Category Archives: Masonry

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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Roof Complete!

It is both exciting and sad to say that a project is complete– but after six months, 200 squares of wood shingles, 10 copper roofs, and six brick chimneys the roof work at Beauport is finally complete.  And what a winter to test it!  But don’t worry… there is still more to come.  The projects outlined in 2011 include more window conservation (of course!), structural masonry work, and landscape repairs to the east gardens.  Stay tuned!

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Drum Chimney Repaired

This past October and November, the masons repaired the sixth and final chimney at Beauport– the Drum Chimney.  We liked to say that we saved the best for last, but the masons liked to joke that it was the worst (shape) for last.  It is not the most decorative of the six chimneys; it doesn’t have as many flues as the other chimneys; but it is largest of the chimneys. 

The Drum Chimney before work

The name of the Drum Chimney comes from its shape–three tiers with a series of open arches at the top and low relief arches below.  There are many great features about this chimney– the base is exposed to grade on one side and a beautiful directional weathervane sits on top.  The Drum Chimney has two flues–one for a large “Colonial-inspired” room called the Pine Kitchen and one for the oven in the working kitchen. 

Water staining at the fireplace

Water has been a problem at this chimney for quite some time.  Staining is found on the right corner of the fireplace and many of the iron collection pieces are slowly rusting.  The photo above also shows packing peanuts on the ground.  These were used in the early 1990s as a way to insulate the chimney and try to minimize condensation issues.  Unfortunately, this solution did not work and the peanuts were removed… although some still show up after a particularly bad storm. 

Existing conditions

During the chimney investigation, several issues were discovered.  The majority of the top tier included large, open cracks and the base had several areas of spalling bricks.  The flashing, like all of the other chimneys, had been installed very low.  In addition, the space between the top tier and the second tier included a copper cap that was merely caulked in place.  The caulk had deteriorated and the cap had pulled away from the sides, which allowed water to enter the chimney easily. 

Area of rebuilding

After the investigation, it was decided to rebuild the top 21 courses of brick– basically from the large crack above the bricked in arches to the top of the chimney.  The directional was removed and the masons got to work…. As soon as dismantling begun, however, the chimney started to cave in and break apart.  Indicating that the chimney was actually in a lot worse shape than originally hoped.      

The rebuilding from the base up

In the end, the masons had to dismantle another three feet down to the square base of the chimney and rebuild.  An additional wythe was added to the interior of the second tier shaft for better stability, a new cap was installed and mounted in concrete, and the weathervane was re-installed with a longer pole to minimize the resistance from the wind, which can cause stress fractures.   The arches were measured and carefully dismantled, though many bricks could not be reused. 

Additional work at the chimney

In addition to the rebuilding of the top, the spalled bricks were replaced and the flashing was altered slightly.  Similar to the other chimneys repaired, the existing flashing was left in place and new flashing was installed one to two brick courses higher.  When the new roof was installed, new copper step flashing was slipped under the old lead flashing–leaving a triple-flashed chimney.


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Winter Morning at Beauport

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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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Gothic Chimney Finally Dry

The Gothic Chimney at Beauport is located to the northwest on the harbor elevation.  It provides flues for stoves located in the Golden Step Room on the first floor, the Master Mariner’s Room on the second floor, as well as the now defunct boiler in the basement.  The Gothic Chimney is one of six decorative, brick chimneys located at the property.  Although all of the chimneys have shown some signs of moisture infiltration, the Gothic Chimney actively drips water onto the finished surfaces of the interior causing significant damage in the museum space.  

The Gothic Chimney and its curious corner detail

Numerous attempts have been made to repair this chimney–even as a last resort a water repellant was applied in the 90s to no avail.  After a thorough investigation, the problems seem to focus on a curious corner detail and the chimney’s flashing.  The chimney includes two Gothic panels on the west and south but only one on the east.  The north does not include any Gothic panels but has a small bump out at the northwest corner.  The reason for this is unknown– it is possible that the original plan for the chimney was smaller or that an additional flue was needed as an afterthought.  Whatever the reason, the extended corner incorporates an interesting flashing issue at the down slope side of the roof.  In the past, tar was smeared at this corner in an attempt to stop the leak and the flashing has been caulked into place.      

Interior damage from the Gothic Chimney.

During heavy rain storms, a significant amount of water drips from the ceiling at the Golden Step Room.  Collections are moved and fixed pieces–like the stove– are covered with plastic.   Although most sides of this chimney shows water staining on the interior, coincidentally the area of the Golden Step Room leak is in direct line with the curious corner detail as shown above.  Historic images indicate that this leak has been present since the 1920s–though not to the extent it is today.  In the office we joke that this is now a ‘historic leak’ and should be preserved, but we all know that the goal of the roofing and masonry work is to stop the leak. 

The masonry crew begins work at the Gothic Chimney

The masonry team begins work at the Gothic Chimney.  The repairs included repointing at the top corbelling and spot repointing at the base of the chimney as well as reparging at the decorative band and Gothic panels.  The team then started work on the flashing details.

Flashing details at the Gothic Chimney

It is probable that the flashing at the Gothic Chimney was the cause for most of the leaks.  The lead has been installed very low and it is possible that water was easily able to slip into cracks at the flashing joints.  The masonry crew decided to raise up the new lead flashing by two to three brick courses while leaving the existing lead in place.  Once the roof is replaced, this application would ultimately provide triple coverage.  Although this is considered a detail change, the existing lead is still under the new flashing and the detail is completely reversible.

We are very happy to report that the interior has remained completely dry since the repairs!

The completed Gothic Chimney (It's so pretty)!

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Bishop’s Cap Chimney Repaired

The roof and masonry work is in full swing now.  It is exciting to see some work completed– especially with the pesky chimneys.  Beauport includes six decorative chimneys— all of which are experiencing leaks.  The masons have completed two of the six chimneys and are currently prepping two others for work.  This is the story of Bishop’s Cap Chimney– 

The Bishop’s Cap name comes from the fact that the cap takes on the appearance of a bishop’s hat.  It provides two flues for fireplaces located in the China Trade Room on the first floor and the Strawberry Hill Room on the second floor.  In order to understand the issues with this chimney a thorough investigation was conducted.  The interior spaces were inspected to see where and how the leaks were forming.  In one of the rooms next to this chimney a significant amount of plaster work has cracked and failed indicating severe moisture infiltration.  On the exterior, cracking can be seen in both the cap and the lead flashing.  The scope of work for repairs included– re-parging cap; spot repointing the base; and repairs to the lead flashing.   

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