Southeast Porch

The next project involved an overhaul of the porch on the southeast side leading into the newly-created room connecting the cookhouse to the main building. This has become our preferred entry, and the porch itself was in need of a complete restoration. It required pulling the posts, stripping the foundation to the ground, demolishing the entry doorway and remaining aluminum windows to its side, and a total rebuild. This allowed a redesign of the breakfast room. We also decided to move the HVAC unit from its original position just outside the porch to back behind the cookhouse.












Very few pieces of the original heavy timber foundation for the porch remained.

This was a common method for securing joists to a solid brick wall. The bolt and nut were made by a blacksmith with hand-cut threads.The bolt was incorporated into the full thickness of the wall as it was bricked up, with a threaded plate on the other side, and the joist was bolted in place. The special nut on the outside was first hand-snugged. A rod was then inserted into the hole to provide leverage for final tightening.










All of the other parts of the original porch foundation had been replaced by the previous owners. They used modern lumber, which had rotted out in less than 15 years. So we decided to go back to the original heavy-timber method. Mr. Jenkins rebuilt all the piers. A local mill cut the timbers out of white oak. Jim and his new helper Rocky did all the joinery. This is massive overkill, but should last a long time.









The porch originally wrapped around the east end of the building, as can be seen in the rafters and joists. At some point in the 19th century, it was enclosed. The newly-created room connects with the master bedroom and is a logical place for a bathroom. On earlier renovation of the bathroom wall, we found an embedded porch post.










Rebuilding the foundation from the ground up, we decided to go back with the original design reflecting the wraparound. This resulted in the chevron pattern at the end of the floor to match the new beadboard ceiling. It was a lot of extra work. I can only hope future owners will appreciate it.












Our skills have matured, and I decided to build a period-appropriate door out of walnut from scratch. After making detailed measurements of a nearby original door, I drew out every part in a CAD program. Jim cut the pieces out and I cut all the mortises and tenons. After many hours of hand-tuning the joints, I got it glued up around 3:00 am on the third day. The lockset, sliding bolts, and hinges came from an 1830s Fayette County, TN home. I have used period hardware on every project.

Jim made all the molding for the door with my router. He also built all the window molding out of solid walnut. Everything matches the original woodwork in this house, down to the beaded, hipped-miter window frames and the baseboards with beadedged caps.

The new floor is antique heart pine, resawn from 100 year old beams.




















I found an 1863 Taylor's patent doorbell and installed it. Mr. Perkins had already put a similar one on the front door.









The most recent owners had "countrified" the house in many ways. I think they wanted it to have a rustic appearance like a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.

Mortises in the posts were covered up with boards and their replacement porch rails were fashioned with 2x4s in a "T" arrangement. They used a single upper rail, with no spindles or bottom rail. Fortunately, we found pieces of the original railing down inside an old column. I made new rails with the tablesaw.

The lower rails are different from anything we have seen, but quite effective in having water run off. At the same time, they created an appealing profile that covered the lower end of the spindles as seen from the outside.

From measurements, we realized the spindles on the south side of the house needed to be a true 5/4" sqare.

The more formal north gallery has a completely different style upper rail and more delicate 1" square spindles. Its lower rail is of a similar design to this one but is taller and narrower as shown on page 5 of the reconstruction section of the website.

This entrance to the house would have been used by family and workers, while the north and west porches would have received guests.













We have a new porch! This is our primary friends-and-family entrance. Five years after completion, it's holding up well.

I love the blue ceiling. Bonnie has done a lot of research on period colors.











Cage Bar

Ever since our first visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Bonnie has wanted a cage bar. Although it might seem to be too early a feature for an 1840s structure, many elements in our house are similar to the Virginia tidewater and North Carolina houses. As an example, beaded edges are seen everywhere. In addition, Elysian Grove is a local ruin built in 1842 that contains wooden bars set in place at a 45 degree angle just as was done at Williamsburg.

So I decided to build a cage bar. The main problem was coming up with the design. Colonial Williamsburg is very protective of their property, and will not give out or sell any of their measured drawings. After many phone calls and email inquiries, I finally learned that there was an article in an obscure architectural magazine that might help:

"The restoration at Williamsburg, Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, Architects," Pencil Points 17, no. 5 (May 1936): 224-46.

Several months later, I found the magazine and bought it from an online bookseller. The drawings were there, but they were tiny!

I scanned the pages into Photoshop, scaled them and cleaned them up until I had decent images to take to the workshop.

Jim and Rocky helped set the foundation up. I fabricated and installed every piece of wood after that, planed down and milled in my shop.

The matchboards are poplar. Everything else is solid walnut.

All the bars are beaded on two corners and mortised into the rails at 45 degree angles.

"Dutch" door. Upper and lower doors open independently.







There are some real treasures still out there. I found this one on eBay. It retains almost all of the original red paint. Motor oil had spilled on the top. I was able to carefully remove most of it. The rest is as found.

I bought this ca 1850 Tennessee jelly cupboard from a family in Wilson County.

It was originally on a family farm that was flooded when Percy Priest Dam was built.
















The new breakfast room provides a sunny spot with a great view of the back yard.

Joel Paradis makes faithful reproductions of period lighting by hand in upstate New York. Here is his version of an electrified Argand oil 4-burner chandelier which we installed over the breakfast table.

A solar wall sconce in Prussian blue went into this room, and an ochre one is in the bar.




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