Category Archives: History

Structural Work at the Terrace

Beauport has a long history of changes– what started off as a ‘small’, twenty-two room country cottage, evolved into an eclectic mix of styles and additions that is nearly 15,000 square feet today.  But Sleeper, the original owner, did not just add major wings to the house– sometimes the changes were merely moving garden ornament from one garden to another and sometimes it involved completely changing the exterior finish material.

 Originally, the first floor of the house was clad in stucco.  In 1913, Sleeper decided to change the stucco to brick, which was more fashionable at the time.  The 1913 specifications detail complete removal of the stucco and a brick wall construction of a double wythe with headers tying the wall together.  This created an interesting detail change at the house.  The double wythe thickness of the brick wall would be constructed further out than the upper floor side wall shingles, making severe building changes. 

House trim disappears into brick walls and concrete parging is used to connect the brick wall to the upper side wall shingles.  All was done to accommodate the thicker lower wall.  Upon further investigations, however, what was supposed to be a double thickness wall is actually only one wyth thick–or a simple brick veneer.  

 

The headers that were supposed to tie into both walls are actually cut in the middle only to create the look of an English bond brick pattern.  It is not clear why the change was made, it may be that this type of construction proved either too difficult or possibly too expensive.  Curiously, the South Gallery wall is the only wall that was constructed to the specifications.

One of the issues with any masonry wall is that they tend to absorb water.  In a double thickness wall, the moisture would be absorbed by the first layer and allowed to dry due to the interstitial space between the two layers.  On a simple brick veneer, however, the bricks would absorb the moisture and transfer it to the wall sheathing and framing behind.  This detail caused severe deterioration at the house framing and sheathing.

  Repairs are underway…

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Purple House?

No, actually that’s just the primer.  But the house will be a different color… or at least a different color than the present one.  The side wall repainting is one of the last pieces to the large, three year restoration project at Beauport.

Historical research indicated that the house was stained a much darker color.  Originally oil stains would have been used but over time the oil stains would bleach out and fade from ultra violet light.  When touch up painting was required, the faded color would be matched instead of the original color– leaving the shingles a much lighter and pinkish color over the years.

Paint analysis has been very important throughout the restoration project at the house–windows that are completely removed for conservation have paint analysis performed on the interior paint colors and the exterior trim was analyzed several years ago indicating a much darker brown than the purple color the house trim was routinely painted.  Knowing that the side wall was coated with a different color, the team removed shingles for analysis.

  

Two side wall shingles were removed– one located in an exposed area of the house and one hidden behind a roof line that was altered in 1954.  Paint analysis was done by Brian Powell from Building Conservation Associates.  Underneath several layers of stain was a much darker brown, which is considered to be the original color.

 So here you go- the new-or really the original color of Beauport!  Repainting is scheduled to be complete in August.

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Filed under History, Painting, Uncategorized

Winter Morning at Beauport

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The Head of the Wolf

The exterior of Beauport is breathtaking– the roof, a maze of intersecting planes and forms, proudly sits on top of the Tudor/Queen Anne/ Shingle-style design.  Dormers in various sizes and shapes protrude the roof line creating interesting shadow lines around the building.  And six decorative brick chimneys stand tall over the building.   

As mesmerizing as the exterior of the house may be, the interior can be just as fascinating.  It is a labyrinth of over forty rooms and approximately 14,800 square feet.  Every nook and alcove holds a composition of curiosities with nearly 5,500 objects in diverse media, including textiles, paper, paintings, iron, silver, brass, toleware, ceramic, glass, leather, bone, ivory, lacquer, and wood. 

Collections, therefore, are an important piece to the Beauport puzzle–and just as important as the exterior envelop repairs currently underway at the house.  Henry Davis Sleeper (original owner/designer) was a vast collector and did not limit the collections to the interior.  The exterior of the building and the landscape are also sprinkled with pieces–including ceramics, stone, and decorative drift wood carvings.

A (not so happy?) face 'holds' up the protruding floor to the Shelley Room on the south elevation

A decorative drift wood panel set into the masonry wall on the south elevation

A decorative bracket located on the north elevation.

 
Exterior collections can be just as problematic as exterior building elements as they are exposed to the same harsh conditions–and often they are more susceptible to the conditions due to their intricate designs and details.  Sometimes, collection items become too deteriorated to leave on the building for fear of complete loss.  In these cases, items can be removed and archived and a new piece can be manufactured out of a substitute material.
 

A jester head comprised of resin.

