Saturday, February 28, 2015

Baring the bones of a house: The Cobb- Hepburn House

The Cobb- Hepburn House is coming down.

Luckily it will be saved and reused.

I was there to measure and record.

The house suited its site. It was "built to the weather".

Set on a foothill ridge with fields sloping off on all sides, it had good drainage all around.

It faced east and looked south to the road, the view, and the sun. The parlor was in that sunny front corner. Deciduous trees just beyond let in winter sunshine, shaded the house in summer.

The wind here comes from the west and the south, The house was backed up against the mountain to the west, sheltered by it, below the wind coming over the ridge. The kitchen and its door were on the north end. An orchard to the southwest scattered the wind's force.

The family had died out; the land sold to the farmer who lives next door.
His daughter didn't want to live in the house.

It wasn't built for our modern era and it had not been cared for.

The entry hall is 4 feet deep, almost too small for 2 people to pass; certainly too small to welcome visitors.
The stair is 30 inches wide, and steep.
The only bathroom is on the first floor off the kitchen.

The bedrooms are only accessible through each other.

One door was mounted upside down, including the latch. Was it a quick fix - 100 years ago? - so the door would swing the right way?

Except for electric wires stapled to the walls and some interior storm windows the house hasn't been updated since the 1950's.

I was there to record its layout and proportions, to record how the builder used the materials he had: wood, plaster, nails, some iron, marble, stone, and glass.
It was cold - 5*F when I began measuring in the morning, about 15*F when I left mid-afternoon: not ideal for exposed fingers.The crew needed me to measure so they could continue dismantling, so I kept my hand warm with a propane heater. I photographed the rooms as an auxiliary record.

I have been back several times. The temperature has never been above 20*F at 2pm in the sun.

The crew is knowledgeable, experienced and interested. We share what we find and what we know, what we wonder about. We measure together.They need accurate dimensions to repair the frame for reconstruction.

2 kinds of scribe marks and offset marks are clearly visible. The 'B' on the post and beam are one pair of many.

The frame seems to have been built several years before the second floor ceiling joists - cut by a saw mill, laid out in a different pattern - were installed. Other joists were moved to allow space for the stair.
A third fireplace and another exterior door (frame and door!) were found under layers of wallpaper.
The 1st floor sheathing on the front facade had been replaced with plywood. One bedroom had not been finished until cast iron stoves were in use, 40+ years after the house was framed.

The videos are by Dan McKeen of Green Mountain Timber Frames.


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