Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Knox Hill Project : Weekly Update

It will not be long before the dining room is back to its 1871 glory
While a three day weekend might have meant rest and relaxation for some, as you all know when you are in restoration a long weekend  just translates into more time to work and such was the case for us.. The time was put to good use with clearing parts of the flower garden (harvesting more seeds for next year) as well as some paint touchups on the exterior.

You can see some of the stencilling incarnations here in the dining room
 However most of the work has been on the interior and specifically the dining room. This room perhaps saw the greatest changes over the years of any part of the house and semed to go through several decorating changes over the years from the original heavily stenciled Neo Grec walls of 1871 to a floral stencilling  with tan base circa 1900, a solid Red , probably circa 1930, a lighter lavender (1950's) followed by two paintings of white. This has been a most challenging room in terms of research as at some point the ceiling was papered. This was often done to cover cracking. Sometimes you get lucky and the ceiling is just revealed. Such was not the case with us and I had to resort to black light to get proper ghosting images and between some careful cleaning was able to get  a general mapping and pattern markings to determine the stencil ceiling design. It is an elaborate pattern of multple band of Neo Grec designs with corner blocks and a mid field repeat . There were also muliple color bands and the stencil a repeat at the center which acted as a center medallion field for what we presume must have been a hanging oil lamp of some sort as there is evidence upstairs that this area was reinforced in the floor. These lamps were on a pulley system to raise and lower them. Gas lighting did not get up the hill until the late 1880's so the oil lanp predated that.

The east wall is typical, lots of paint loss and repairs over the years
The big issue at this point was how to proceed. Only the west wall is intact with original plaster and it has issues. The ceilng is severly cracked and in talking to some collegues in the field we all agree the full restoration (actually recreation) would be cost prohibitive. So the plan was determined to stablize the plaster ceiling, Map the stencil points on it and cover it with drywall and I will recreate the designs on that. The estimated cost of dining room decorative restoration could easily approach 30-40K and we simply can't justify that expense. Restoration is often about choices and this will make sure that what is there is preserved intact and the recreation will illustrate what lies beneath.

The new ceiling will provide a flat surface for recreation of the stencils . The cracks in the original plaster have been stabilized with injection adhesives so they will remain properly keyed.
 An archive documentation packet was placed under the drywall detailing what was found, explaination of the mapping of the stencil points done in the corner. This back documentation will be included in our National registry nomination for the house so there will be an established record of documentation of the house.. My 'big project' is to take the photos of the mapping, translate them into designs done to scale and to create the stencils that will be used to recreate the designs. Stay tuned as this next epic project unfolds.

If all of that wasn't enough I helped a neighbor with a window framing project and some aspects of their house restoration. We also have yet another restoration effort by more urban pioneers going like gangbusters over on Fairmount which I will try to shoot some photos. In spite of a city government that does nothing but throw redtape and roadblocks at preservation , Knox Hill is coming back!

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