Congratulations to Noah Woodruff!

Posted in work plan / schedule on May 21st, 2012 by flg

Noah was the master carpenter on the replacement of the windows and doors. He is the feature in the cover story in the Journal of Light Construction. One has to be a subscriber to see the entire 8 page article, but the first 100 words are free:

We see a lot of old buildings in our work in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. Many are built of stone, which has a unique elegance but also presents some production challenges – for example, how best to install windows and doors, the components most likely to fail. On a recent project, we were asked to repair the windows and doors of a 1760s Georgian stone building. In some cases, we were able to replace just the thresholds, sills, and sash, but many of the openings required complete replacements.

The article has a step-by-step narrative with many excellent photos. I’m trying to get a copy, or permission to display the PDF here, but don’t know if that’s possible. We’re proud of Noah, and delighted to show off his excellent work.

Update on who built the house, and when

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7th, 2012 by flg

It seems appropriate to publish the first picture of the Roseberry House after the windows and shutters have been installed on the day that Dennis Bertland, the architectural historian we’ve engaged to assist us, provided a briefing on his investigation into the date of construction and for whom the house was built.

Contrary to my earliest inference, that it may have been built for John Tabor Kempe before the American Revolution, it appears it was erected in the 1780s or even 1790s for either John Roseberry or Joseph Roseberry, his son. The land was bought at a sheriff’s sale in 1787 by John Roseberry. It is clear that it was owned by Peter Kinney, who had purchased it from Daniel and William Coxe and John Tabor Kempe in 1772. Kinney was deeply involved as a soldier in the war, and his financial affairs were a mess, which resulted in the sheriff’s sale. He almost certainly was not in a position financially to erect the house.

It is unclear which Roseberry had the place built. Joseph purchased the property from his father in 1797, but may have been living there prior to that time. The preliminary dendrochronology report indicates the major timbers for the building were cut in 1788-1800, so it is probable the house was erected then. We may never get a definitive answer on the individual responsible, but we now have a pretty firm date.

Incidentally, by tracing immigration records and ships’ passenger lists Dennis found that the family’s original name was Rosenburger, and the family was German rather than English or Scottish. He says the evidence is not definitive, and genealogies can be confused, but that’s the most likely story based on what he found. There’s much more to come in the next several months; he expects to complete his research by the end of May.

Roseberry House - March 6, 2012

Shutter Installation complete

Posted in programs & activities, Uncategorized on February 20th, 2012 by flg

All nineteen shutters have been installed—we are finally finished with the blue plastic and the plywood. Apart from the time spent attaching the hardware, which was mostly done off-site, each pair of shutters took about an hour-and-a-half to install and fit—my rough estimate—I only actually timed the work on one window. Anyone who was there and watched the process had to be impressed with the amount of individual fitting required. Especially on the window frames that were original; installation on the new frames required less fitting.

The shutters on the first floor of the main part of the house have three panels, and those on the second story are louvered. This was the traditional pattern for Georgian houses of the period. The Spanish Red color is authentic—we found small areas on a shim under the window frame with that color, had it scanned and analyzed, and matched it exactly. It is probably not a coincidence that several of the other dwellings of the same period in this part of the Delaware Valley also used Spanish Red for windows and shutters.

Kitchen window

Shutter Installation

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5th, 2012 by flg

Installation of the new shutters began early (7 am) Saturday morning and will continue over the next two weekends. There are 18 windows that have shutters, and each pair of shutters took a little over two hours to install. There is a considerable amount of measuring and fitting that is required; wood that’s been exposed to the elements for more than 200 years warps and shrinks, and so each shutter had to be measured for each window opening. Differences as small as 1/8 of an inch might be noticeable and might make a difference in how they fit. The strap hinges, the pintels, the locking bolts—the positioning of all were carefully done. Observing the process was cold, but fascinating. Most visitors will never realize the painstaking care that is taken with such apparently small details.

Two craftsmen, working two-and-a-half hours, install two shutters.

Preservation Plan – initial activity

Posted in programs & activities, work plan / schedule on November 17th, 2011 by flg

On Armistice Day (November 11, for those too young to remember the original name) work began on preparation of the Preservation Plan which is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Trust. The morning started with a walk-through and then a close examination of the beams,  joists and other structural elements by engineer Jim Huffman. His report will provide guidance for what is needed to assure long-term stability and adequate load-bearing capacity for the house. Dr. Richard Veit is a dendrochronologist–one who determines the age of a wooden beam by analyzing the annual rings that are formed as the tree grows.

