Interesting Discoveries

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29th, 2011 by flg

Our master carpenter, Noah Woodruff, last week found a window remnant with splotches of the original dark reddish-brown (or maybe brownish-red—I’m slightly color-blind so I wouldn’t swear by my characterization) paint for the window frames, etc. This week he found an original spindle embedded in the wall at the top of the stairs. We thought all the original spindles had been stolen, but from this one we can recreate the authentic profile. We’ve got some paint scraping coming up, then patching and then the repainting of the window frames (most of which were salvageable). The work is exacting, but it’s intended to last a long, long time.

Work has begun!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2nd, 2011 by flg

The old masonry around the windows and doors is being taken out and the stone reset, but freezing temperatures at night have prevented repointing those areas. That’s not causing any delays because the millwork is still being done. Sections of the old sills have been cut out to give the mill a good profile to work with, and other essential preliminaries have been mostly done. We now await the doors and windows. In the meantime, the parlor provides a nice place to set up for the carpentry.

archaeological report

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6th, 2011 by flg

Synopsis of the Archaeological Study

In May of 2010 Hunter Research began a Phase I/II (identification and assessment-level) archaeological survey of the Roseberry House property in Phillipsburg. The purpose of this investigation was to generate information in support of an assessment of archaeological sensitivity of the property. The Roseberry House site consists of a late 18th-century Georgian-style stone house and surrounding yard. Archaeological excavations around the and within the building yielded 18th through 20th century artifacts. Artifacts from a narrow builder’s trench along the northern side of the house suggest a construction date in the late 18th or very early 19th centuries. Significant stratigraphic sequences within the kitchen wing provided information regarding the building and kitchen wing’s sequence of construction. While 20th-century landscaping and utility installation have impacted the archaeological of the site, significant deposits remain within the kitchen wing; along the eastern and southern side of the kitchen and well; and in the rear yard. The principal product of this work is this report, which includes maps, photographs, details of the subsurface testing results, a catalog of recovered artifacts and an archaeological assessment with a series of recommendations for archaeological resource management, public outreach opportunities and future research.

There was a consistent scatter of artifacts throughout the shovel testing grid. Tests 5, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 26 and 30 yielded significant quantities of historic artifacts. The types of artifacts recovered did not vary significantly across the shovel testing grid; redware, creamware, whiteware, yellowware and ironstone sherds were recovered as well as window and bottle glass, cut nails, wire nails, brick fragments and shell and animal bone fragments. The artifacts represent a typical yard scatter for a property occupied from the late 18th century onwards, though the recovered materials date mostly from the early 19th century and later.

A total of 1,682 artifacts were recovered from the Phase II archaeological investigations conducted at the Roseberry House. No prehistoric artifacts were recovered during the investigation of the property. Building materials and tools/hardware items, such as nails, brick, mortar and window glass, account for 50.7% of the assemblage. Ceramic vessel sherds accounts for 23.1%. Vessel glass (primarily bottle glass) makes up 17.1%. Faunal material accounts for another 3.2% of the assemblage. The remaining categories represent only a very small percentage of the total assemblage. These include pipe stems, lamp chimney glass and hardware, buttons, a buckle, and the penny dating to 1817. . . . Artifacts did not yield any makers marks or diagnostic features that could allow a more specific dating or could help determine their place of manufacture.

Ceramic vessels serve as an important dating tool for archaeologists because so much information is available regarding the dates of manufacture for different types of wares. Although some ceramics with dates of manufacture beginning in the 18th century were recovered, specifically creamware [1762-1820] (20.8%), pearlware [1780-1890?] (10.2%), Chinese export porcelain [1660-1800] (2.2%), Jackfield-type redware [1740-1850] (0.8%), and delftware (tinenameled ware) [1600-1802] (0.3%), the date ranges all extend at least into the early 19th century. There is a notable absence of ceramics common on pre-Revolutionary War sites such as white salt-glazed stoneware and buff-bodied Staffordshire. In summary, the ceramic assemblage recovered from the excavations at the Roseberry House argues for a late 18th-century date (post-Revolutionary War) of initial occupation/ construction, especially considering the presence of redware, creamware and pearlware in the builders’ trench identified in Excavation Unit 2. As noted above, there seems to be a slight change in disposal patterns over time shown by the shovel testing. The artifacts from Shovel Tests 5, 10, 11 and 12 are generally 19th-century in date (whitewares predominate), while those from the apparent concentration southeast of the kitchen wing (Shovel Tests 20, 21, 25 and 26) appear to be earlier (with creamwares and pearlwares present).

