Friday, April 25, 2014

Remembering the Past, Building the Future: Our Basement Renovation

Have you ever heard of "marble floors?" The term amusingly refers to the floors of older homes where if you put a marble down at one corner of the room and let go---it rolls and picks up speed as it heads to the other side of the room. Many who own historic homes are familiar with this phenomenon.

Built in 1782, the Sargent House Museum certainly qualifies as an older home! And one could say that the first level of the house has several "marble floors." In order to stabilize the structure of the House, the Museum applied for assistance from MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council who generously provided a Cultural Facilities Fund grant for a basement renovation. The Museum is currently using those grant funds to repair the building’s structure, including replacing beams; repointing and repairing foundation and chimney masonry; replacing a structural pier; and rebuilding basement windows.

Glenn Batten
Glenn Batten, master carpenter and housewright, is handling the restoration of the Sargent House basement. Glenn has extensive experience working on several significant historic properties including many owned by Historic New England.

The renovation work does not include correcting the pitch of the Sargent House's floors, and for very good reason. Glenn and his crew are replacing the original structure below with the goal being to maintain the house in its exact present condition. This is because straightening the floors or attempting to bring them to anything close to level would cause extensive damage to the walls of the museum.

So far Glenn and his team have successfully installed the main beam under the dining room and rebuilt two extant piers as well as an additional supplementary pier at the stairway. The renovation is no easy task, but Glenn and his team are adept at the requisite skills of fitting beams into out of square, out of level, and out of plumb conditions. They are also practiced at assessing loads on a structure and the means of securing existing loads.

Below are some photos of the work. (More can be found on our construction Pinterest page.)

An original, unsound beam, now removed.

Inserting the new beam: testing the fit to be sure it will fit in the space 
where the old damaged section of one beam was removed.

Measuring for the new footing before pouring the concrete.

Glenn says, “One of the main concerns in replacing large timbers in an existing structure is preventing movement and/or damage to the adjoining areas and finishes. For example, preserving the walls, plaster, furnishings, etc.” The photos here (and on Pinterest) help us see what methods are being employed at Sargent House to protect the museum while significant structural repairs are in progress. We can see evidence of the crew's implementation of dust control, protection of adjoining finishes, and tracking movement, for example.  

Work began this week on beam- and joist replacement under the stairway foyer as well as excavation for footing of the (soon to be rebuilt) pier under the museum shop.

Here's a peek:

One interesting find by the crew; several old bottles and some hardware (any thoughts about what these are?) were extracted from inside one of the chimney bases.

If you're interested in learning more about our renovation, and asking Glenn about historic home preservation, please attend our upcoming Preservation Workshop on 4/30 at 5pm. Click on the link below for more details. And, hope see you next week!

By Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, Development Associate

Members: Free. Non-Members: $10
Space is limited. Reserve in advance:

This project is supported in part by
the Cultural Facilities Fund of the Mass Cultural Council,
the Community Preservation Act,
and the Dusky Foundation.

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