the photograph. What are the similarities and differences? How do they compare to the present exterior?
Earliest known photograph of this building, taken sometime between 1865 and 1879.
HAROLD_141111_022.JPG: Small Clues Yield Big Answers
An architect can discover parts of the building's past in objects as small as the nails holding up the lath and plaster overhead. The appearance of nails changed during the 19th century due to new technology.
1. Hand-wrought nails (before 1800) were produced by blacksmiths.
2. Machine-cut nails between 1790 and 1820 had heads forged with hammers.
3. Machine-headed nails were made between 1815 and 1880. They were produced entirely by machine which saved time, labor, and money.
4. Wire nails have been made from 1880 to the present.
Different saw marks are seen in large wood members of this building. They indicate different time periods and advancing technology.
Straight vertical cut marks indicate a sash saw, a type used between 1790 and 1890. Even spacing between cut marks results from a ratchet system that advanced wood through the saw at equal intervals.
Circular saw patterns are easy to see. They indicate wood probably cut after 1860. Circular saws became popular because they increased speed, efficiency, and production.
HAROLD_141111_056.JPG: Keeping Warm:
This fireplace shows a sequence of events. What do you see?
1. Notice the vertical line which separates the fireplace from the wall. If the fireplace had been built as part of the wall, no vertical line would exist.
2. Why was the fireplace opening bricked in? Perhaps it was for installation of a more efficient heating system.
3. A pipe hole cut into the chimney suggests that a stove replaced the fireplace as the primary heat source for this building.
Later the wall of a new alley isolated this fireplace. That left only one stove/fireplace to heat the entire first floor.
HAROLD_141111_064.JPG: "New" Alley:
Originally, two owners split this building in half with each separated by a control alleyway. After 1860, one owner acquired the entire structure which allowed him to move the alley from the center of the first floor to this side.
1. Back entrance of alley.
2. Remnant of foundation for wall that separated the alley from the interior of the building.
3. Ceramic tile drain under alley drained water runoff from the cliffs behind this building into Shenandoah Street.
Several clues in the back wall, to your right, show that this alley was added after completion of the original building. What alterations can you see?
HAROLD_141111_079.JPG: A Building Split In Half:
This is how the alleyway may have appeared in the late 1840s,
Do you see the original alley? Although formerly a closed corridor through the center of the building, this alley was dismantled sometime after 1860. It was then covered by fill, a floor, and, later, a concrete pad.
Based on a tip from historians, who discovered reference to the alley in a deed, archeologists excavated and found the original alley.
These parallel foundations show the original walls which divided the building in half. Each half had a separate owner.
Notice the stone fill in the middle of the front wall. When the alley closed, the original entrance was converted into a window.
HAROLD_141111_092.JPG: Reading an Old Building:
In the 19th century carpenters evened floors by chiseling from the underside. Today, floorboards are cut with greater precision, and power sanders are used to remove uneveness from the top.
The marks of hammer chisels can be seen on the floorboards above and to your right.
Variations in hammer chisel marks provide clues about the workmen and the ways they used their tools. There is evidence here of at least two different workmen on the same job.
HAROLD_141111_097.JPG: Reading an Old Building:
The Mysteries Hidden Below
Many parts of an old building's story lie below ground level. Foundation walls, discarded building materials, and long-forgotten artifacts may yield important clues about construction and use through time.
1. Archeologists discovered this foundation and determined that it predated the existing building. The clue that led archeologists to this conclusion is that the foundation lies beneath the alley walls. This suggests its earlier construction.
Archeologists found no artifacts which identified the original purpose of the earlier building. Historians helped solve the mystery with an 1820s map showing a stone stable on this site.
2. The wall corner shows the interior of the earlier structure. How far can you trace the walls? If you were the archeologist, what questions would you like to answer?
3. Even bedrock provides clues. Here the absence of foundations indicates no construction below this point.
HAROLD_141111_116.JPG: Reading an Old Building:
A Building with Only Two Walls:
You are now looking at the exterior wall of an earlier building. How do you determine this? One cue is the brick. This is "hard brick," a type manufactured of special clay and kilned to resist moisture. Building materials were scarce in the 19th century, and this brick would not have been wasted in walls not exposed to the elements.
When the building you are in was constructed in 1844, the exterior walls of both neighboring structures became interior walls of this building. Only the front and back walls are "new".
You can see several types of brick in the fireplace in front of you.
1. Brick of wall once shared with building next door.
2. Former exterior wall, with plaster added to cover wall after construction of this building.
3. Former interior wall, comprised of soft bricks.
Fire destroyed the building next door in 1914. This common wall for the two structures escaped demolition but the soft bricks, formerly inside the adjoining structure, have deteriorated due to decades of exposure.
When you step outside you will see an example of stabilization next door -- a painted soft brick wall supported by steel beams to keep it from crumbling.
HAROLD_141111_127.JPG: Reading an Old Building:
This building has had many changes during the past 150 years. What would you do with it?
The National Park Service has selected stabilization for this structure, but other options -- preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration -- have been used for other buildings throughout the park.
The closed-in window in front of you provides an opportunity to test your options.
Preservation -- Make no changes from current appearance.
Stabilization -- Do not change form but repoint mortar joints to ensure weather resistance.
Rehabilitation -- Install a completely new interior wall and block former window completely. Interior becomes office space or modern exhibit.
Restoration -- Reopen window, making it the same size and appearance as other windows. Interior becomes 1850s shop exhibit.
1. Master Armorer's House . . .Preserved
2. This, the Tearney, Building Stabilized
3. John Brown museum.....Rehabilitated
4. Harper House........Restored
HAROLD_141111_144.JPG: Reading an Old Building:
Use and Reuse:
Have you ever struggled to scrape down layers of wallpaper and paint while remodeling your house? If so, you have literally stripped the history from a house.
Layers of paint and wallpaper are like an old diary -- they tell much about a pest culture and the personality and tastes of earlier occupants.
The orderly sequence of layers allows and architect to date walls, ceilings, floors, and moldings. What layers do you see?
Different occupants altered this room and then reused materials. Notice the changes in moldings around doors and baseboards. Can you discover where the doorway once connected two apartments?
AAA "Gem": AAA considers this location to be a "must see" point of interest. To see pictures of other areas that AAA considers to be Gems, click here.
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