Monday, July 16, 2012

Conant House Rehabilitation

Welcome back to the Heritage House Program blog! We all hope you enjoyed your Fourth of July and had time to stop by the museum to help us celebrate. There were a lot of exciting things going on here and we were all very excited to help welcome 101 new American citizens at the Naturalization Ceremony. Once again, we were also very proud to show off our Heritage House Program houses and get people excited in all the great things that this program will do for the museum and the residents that will occupy the restored and rehabilitated spaces. Today’s post is about the Conant House which is located on Washington Street in the North East corner of the museum.

The Conant House is not officially a part of the Heritage House Program but nonetheless it is a very interesting preservation story, and the concept for its rehabilitation/restoration is very much in line with the principles we carry out when rehabilitating an HHP house. Stephen Bedard of Bedard Preservation and Restoration LLC has signed a lease with Strawbery Banke Museum to rent a unit in the restored house for 33 years. More importantly, however, this lease includes that Stephen Bedard will be restoring, preserving, and rehabilitating the house. Stephen has been allotted two years to complete the rehabilitation. All architectural elements deemed significant will be retained. By the time the first snow falls (later rather than sooner!) he plans to have several different aspects of the rehabilitation accomplished, and we are looking forward to seeing the progress. Eventually the Conant House will be two residential units—a one bedroom unit, and a two bedroom unit. 

The Conant House is actually divided into three parts and the contractor feels that the architectural significance of the house remains in the main house and the first addition. The existing building will be kept as it appears now along Washington and Jefferson streets, which is basically how it looked ca. 1791/1795, before the latest addition was added to it. The main house was built ca. 1769 and the addition to the right hand side of the house was built somewhere between 1791-1795. 
View of the original house from Jefferson Street. The bump out in the back corner of the house if part of the addition that was added between 1791-1975

Front view of the Conant House on Washington Street. The front door and everything to the left of it is the original maine structure. Everything to the right of the doorway is the 1791-1795 addition to the house. 

Although most of the investigative work required in order to complete this project has been done it is very important to note that as construction is under way it is very possible that new architectural elements will be revealed. This helps us to understand the historic properties of the house and can even help to tell us when the house switched owners and what changes they made to the building. If any unexpected architectural elements are found Stephen will work closely with Strawbery Banke’s resident preservation carpenter, John Schnitzler to make sure that the house keeps as much architectural significance as possible.

Stephen Bedard gave a tour of the house to Chief Curator, Elizabeth Farish, Director of Special Projects and Facilities, Rodney Rowland, and Historic Preservation intern Catey Fischer. Below are pictures taken by Catey on the tour. Please browse through them in order to get a better sense of what changes will be made, what architectural elements were discovered, and what we hope to achieve in the final product.    

This is a picture of the middle room in the main house. The main house had three rooms upstairs and three rooms downstairs. Stephen Bedard is headed into the back room.

This fireplace is located in the middle room of the original house but was not added until 1795 when Joseph Brown had ownership of the property. 

View of what was the front room in the main house. You can see the change in the direction of the floorboards in the two halves of the room, distinguishing the front room from the middle room. This front room used to be a tailor shop operated by William Ham. 

This hearth oven is located in the back room of the original house. It was originally a fireplace that was converted into a stove. Old newspapers were found inside the stove and baking oven dated 1840, so that may have been the last time it was used. 

This is a picture of what was the wall that lead to the backyard before the addition was put on behind it. Architectural evidence of a window and a door were found here. This would have been the exit to the yard where the privy was located. 

Located in the back room/kitchen of the original house this is the space where the cellar stairs were. The stairs are now covered by this wall, but plans to rehabilitate the stairs are in place.

These ballisters in the entryway of the main house are original to the pre 1778 house. 

This is a fireplace located in the upstairs back room. It is boarded up currently, but this is a great example of beautiful architectural paneling that we plan to save as construction continues. 

This is the front room in the addition. Dental crown molding pictured here can be seen all throughout the room. 
This is the front wall in the front room of the 1791-1795 addition to the house. If you look closely you can see that the windows are not evenly aligned with each other. Throughout the entire addition you can feel the tilt in the floorboards, but it is not due to rot or unsafe conditions in the house. The house was simply under-built when it was constructed so there are many places where it sags. 

Evidence of dental crown molding in the downstairs front room of the 1971-1975 addition.  This room was operated as a cafe and restaurant for many years and in the process of redecorating owners have stripped most of the room of its dental crown molding.  The molding will be restored.

This is the wall leading into the back room of the 1791-1795 addition. It was believed that there used to be a window and a door located on this wall but upon deconstruction it was discovered that there was only a window there. The window would have been located just about to the right of where the current doorway is located. This wall is a prime example of the point made earlier; that architectural evidence can be found after research is done. 

On the other side of this wall is the back room in the original house. Evidence that a scullery was located in this exact spot was found in the hole in the ceiling, pictured here. 

This is a picture of the wall in the hole in the ceiling pictured above. If you look closely, just underneath the nail you can see a line that shows change in the coloration of the wood. This helps us to prove not only that there was a scullery located here, but we can find exactly where it was as well. The picture below points it out, so you can see it more clearly. 

This is the part of the addition that will be taken down in order to add  more backyard space. 

Thank you all for continuing to read the Heritage House Program Blog! If you have any questions about our program you can e-mail us at Keep checking weekly to see more posts here about the progress being made on the houses!

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