Jim Huffman makes notes after examining the joists in the kitchen

Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year. In some areas of the world, it is possible to date wood back a few thousand years, or even many thousands. In most areas, however, wood can only be dated back several hundred years, if at all. Currently, the maximum for fully anchored chronologies is a little over 11,000 years from present. (That ought to be sufficient for our purposes.)

Dr. Richard Veit drilling a core in the King beam

Richard used a hollow bit to drill in the king beam in the cellar and obtain a wooden core–a cross section of the beam showing the annual growth rings. He took  more samples from the queen beam on the second floor and several in the large lintel over the fireplace in the attached kitchen, obtaining in each case 5-6 inch cores. Those cores then go to the lab at Columbia University, and in a couple of months we may find out when those wooden beams were cut. Richard believes the beams were red oak rather than the more common white oak.

In the afternoon several people from the historical society met with historian Dennis Bertland, listening to him outline the nature of his investigation using deeds, wills, newspaper clippings, court records and other sources which we expect will fill in a lot of the early history of the house. Dennis has done a lot of work in Warren, Hunterdon and Morris, and knows the region’s historical structures quite well; equally important, he is very conversant with the documentary record. I’ve read his report on the “Fleming Castle” in Flemington and the Zion Lutheran Church in Oldwick, and was astonished at the depth of detail Dennis had uncovered.

All three of these reports will be posted on this site when they are received.

$304,000 grant gets approval

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7th, 2011 by flg

The Warren County Municipal and Charitable Conservancy Trust Fund Committee on Monday gave its approval to our request for funding for the next phase of the stabilization and preservation of the Roseberry House. The Board of Freeholders still has to approve the grant, but we expect that will be done at their first meeting in December. I don’t have the exact dollar amount of the grant, but it approximates 78% of the funding we were seeking this time around.  There were 22 applicants (8-10 is normal) and there was not enough money to satisfy everyone. We feel fortunate and appreciative. The bulk of the money will go to masonry repair and repointing the entire structure.

Jeff Finegan speaks on George Washington

Posted in programs & activities on October 24th, 2011 by flg

At the open house on a beautiful Sunday afternoon Jeff Finnegan, who is an expert on George Washington, enthralled the audience with a recounting of significant events in Washington’s life. No, Washington never slept in the Roseberry House, but its construction was more-or-less contemporary with Washington’s assuming command of the Continental army. Finnegan’s was a lively account of Washington’s early years, his development as a public figure at the same time as he was deeply involved in expanding Mount Vernon and engaged in other money-making activities. The windows were all in, the plywood removed and extensive displays of artifacts from the archaeological work were set up inside the house. Announcements had been sent home with students from several of the elementary schools in town, and there were quite a few parents with kids in tow, who toured the house, although I saw no little ones in the audience for Jeff’s talk. High school students from PASS–the town’s alternative high school–assisted with preparations, tours and greeting guests. They were invariably cheerful and very helpful; we hope to see more of them.

Gil Greene introduces Jeff Finnegan

Jeff Finegan address the crowd outside the old kitchen

Pamela Backes readies the front parlor for tours

Open House

Posted in programs & activities on October 1st, 2011 by flg

The Roseberry House will be open for tours and inspection on October 23rd (Sunday) between 1 and 5.  Artifacts from the archaeological dig will be on display–some dating from the early 18th century. At approximately 2 pm there will be a talk by guest speaker Jeff Finegan.  Mr. Finegan lives in an historic house which has been featured for many years on the Tour of Historic Pohatcong;  he will be talking about one of his passions – “George Washington: His Life from Birth to Death”.  C’mon and bring the family.

Windows and doors complete

Posted in Uncategorized on September 4th, 2011 by flg
Roseberry House - September 2, 2011

Roseberry House - September 2, 2011

The initial phase of our stabilization efforts is now completed with the installation of the new and newly-restored windows and doors. Until we have shutters to protect the windows, plywood has been installed in all windows, so the building will not look to the passersby quite like this photo, which was taken on September 2.

Cellar windows installed

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19th, 2011 by flg

detail of the cellar window

The cellar windows are quite different than what we are used to.  Sometimes there was a sill, sometimes not. We elected the no-sill option.  Although the original windows of the Roseberry house have not survived, this style is authentic to the period. There’s no glass in them, but screens on the inside protect against insects, birds and small rodents. I watched the installation of these windows, and they are VERY securely anchored, with heavy bolts into the rock (not the mortar joints). Ultimately they will hardly be noticed—the piazza (porch) will extend the full length of the house when it is rebuilt a couple years from now, and the cellar door and the two cellar windows will be largely overshadowed. If we wind up configuring the cellar for workshops and meetings, we’ll fit them with glass to keep the cold out. But that’s a decision for next year.