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

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.

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.

First Meeting at Roseberry House

Posted in programs & activities on June 18th, 2011 by flg

On Thursday, July 16, the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society met for the first time in about 35 years at the Roseberry House. Michael Margulies spoke about the philosophy and process of preservation, highlighted by his work at the Vanatta Farm, the Vail house in Historic Speedwell (Morristown), and at the Roseberry House (of course). There were about 30 people in attendance–some standing–as space was limited in part due to the fact that it is still a “construction zone.” We had the pleasure of hosting Catherine Goulet, Principal Historic Preservation Specialist with the New Jersey Historic Trust. She got a thorough tour of the house and a sense of how we were approaching the preservation task. The Trust is the state entity that recently awarded the Society a $50,000 grant to prepare a Preservation Plan.

Windows and doors are now being installed, but the work goes deliberately, as there is still a lot of fitting and adjusting. We expect all to be completed within two weeks. And then the plywood goes back up to protect against vandalism, until we have shutters made.

Michael Margulies, Frank Greenagel, Cathy Goulet and Wayne Sherer in the hall of the Roseberry House

Information for Bidders–revised

Posted in programs & activities, work plan / schedule on November 8th, 2010 by flg

We are bidding the stabilization/restoration work for the Roseberry House now— primarily windows, doors, gutters and some masonry. Bidding documents are available here. We expect the winning bid will come from a firm that has extensive experience on 18th century stone buildings on the National Register.  Here are the first several paragraphs of the official notice:

  1. Notice is hereby given that bids will be received by the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society at 675 Corliss Boulevard, Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey for the ROSEBERRY HOUSE STABILIZATION PHASE 1.
  2. Bids will be received for the following contracts:
  3. Overall Single Prime (all of the work)

Bids for the above Contracts will be received by The Phillipsburg Area Historical Society, 375 Corliss Avenue, Phillipsburg, NJ  08865 until 2 pm, Local Time, on Tuesday, November 30, 2010, and will be publicly opened and read aloud immediately thereafter.

  1. Bidding Documents are being revised to encourage bidding on individual parts of the work (masonry, gutter & downspouts, etc).
  2. The plans and specifications already posted have not changed, but bidding requirements and procedures have been revised as of November 23.

All bid documents can be downloaded from the menu on the right, under Pages/Revised Bid Documents.

Additional information is available from Frank Greenagel, 908 627-1234, or from the architect, Michael Margulies at 908-387-8630. To arrange a tour of the building please call  Mr. Greenagel.

Olde Towne Festival music

Posted in programs & activities on July 6th, 2010 by flg

Ed Saultz has again arranged for several musical groups to perform at the Roseberry House during the Olde Towne Festival (July 24-25). The music is traditional and the performers are professional. The sound just totally filled the house last year. Depending on the weather, we may have the concerts outside this year. Here’s the schedule:

July 24, 2010

11:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Colonial Fife and Drum  (Dave Cheatham, Charlie Breeland) duo in period costumes presenting at the house and marching around Walters Park

2:00 to 3:30 PM
Traditional ensemble performing Ireland’s traditional dance tunes and songs – Terry Hartzell, Uilleann Pipes, Flute, and Whistle, Megan Everett, Vocals, and Rick Weaver, Guitar and Vocals.

4:00 to 5:30 PM
The Crooked Road featuring Iris Nevins, harp and Gina Tlamsa, flute
performing the music of Turlough O’Carolan and more.

July 25, 2010

11:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Colonial Colonial Fife and Drum  (Dave Cheatham, Charlie Breeland) duo in period costumes presenting at the house and marching around Walters Park.

2:00 to 3:30 PM
Dave Reber, hammered dulcimer performing the traditional music of Appalachia and the Civil War era.

4:00 to 5:30 PM
Ted Fenstermacher, fiddle and Ed Saultz, guitar performing the traditional music of Appalachia and the Civil War era

waiting for the analysis

Posted in programs & activities on June 4th, 2010 by flg

The preliminary investigation is finished and now we’re just waiting for the lab analysis from the archaeologists and the paint and color specialists. No dramatic discoveries that will make any headlines, but an accretion of little things that ought to give us a better idea of  when the building was constructed, the walls plastered, and the painting and stencils applied. The wall paintings really are exceptional, and soon we’ll post a schematic from Autocad that will give everyone a good idea of what the parlors would have looked a couple hundred years ago. It’s been a pleasure being there with Chris Frey and Frank Welsh, listening to them explain something about the several layers of plaster, for example, or the profile of the nails pried from the lath and what that tells us about the age of the building. There’s years of scholarship behind those generalizations and inferences.  I’ll eventually post the complete reports here in the hope that a few people will be as interested as I am.

update February 4

Posted in programs & activities, work plan / schedule on February 11th, 2010 by flg

We’ve had visits from Jim Lee of Hunter Research (archaeologists) and Chris Frey of Keystone Preservation (the wall paints and mortar analysis) in the last week, in both cases looking ahead to the research work that is critical to dating and preserving the property. Actual work will have to await warmer weather, probably in late March. But we did map out the areas where the archaeologists will do some digging, and we identified several panels in the parlor where the task of removing the layers of paint atop the wall paintings will begin. Chris was amazed at the extent of the paintings, which he said were usually confined to a single room or two. We plan to invite scholars and students from universities with major preservation programs (Columbia, Drew, Penn) to visit us during some of Chris’ work, and hope that we can find a graduate student or two who might consider doing a thesis or dissertation on the paintings and their preservation. We are going to put the Roseberry house on the map!

Report on the Open House

Posted in programs & activities, volunteers & sponsors on October 23rd, 2009 by wpw

Well-attended, even on a rainy blustery Saturday.


Cars line the parking area...

This way in...

This way in...


Welcome to the house!

Visitors checking the place out.

Visitors checking the place out.

I was there around 2 pm. By that time the logbook was filling nicely (about 15-20 visitors by that point). The Society was well represented by Pam and Rich Backes and their son Matt, Sue Brooks and Steve Zarbatany. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Update: We understand from Pamela & Rich that more than 50 people visited, including many seniors.  Scott Curzi deposited $90 in contributions that were gathered that day, which is a very nice total.