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.
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.)
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.