Monthly Archives: July 2009

Window Project Phase I Complete!

Corkins 4 2008Planning for the window conservation project began in 2006 with a conditions survey and initial needs assessments of the property funded by the Getty Foundation.  The survey, by Integrated Conservation Resources, was first conducted during the sub-freezing temperature days in February, immediately following a severe snowfall that blanketed the New England area.  The climatic conditions produced snow deposits in the house on the survey days, allowing an unexpected visual aid to locate points of moisture entry.  The findings of the assessment and survey clearly showed the vulnerabilities in the Beauport armor and solving the moisture penetration issues through the exterior envelope became the primary focus of the conservation project. 

Beauport.winter.08-09With funding from the Save America’s Treasures program and a grant specifically for the conservation of windows from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund (Massachusetts Historical Commission), Historic New England was able to start the first of several ongoing projects to mitigate points of water penetration, repair structural abnormalities and tighten the overall exterior envelope.  However, due to the complexity of the structure and the vast number of sash units at the house (249 sash units), the funds could not cover the full conservation of every window at Beauport.  Therefore, a detailed scope of work was required to identify the most deteriorated windows and determine project phases.       

Beauport.summer.2009Following a survey from the Historic New England Carpentry Crew, a detailed list was identified of window units that required advanced care due to deterioration.  Many window components were defective including the wood joinery at the bottom rail and side stiles.  The glazing putty had lost is elasticity, resulting in chipped and cracked glazing that allowed water to penetrate between the interface of the wood and glass.  The majority of the severely deteriorated windows were located on the harbor elevation of the house as well as such iconic windows as the Gothic sash in the Chapel Chamber (Paul Revere Room) and the pseudo-Palladian window of the Shelley Room.  Many of the remaining windows were noted in the assessment as requiring care in the form of minor conservation work, glazing, sill repairs, and a finish coat of paint.

The work began in November 2008 and involved the in-house Carpentry Crew and two additional contractors: Heartwood Building and Restoration and Cousins Contracting.  Approximately 95 individual sash units were removed from the building and completely restored in a workshop by trained carpenters.  An additonal 41 sash units were surface glazed and repainted in place.  Now we only have 113 more to go…

Come and visit us!

If you would like to make a matching contribution so that we can continue the much needed work at the house, please contact or call 617-227-3957, ext. 247.


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Preserving the Hooked Rugs

BPT.Octagon Room

The conservation team at Historic New England has been working on a project to preserve the hooked rugs at Beauport, and at the same time correct problems in the locations of rugs which have crept into the collection over time.  The team initiated the project due to the window work funded by the Save America’s Treasures program.  As many of the windows were completely removed for conservation services, the collections team was required to move or remove a number of objects in front of the openings, thus providing a good opportunity to work on a number of different things at the house.

 With respect to the rugs, the collections team wanted to install a new conservation pad beneath each rug, using a technique developed by textile conservator Deirdre Windsor of Windsor Conservation. The rug pads use conservation approved materials, provide protection for the rugs and prevent slippage.  Since the rugs needed to be taken to the conservation lab in Haverhill in order to make the pads, the team also decided to carry out minor treatments, including a thorough vacuuming and mending of small losses and tears.

bea.hooked.rugs There are over a hundred rugs at Beauport, and as the funds did not allow producing pads for each rug, a detailed survey was needed to determine which rugs were in the direct path of public tours.  Before retiring, the Senior Curator performed an exhaustive survey of the entire collection and determined that a number of rugs had ended up in different locations than originally chosen by Henry Davis Sleeper.  In some cases, the second owners of the house, the McCann family, had moved or replaced rugs, and in other cases, rugs had been moved out of concern for condition, or for other, unidentified reasons.

bea.hooked.rugs.indianroomOver the years, a number of the most interesting rugs at Beauport have been reproduced by chapters of the American Traditional Hooked-Rug Association (ATHA), and in some cases, both the original and the reproduction were on view.  The staff had identified a number of photographs in one of the Beauport photo albums in Historic New England’s Album Collection in the Library and Archives as having been taken in the 1930’s, near the time of Sleeper’s death.  Using these pictures, as well as the inventories made at that time, and later McCann pictures, the conservation team began the painstaking task of determining which rug was where in which room. This involved photographing and measuring each rug at Beauport, including those in storage, and recording the information as well as current location.  Contemporary images were then compared with early photographs to determine where each rug should be placed in the house.  A few of the Sleeper rugs no longer exist at the house and a number of others are in such poor condition that they can no longer be placed on view but will be replaced with reproductions when funds become available.

 The rugs have been returned to: the Pine Kitchen; the South Gallery; the Strawberry Hill Room; the Central Hall; the Mariner’s Room; the Pineapple Room; and the Indian Bedroom. Some of the rugs that have not been returned to these rooms yet are awaiting repair or reproduction. The next rooms we will work on are the Octagon Room; the Belfry Chamber; the Byron Room; and the Nelson Room.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to John Childs, Historic New England Conservator, for the content in this post!

August 2010 Update: We recently received a reproducation hooked rug from the ATHA Orange Coast Classics Chapter- see photos here.


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