Monthly Archives: June 2010

And So It Begins…

Ladders, scaffolding, tarps and plywood for protection… the contractors have arrived and the roof work begins…


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Collection Protection

In anticipation of the rapidly approaching  roof work at the house, the Collections Team prepares the interior.  Beauport has very few attic spaces–most of the second floor rooms follow the natural roof lines of house.  This type of interior creates beautiful and dramatic ceilings and allowed Henry Davis Sleeper to experiment with wallpaper applications and interesting object placements.  Alternatively, this type of interior can be difficult during a roof replacement project. 

Roof work can cause significant vibrations that transfer into the house.  This can lead to falling dust and debris as well as the displacement of objects.  The objects in the house are as important as the much needed roof work, therefore the Collections Team is taking every precaution to minimize damage.  Large objects or objects not thoroughly secured were removed and placed into storage until the section of roof is complete.  Some objects were removed for complete conservation services.  Ceilings that had the potential to fail or allow falling debris–such as a cracked plaster ceiling– were sealed with plastic.  Other areas will be monitored during the work. 

Historic New England does not have any intension of closing the house during the work and we will try to minimize the impact in the rooms that will be affected in order to keep all tour rooms completely open and viewable.

You might see some plastic covering as you walk through, but it shouldn’t block your view of the ocean!

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Roof Sheathing Investigation

Making the final decisions on roofing specifications and product details can sometimes be difficult– what was done 30 years ago in good faith may be considered detrimental to the building today.  The decisions we make today will undoubtedly have an impact on future generations of work–whether it will be positive or negative is not always black and white and may not be apparent for years.  Therefore making informed decisions through research and education and maintaining a log of rationale is important when doing any building conservation project.  In making the final decisions on  products and implementations we need to not only follow our own preservation philosophy but we must also consider products that aid in the reduction of continual maintenance, be considered green or environmentally friendly, and not cause harm to the historic fabric of the building (interior and exterior) or the landscape.

For the re-roofing project at Beauport, the team has been discussing wood shingle underlayments– in particular, tar paper, felt, ventilation layers, and waterproof membranes.  The combinations can be endless, but not all products are  appropriate for museums.  Wood roofs are meant to breathe and are generally laid over a substrate that allows air to circulate behind them: skip sheathing — wood strips or battens nailed directly to the roof rafters.  How Beauport’s original roof was laid is a mystery as the entire roof was replaced in the 1940s with red asphalt shingles, but it does not appear that skip sheathing was installed.  Therefore, this application was not considered.       

The specifications for the roof replacement in the 1980s state that the wood shingles were to be placed directly over wood sheathing.  In general, the current roof is in fair to good condition–most leaks can be traced back to flashing details and chimneys.  It was decided to review the current sheathing conditions to determine which underlayments (if any) are required for the roof.   The team decided to investigate roofs that were built at different time periods—1908, 1912, 1917, and 1925.

Wood shingles were removed at the four investigation areas (as shown in the photo above).  The team was interested in learning the condition of the sheathing as well as if any underlayments were installed.  At all four sites, the sheathing was in great condition–three out of four did not include any underlayments at all with wood shingles directly laid onto the wood sheathing.  One investigation site did include felt paper along the eave, which may have been placed there by a worker that did not realize it was not a part of the project.  The wood sheathing was generally 1 x 6 boards laid horizontally and butted up against one another.  The later roof sheathing–1925– was tongue and groove boards. 



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Beauport Now Open

June 1 marks the official opening day for the 2010 tour season at Beauport, Sleeper McCann House. 

Come and take a tour!





Open Tuesday – Saturday, June 1 – October 15
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tours on the hour.  Last tour at 4:00 p.m.
Closed July 4

$10 adults
$9 seniors
$5 students
Free for Historic New England members and Gloucester residents

Location and directions
Beauport, Sleeper–McCann House (Tel. 978–283–0800)
75 Eastern Point Boulevard
Gloucester, Mass. 01930


The 2010 tour season is a special one for Historic New England.  It marks our centennial year!  For one hundred years, Historic New England has served as the region’s storyteller, opening its doors to share four centuries of New England home and family life. From the 1664 Jackson House, a classic example of early New England architecture and the oldest surviving house in New Hampshire and Maine, to the 1938 Gropius House, home to Walter Gropius, one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century, Historic New England has hundreds of years of history to share with visitors. From Wiscasset, Maine, to Jamestown, Rhode Island, to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, learn about the people who lived in stone-enders, urban mansions, rural estates, and working farms.

As a kind of birthday celebration, Historic New England is opening all of its properties free to the public on June 5. Hours run 1-5 p.m., with tours on the hour (last tours at 4 p.m.).

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