Archaeological survey of the Roseberry House property aimed to provide a comprehensive assessment of the archaeological potential of the property. Areas where restoration-related ground disturbance is anticipated were also given particular attention. The results of this investigation are discussed below by general area with specific archaeological resource management recommendations being offered and illustrated in an archaeological sensitivity site plan. Several recommendations regarding avenues of future archaeological investigation are outlined.

$100,000 contract awarded for windows & doors

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4th, 2011 by flg

Here’s the article from Sarah Wojcik at the Express-Times:

Phillipsburg Area Historical Society awards contract to Williams Township company for replacement of windows and doors at Roseberry Homestead

Monday, January 31, 2011
The Express-Times
PHILLIPSBURG | Since its revival more than a year ago, the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society has taken steps to restore the historic Roseberry Homestead, but the latest step is the society’s biggest. It awarded a roughly $99,000 contract last week to R.J. Doerr Co., a Williams Township-based contractor that specializes in historic restorations. Most of the money comes from a $122,000 grant from the Warren County Municipal and Charitable Conservancy Trust Fund, with the society pulling another $20,000 from its own coffers, which were slowly filling with donations and dues.
“This is the first big expenditure that the historic society has ever made,” society member Frank Greenagel said. “It’s an enormous step, emotionally if you will. Once you have that money there’s a reluctance to spend it.” Society President Randy Piazza said the decision to invest a large chunk of its own money in the project on Warren Street near the middle school should help allay any lingering concerns about the society’s lack of progress on the homestead over the past few decades. “To me it shows the commitment that the historical society is willing to make to try and preserve the history and heritage of the town,” Piazza said. Since first organizing in the early 1970s, the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society’s membership gradually faded and Greenagel said projects had a hard time gaining traction as the group focused on several different ventures. The narrower focus of the newly revived group aims to tackle specific projects, the Colonial Roseberry Homestead chief among them. “You’re talking about pride and ownership,” Piazza said of the effort.
The scope of work
Bob Doerr, founder of R.J. Doerr Co., said he hopes to begin work within the next month replacing most of the doors and windows in the Georgian-style home. Doerr, whose 21-year-old company has worked on Easton’s Bachmann Publick House and the 1750/1761 Smithy in Bethlehem, said the Roseberry Homestead is unique because so much of the original structure remains. “That’s somewhat rare,” he said. “You’re going to get a true sense at the end of the project of what was originally there.” Architect Michael Margulies has designed the renovation, which includes restoring and replacing the building’s doors and windows, according to Doerr.  “No two windows require the same exact scope of work unless it’s a replacement,” he said. Greenagel said Doerr’s expertise and experience in period architecture gave the company the edge. The society sought proposals from as many as nine firms, including one as far away as Chicago.
“It’s just a delight to find someone so close that has this kind of experience,” Greenagel said. Renovating a building registered with the state Historic Preservation Office is complicated, he said. “Unfortunately we can’t go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and order aluminum (windows). They really have to be as historic as possible,” Greenagel said. Doerr said his workers embrace the challenge. “None of my guys get involved in this business to just do the boilerplate projects,” Doerr said. “It’s very gratifying restoring (historic properties). You feel like you’re doing some broader public good.”
Greenagel said the money used to pay for the latest improvements to the homestead will not come out of the sizable Scott Curzi Memorial Fund set up to remember the passionate preservation enthusiast who died in November 2009. “We thought there would be a better way to remember Scott than installing a couple of windows in his name,” Greenagel said. The society is working with Curzi’s family to identify a broader, educational use for the roughly $13,000 fund established at the society in his name.
The society is still awaiting word on a $50,000 grant from the Garden State Historic Trust that Greenagel expects to learn about in the coming weeks.

Ole Towne Festival

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25th, 2010 by flg

In spite of searing heat, John Torkos, Dave Cheatman & Charlie Breeland marched into Walters Park in full regalia on Saturday. They had to pause several times for pictures with swarms of kids (and a few old-timers, too), as they marched to the fife and drum to the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society tent. There they posed for more pictures, responded to questions about their uniforms and experiences as re-enactors. This is the second year John Torkos has joined us.

