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.
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.
In the first weeks of June passersby will notice something very new about the Roseberry House-the original windows have been refurbished where possible and replaced where necessary. The millwork has been competed, stacked up waiting for the windows themselves in the photo below. The original color—a dark brownish red—discovered on a shim beneath one of the original sills was scanned and matched by the nice people at Sherwin-Williams in town, is being applied. The place will begin to approach its original appearance. There’s not enough money available now to replace the shutters, but that will happen next year (we hope!). In the meantime, we’ll have to put plywood over the windows again—to protect them from stone-throwers who pitched rocks through many of the temporary blue plexiglass panels that have been there for the last year. That’s unfortunate, but vandalism is a fact of life, even for historic places.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
ASSESSMENT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
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