This week I was reminded of the importance of coordination and communication on a preservation project the size of ours. Looking at the big picture, this week three masons continued repointing work, up to five painters concentrated on paint removal from the façade cornice, and two carpenters continued removing window sashes on the interior. In addition, mid-week five or so workers joined the activity on site to erect more scaffolding on the north elevation main block. Generally I marvel at the enormity of the Read House, but with the varied activity this week, it seemed painfully small at times!
Again this week the masons split their time between repointing the south wall main block on the days we were closed to the public and on other spot areas away from the public entrance during our open hours. For the painters, meanwhile, many hands made more efficient work on the fifty-odd foot length of façade cornice, where they carefully removed paint from the intricate details. I walked outside yesterday to check their progress and observed four painters lined up in a row, each working diligently on his section of the cornice, yet even during the hard work one of the painters was singing a cheery tune.
Inside, our staff and the carpenters successfully danced around each other as the carpenters continued their work in the main block of the house. The carpentry crew began their week completing sash removal in the second floor southwest chamber, installing plexiglass in place of three bottom sashes to allow continued viewing of the garden and to admit needed light for the second floor. They also began removal of the Palladian window located at the primary staircase landing between first and second floors. With the removal of these massive main block windows the carpenters have also assumed the task of scraping to prepare the window frame for later painting. Scraping is no easy or fast task, especially on a monumental window such as the Palladian, with its combination of main window sashes and compass head plus sidelights.
The next window sashes scheduled for removal were in our housekeeper’s office, but by Tuesday’s end, the Palladian window was not finished. We faced a dilemma because both windows are located in pass-through areas of the house that could impede visitor traffic once we opened to the public for our normal hours on Wednesday. In addition, after removal of the housekeeper’s office sashes the carpenters were scheduled to remove the sashes from the back parlor. With four massive windows—two with three sashes apiece—the back parlor required almost complete collections furniture removal to ensure safety. Where was the designated furniture storage area for the back parlor collections? The second floor southwest chamber. What route did we need to take to transport the furniture? The main staircase by the Palladian window. Our original plan called for moving the furniture on Wednesday morning before the museum opening while the carpenters were working out of our way on the housekeeper’s office window.
Now it seemed we faced a real dilemma. Oh, and did I mention that we also had a reserved group scheduled to tour the house on Wednesday one hour before we normally open to the public? Luckily, our team works well together. We decided that the housekeeper’s office window should wait until the following Monday and Tuesday, when we would again be closed, for removal. Meanwhile we routed the tour group up one set of backstairs so that the carpenters could continue work on the Palladian window. The carpenters cleaned up their area prior to their lunch break, however, at which point our maintenance superintendent and I moved furniture from the back parlor to the southwest chamber directly above it via the main staircase. This also enabled our guide to bring the reserved group down the main staircase after completing the second floor tour. Our guides, of course, are well versed at interpreting around behind-the-scenes work necessary for historic house upkeep, so even our back and forth movement with collections pieces did not prevent an expert interpretation for the reserved group. After we completed the collections furniture move the carpenters were able to complete their work on the Palladian window before our next tour. Phew—crisis averted!
As of today, Friday, the carpenters continued to work on sash removal in the back parlor. The sashes have been removed and frames scraped on three of the windows. At the beginning of next week while the carpenters fabricate plexiglass inserts for the middle sashes of our two expansive jib windows, painters should be painting the interior frames. The carpenters will take time this afternoon to load more window sashes into our construction managers truck so that he can deliver them to the carpentry shop for repair.
My closing perspective for the week echoes the theme of coordination. Today I spent about a half hour on the scaffolding with our construction manager looking at various architectural elements including the dormers, kitchen chimney, and front cornice. Seeing the structure in various stages of repair emphasized the importance of different building elements functioning effectively together to create a sound, as well as aesthetically pleasing, exterior envelope. I think we’re well on our way.
Until next time…