While most people enjoy a summertime filled with beach trips or traveling the world, we chose a different route. We love learning new things, so once Gus and I found an opportunity that allowed us to expand our knowledge, we could not hesitate! This was Three Weeks of Field Methods in Preservation Technology, or as we like to call it, “Summer Camp for Preservation Nerds”.
Learn about what we did during our time there, a daily recap of our first two weeks, and even get some preservation tips from our new knowledge base by reading on!
Day 1: Metals
Today we learned that we are braver than we think. Usually, I, personally, avoid fire at all costs due to an unfortunate Oriental rug fire when I was a kid. I handled the bellows and remained calm even as the clinker in the fire began raging. I really enjoyed hammering the iron into shape on the anvil, although my nail was a bust.
Day 2: Woodworking
We could also call this “Moravian Cross-Fit” day. I, myself, don’t have much experience with an axe, so today was another day where I expanded my comfort level. I rived and shaped shingles (fun!), hewed a log, used an adze and began identifying tool marks on wood. Bethabara Park is lovely with a rich history and a beautiful church. I loved imagining traders from the Great Wagon Road stopping into the tavern for a pint.
Day 3: Wood Joinery
There is a lathe in my future! I found the rhythm of the pedal lathe to be zen-like, and I am anxious to turn more. I began with a cedar log, cut it down using a froe and dogwood hammer, and then used a drawknife and dummkopf to whittle it down to a size that is ready for the lathe. Impressive! I also really enjoyed using the plane from the 1800’s to create wood molding. Maybe I have a future in woodworking…watch out Gus!
Day 4: Bricks
Brett Sturm, NC SHPO, is a brick enthusiast who certainly opened my eyes to just how beautiful brick is. We took a fantastic walking tour of Old Salem and analyzed the wacky brick patterns made by Johann Gottlob Krause on the façade of the Tavern. The photographs are of a Flemish Bond in Old Salem and Common Bond made by Gus with the baby bricks.
Day 5: Wing It When the Mason Fails to Show Up
I learned there is a difference between cemetery and graveyard and we took a walking tour of both. I was astounded by the rich African American history of Salem and am saddened by the enslavement of these Moravian brothers and sisters. A fellow classmate somehow secured a mason to teach us tuckpointing, and his enthusiasm for the craft was catching. My favorite event of the day was our private tour of MESDA!! The incredible preserved rooms and an original Thomas Day furniture piece made this tour outstanding.
Day 6: Wil(t)son!
I have a new hero, and her name is Monica Davis! What a brilliant and caring entrepreneur. We toured Monica’s shotgun houses in the historic East Wilson neighborhood and then got straight to work pulling up flooring. The houses were originally built as rental housing for African-American tobacco warehouse workers. Monica wants to eventually sell the homes to the renters to increase ownership in the community. I love that Monica is using historic tax credits to guide her rehabilitation. The future is bright for Wilson!
Wil(t)son: Home of the Best Fried Chicken, Ever!
The Whole Truth Restaurant was worth the trip to Wilson. I am intrigued by this church-run restaurant that serves the best soul food I have ever had. I want to know more about their mission, and if I had to write another research brief I think it would be about churches and the creative use of their existing space. Oh, and I ordered fried chicken, black-eyed peas and cabbage. Delish!
DAY 7: DEMO!
With the knowledge we gained from our week in Old Salem we were ready to put it to good use; ripping out flooring as well as window removal and tearing out rotten siding. The sill plate was very rotten but with some quick thinking by Gus, and the SHPO’s, a plan was put in place that saved as much existing fabric as possible and stabilized the sill.
Day 8: Time to “Right” the Column
We used historic photographic evidence and ghost paint lines to replace an inaccurate column with one that was historically accurate. It was disappointing that we could not replace the other column because the masonry pier the column will sit on is damaged and will not support the weight of the house. This could have been avoided by running a plumb line to check if the pier and corner of the house were still in alignment. This would have allowed for the pier to be repaired prior to our arrival.
Day 9: Putting Back Together What We Have Torn Apart
The siding job has been quite a detailed project! We fabricated historically appropriate drip edges copied from a piece found on site, preserved most of the original sill and replaced rotten clapboard siding. I loved using a hammer and chisel to remove the rotten sill and loved driving nails into the siding. This was an exciting part of the restoration that required creative thinking, math skills, and muscle. I am proud to have been a part of this.
Day 10: That’s A Wrap!
Today we finished the siding project and rehung the windows. This has been an incredibly rewarding week and one that I was sad to see end. I feel that I am personally invested in these homes and I cannot wait to see the final product. The week was spent doing so many things I don’t have room to mention here, but Reid Thomas’ presentation on lime based plasters, paints and the breathability of homes was mind-blowing!
Day 11: Cemetery Restoration
What an honor to serve the memory of enslaved African Americans in Old Salem today. I learned there is a difference between a cemetery and graveyard, and more work with lime! Did I mention that I need three weeks just to learn about lime, fabulous lime? I hope that in the future Old Salem will add a historical marker to the cemetery so more people will take time to honor those that are laid to rest here.
Day 12: Windows – Don’t Replace, Restore!
Double Hung is awesome! I am so impressed with their business, enthusiasm, and expert craft. After an incredible tour of the factory/ restoration headquarters we got to get our hands dirty. The linseed window glazing was far superior to the DAP product we used in Wilson and I enjoyed cutting glass. I even cut a circle out of glass! After Double Hung we had a private tour of Körner’s Folly. I have never been to the house and was very impressed. It is such a huge house but only a few rooms felt large. And now….I want my own theater!
Day 13: Catch Up With Jo and a Walking Tour of Greensboro
Jo is the best and made sure to plan for time to catch up on things that we may not have had a chance to cover during Field School. It is always, always a good time to review Feilden’s Ethics of Conservation, especially as we bring Field School to a close. The walking tour of Elm Street was fantastic! Seeing Jo and Jerry’s building was a treat but also discovering art tucked into corners made the walk magical.
Day 14: Historic Structures Report and Historic Finish Analysis
I have been waiting so long for this class and it did not disappoint! On top of George Fore sharing his impressive expertise with us, he also instructed the class how to uncover paint layers. I learned that paint layers look gross under a microscope and that I need a Munsell Color Chart in my life, stat!
Our passion for historic preservation was reinforced these last three weeks. I was unsure of myself initially because it has been so long since I have used tools. Well, I am back! We had had the most incredible experience in Field School and cannot wait to practice all that we have learned. Lime, anyone? I have also had the privilege to work beside so many professionals and a new group of historic preservationists who I now consider friends. We work hard, and we clean up well!