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.

$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.

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.

parking for Thomas the Tank

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15th, 2011 by flg

Jimmy entertains the kids as Donna Curzi Fulton and Johnny Pappas look on

When Thomas the Tank engine comes to Phillipsburg, we park cars. More than $5,000 was raised for the third year in a row, all of which goes to support the Roseberry house preservation effort in one way or another. In the photo, Johnny Pappas and Donna Curzi Fulton pose with Jimmy, who enchanted many of the kids (and frightened a few). We had about a dozen volunteers—some from the Historical Society and some old friends of Scott’s—tending the parking for the six days of Thomas. Danette again organized the volunteers, and was there all the time.

Another piece of the puzzle

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24th, 2011 by flg

Preservation work often turns up more questions than immediate answers when one is digging around in an old building. While preparing the window openings for new or repaired sills, our lead carpenter, Noah Woodruff, discovered this small domino underneath the old sill. It’s handmade, and probably of whalebone, or maybe ivory; definitely not cow bone or wood. The “spots” are hand-drilled holes, and the divider between the two sides has been sawn or filed. The holes are not perfectly aligned and the divider is a little crooked. The domino is 2.7 cm long and about .5 cm high. We don’t know the date of it—probably late-eighteenth century, or why it was under the sill. Seems like it had to have been placed there deliberately. These are the kinds of artifacts that may tell us something about the lifestyle and culture of the early inhabitants—or the builder. As we learn more, we’ll post additional information here.


Fitting the window sills

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17th, 2011 by flg

Fitting the window sills on the front of the house is a slow process, requiring measurement, double-checking the measurement, then trying the fit. Marking up the places that need to be shaved down and then a little work with saw, plane or chisel. The sills are made of white oak, like the originals. They were delivered with a coat of primer, but will soon be painted the original reddish-brown. Noah Woodruff, the master carpenter responsible for this part of the task, uncovered a small oak shim tucked back in underneath the sill, with traces of the original paint. It had been protected from the weather, and has a couple of hand-wrought nails. We expect more of the millwork will be delivered this week, including the original front door. It needed a lot of work, but instead of replacing it, we’re saving as much of the original woodwork as we can.

$50,000 Grant Awarded

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3rd, 2011 by flg

The mayor recently received word from the Governor’s Office that the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society/Roseberry House was awarded a $50,000 Garden State Trust grant for the purpose of preparing a Preservation Plan. These grants are highly competitive, require a matching contribution from the requesting party, and are limited to $50,000  in the category for which we applied (most awards are for considerable less). The Historical Society was able to match on a 1:2 basis because of the generous grant from the Warren County Municipal & Charitable Conservancy Trust a year ago. The Preservation Plan will include further historical analysis in an attempt to determine the date of construction, paint and mortar analysis, an engineering/structural analysis, and preparation of a sustainability report. Architect Michael Margulies will be directing the preparation of the Preservation Plan.