John Torkos, Dave Cheatam, Charlie Breeland

Mark your Calendar

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30th, 2010 by flg

July 24 & 25 are Ole Towne Festival days in Phillipsburg, and the Roseberry House will be open to all.  Our hours are 10 am to about 5 pm both Saturday and Sunday, and there is free parking (the Middle School parking lot), and a shuttlebus from the main festivities at Walters park to the Roseberry House, just about 3 blocks away.

We’ll have a full schedule of period music (more about that in a post next week) and re-enacters. We’ve learned a lot about the wall paintings and stenciling, and hope to have some artifacts on display.

the dig is on

Posted in Uncategorized, work plan / schedule on May 1st, 2010 by flg

documenting the unit outside the kitchenDocumentation is an important part of every archaeological dig. Dan is in the trench (called a “unit”) and Andy is recording the depth at which the soil changed from one color and texture to another. Every bit of glass, pottery, nails, etc. is recorded by the  depth where it was found. Nothing very dramatic about this unit, but cumulatively all the little pieces may tell us something of the lifestyle of the people who lived here a hundred, or perhaps even 250 years ago.

Andy, Dan and Jim Lee will be digging underneath the floor in the kitchen next week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday). All are invited to come and watch. And take a look at the unique wall painting and stenciling in the parlors.

archaeological work to begin April 26

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19th, 2010 by flg

Jim Lee of Hunter Research will begin the archaeological work at the site on April 26. He and another archaeologist expect to be there all week. The Hunter group will sample the builder’s trench, the “patio” area off the kitchen where we hope to find the privy, and the area underneath the kitchen floor. All are welcome to stop by, but don’t expect any dramatic finds. We hope to find a few things that date to the eighteenth century that tell us something of the lifestyle of the inhabitants. A lot of the work takes place in the lab following the dig, so we may not know anything new by the end of the week.  On the other hand, you never know.

wall painting & stenciling

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15th, 2010 by flg
an 8 inch portion of one column of daisies

an 8 inch portion of one column of daisies

Chris Frey spent the day in the two parlors at the Roseberry house on Wednesday. He uncovered several major areas and took samples. He determined that the paint is a distemper—a water-soluble type common in the colonial period, and that the paintings are covered with 5-7 layers of whitewash.

The background color of the wall is a medium gray—what photographers would classify as an 18% gray, which seems pretty dark. There are five colors used in the decoration—black, dark gray, light gray, buff, and red. We’ll know more about them when the lab analysis is completed in about a month.

There are several patterns repeated at various places—a pattern of crescent-shaped leaves and dots along the vertical edges of the walls and doors, two different horizontal patterns below the chair rails and above the baseboards, and alternating columns of daisy-like flowers and floral patterns. It appears there are stencils, free-hand painting and stamps—almost perfect circles of gray dots about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. Black is frequently used to produce a sort of trompe l’oeil effect with flower petals and sword-like leaves. The red pigment appears to be the top layer, and may come off very easily; there are areas we think were red at one time but only the barest traces remain.

There is a great deal more work and analysis to be done, even after all the chipping, peeling and lab analysis is complete. A cursory examination suggests three techniques were used—stenciling, free-hand painting, and stamping, but when we really enlarge the images we’ll get a better sense of the techniques and the order in which the various layers were applied.

Nether Chris nor I have the artistic background to make anything of these patterns. We examined photos from two books on early American Wall Painting and Stenciling, but gained no insight from them. We’re not claiming they are unique, but they are certainly not common. The Roseberry house  is a special place, but the wall paintings may turn out to be the defining characteristic, studied and cited by scholars of the decorative arts in the American colonial period.

Analysis of wall paintings

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30th, 2010 by flg

Chris Frey of the Keystone Preservation group will begin to remove layers of paint from a small portion of the parlor wall on Wednesday, April 14. He’ll be there all day, and says it won’t bother him if people want to stop by to observe. He said he’ll probably know a little more in the afternoon, but major results won’t be known until samples of the paint are sent away for chemical analysis. Still, we should begin to see more of some of the areas with the old floral patterns.

daisies in the parlor

daisies in the parlor