Beauport does already include copies– an example is this  jester head above the Sun Porch door.  It is comprised of resin made from a mold of the original.  The original is now safely stored in archives.  And currently under consideration is another potential resin candidate– the wolf’s head:
    

The wolf's head on the southwest corner of the building

The wolf’s head quietly rests above the Palladian window of the South Gallery.  It is carved to appear to be projecting out of the masonry wall with snarling fangs.  Due to its location and installation, the unpainted wood surface is showing severe signs of deterioration–including large checks and missing wood components.  Today the wolf sits ‘bandaged up’ in an office, awaiting his fate– will it be repaired, treated and re-installed or will a mold be created for a resin copy?  Stay tuned…

Awaiting his fate...

 

   
  
 

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Herringbone Chimney comes to a point…

We always find something interesting at Beauport- take the Herringbone Chimney for instance– it is a lovely rectangular chimney with a tall shaft that sits between the Pine Kitchen and the Franklin Game Room.  The upper portion includes a herringbone pattern and bricks set at angles to create beautiful shadow lines.  The chimney provides a flue to the stove in the Franklin Game Room, which was constructed in 1917.  Henry Davis Sleeper was deeply interested in the country’s forefathers.  The house includes numerous images, statues, and carvings of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams, among others.  The Franklin Game Room was the first room in Beauport to be dedicated entirely to American patriotic themes.  Here, classical drapery surrounds a bust of Benjamin Franklin and the room is heated by a stove of the type he invented.  A Franklin stove is a metal-lined fireplace.  It was made in 1742 and has baffles in the rear to improve the airflow, providing more heat and less smoke than an ordinary open fireplace.  It is also known as a circulating stove.  Although in current usage the term “stove” implies a closed firebox, the front of a Franklin stove is open to the room so it appears like a fireplace.

The room is small and intimate and the stove would have been an added welcome on a cold night, but documentation states that the Franklin stove at Beauport never worked.  The room was heated by radiators carefully hidden within a bookcase on the adjacent wall.  And upon closer inspection during the chimney repairs, the flue is squeaky-clean indicating that the chimney itself has never been used in nearly 100 years.  Sleeper was constantly adding on and changing details in the house–it’s hard to tell the reason that the chimney was never used… but what a beautiful masonry addition to the house! 

Although never in use, the harsh New England weather caused deterioration at the mortar joints as well as the lead flashing.  The repairs included rebuilding the top six courses and re-flashing the entire base.

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Tight Quarters

Beauport began in 1907 as a ‘small’ summer cottage–roughly 12 rooms– for Henry Davis Sleeper and his mother, Maria Westcott Sleeper.  As interior design commissions came in, Sleeper continued to add to the house over the next 27 years–until he virtually ran out of land.  

To the north of Beauport was the Colonial Arms, a massive 300 room luxury hotel in the Greek Revival style, which blocked most of Sleeper’s northern views.  Mysteriously, the entire hotel burned to the ground in 1908 and the plot sat vacant until the 1920s when Fredrick and Evelyn Hall built “Stone Acre”, a large Victorian constructed out of field stone and topped with beautiful blue-gray slate.  

Sleeper continued to build to the north and constructed one of the last rooms in the house called the North Gallery in 1925.  The Hall’s decided that the only way to stop Sleeper from building over their property line was to construct their own outbuilding and a large stone wall.  The two buildings and stone wall lay within inches of each other– and in one section actually touch. 

It’s a good story to tell but the area is actually extremely difficult to work within.  

The Beauport roof line is within inches of the neighbor's slate roof.

A stone wall was also built along the property line. Beauport's roof line actually touches the wall.

The roofers had to work within very tight quarters to re-shingle at this area-- even using the stone wall as a makeshift tool bench.

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Sleeper Roof Discovered!

Originally Beauport’s roof was wood shingle.  In the 1940s, the roof was replaced with red asphalt shingles, which was more than likely done due to cost.   Historic New England replaced the roof again in the 1980s– going back to wood shingles and mimicking the random double course as indicated by historic images.  Unfortunately, there were no known documents indicating the original wood shingle used on the house.  Therefore, western red shingles were chosen.  Today, we followed our predecessors lead and specified western red cedar shingles for the current replacement.  

During the roof removal, however, the contractors discovered an area of sheathing that had rotted.  They cut out the section of rot, pulled away the boards and discovered another roof below the sheathing. 

This was not a total surprise to Historic New England, we knew that the room under this roof was a later addition by the second owners.  When Helena Woolworth McCann and Charles E.F. McCann purchased the house in 1935 following Sleeper’s death, they added a bathroom here to create a master suite.  In order to construct the bathroom, new rafters were placed directly onto the original Sleeper roof line and extended out to create the room– therefore encapsulating a portion of Sleeper’s original roof. 

A shingle was removed for analysis– it is thought to be Northern white cedar…

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