Category Archives: Uncategorized

Season Closing

So Beauport is now closed for the season.  The regular tour schedule is generally June 1 through October 15.  But just because the house is closed to the public, doesn’t mean there is no activity–well, besides the occasional mouse.  Closing during the winter months is beneficial not only for the house but also for Historic New England.  During the open months, Beauport can easily bring in over 5500 visitors to a house that was built as a private residence.  This amount of traffic does cause some wear and tear to the building and the winter months are a time to repair, investigate, and plan for future projects.  Also, the furnace has been defunct since 1954, which means the house is extremely cold in the winter.  The average temperature of the interior is roughly 30 degrees during the months of January and February, which would make an interesting tour but maybe not an enjoyable one!  

But closing for the season is not just switching the lights off and walking away.  To winterize Beauport takes several weeks and involves many different steps both on the interior as well as the exterior.   

The interior of the Museum is thoroughly cleaned.  This means dusting and wiping down all surfaces; light vacuuming of the floors, hooked rugs, and drapes (over a screen to avoid pulling of the fabric); and washing windows and ultra violet acrylic panels.  Rugs are stacked, covered, and pulled out of general paths– this eliminates walking over them during the winter walk throughs.  Furniture with fabrics are covered with dust protection and every object is examined for any signs of damage or stress.  With over 50 rooms and 10,000 objects, this task can take over a week to complete.

          

As was mentioned, the house can get pretty cold during the winter months, therefore it is imperative to turn the water off to the facility each year.  With seven full baths, one half bath, and eleven sinks in the house, this is challenging and time-consuming– not to mention the public facilities near the Gate House, the Office bath in the Garage, and the six outdoor spigots! 

Turning off the water is not a simple task–the valve to the main line in the street has to be shut off; water meters are removed; water heaters are drained; faucets that are prone to freezing are disconnected; caps to drains are unblocked; all faucets are opened; and environmentally friendly anti-freeze is poured in the traps.  On the exterior, spigots are opened and drained then blown out with compressed air to eliminate any water sitting in a low spot underground.

And then there is the landscape.  This past summer, Beauport’s landscape was restored to the period of interpretation.  In order to allow the new plantings to establish and survive in this harsh New England environment, the birch trees have been braced and the lower portion of the trunks have been wrapped with a mesh material to discourage chewing or clawing from squirrels and other small animals.  In addition, all the new arbor vitae have been wrapped in burlap to minimize the damage from the driving winter storms. 

  

All this to make sure that the house continues to stand for generations to come– we hope you come and visit us next year!

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Landscape Restoration Complete

Ah… Summer!  Although every season at Beauport is spectacular, summer is always the best.  And this summer is even more special as it marks the completion of a multi-year Landscape Restoration project!

The front gardens

The restoration of the landscape has been many years in the making.  Working from reports commissioned in the 1990s–which outlined character zones and color palettes– staff developed an overall plan for the landscape.  In 2009 Historic New England started working with the landscape architecture firm of Reed Hilderbrand to turn all of the planning into a reality.  The first phase of the project was to restore the waterside terraces – a series of sharply defined formal spaces.  This project redefined the use of space and the use of material to more closely match the original owner’s intent- Henry Davis Sleeper.  This project was completed in 2009. 

The terrace gardens- 2009

 The second phase of the project was to create and implement a plan for the front gardens.  This space, similar to the terraces, had lost its clear definition.  The interpretive period for the landscape at Beauport focuses on the late Sleeper period / early McCann period (late 1920’s through the early 1930’s).  This period was selected because it best represents the integrity of Sleeper’s original intentions, while presenting the landscape at the time Helena Woolworth McCann (second owner of the property) was first attracted to Beauport.  In essence, the spatial relationships and structure of the landscape were well established by this time.  With the exception of the McCann era brick wall along the road, any changes to the landscape composition were implemented by SPNEA / Historic New England. 

Beauport landscape- 1930s

The landscape during the interpretation period exhibited several key features that follow a progression from a “naturalistic” style to a formal style as one traverses from the land entrance to the sea entrance at the terraces. Landscape materials used to create walls and define the ground plane change from rough stone to a more formal brick.  Plant palettes change from native plant communities- like sumac, bayberry, and summersweet- to individual specimens and hybridized plant species.  Geometries change from flowing lines to rigid rectilinear lines.  Landscape spaces transition from amorphous volumes to defined garden rooms.  This progression is indicative of the arts and crafts movement in landscape and it is the defining characteristic of Beauport. 

 Much like the house, the landscape can be divided into several distinct units or rooms.  Each unit is comprised of specific materials and plants that define unique characters, such as the Old Field Succession, the Sun Dial Garden, and the Entry Courtyard.  In order to move forward with the project, the character zones were clearly defined and a set of design principles were established that were followed throughout the planning and implementation process.  The design principles included general rules, such as “Defining circulation through the configuration of planting beds and lawns” to more specific rules, such as “Entry Courtyard Garden: Simple palette of shade plants with contrasting textures and hollyhocks in sunny pockets.”

 Construction began in April and the final shrub was planted at the end of June.   The results are pretty amazing and worth a visit!  Now we are off to water…

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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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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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The Rug in the Octagon Room

The Beauport Museum includes 104 hooked rugs (75 of which are currently on view).  Last year, the Collections Team at Historic New England worked hard preserving many of the rugs, which have deteriorated over the years due to age, ultra violet light, and tour traffic.  You can read about their work here.    But today we would like to announce the newest member of the rug collection, a reproduction piece in the Octagon Room.

 
In the fall of 2008, Sally Coon, President of the Orange Coast Classics Chapter of the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists (ATHA), Richard Nylander, former Senior Curator of Historic New England, and Pilar Garro, Beauport Site Manager worked together to select an interior hooked rug that could be reproduced.  They decided on a rug located in the Octagon Room.  It was in a high traffic area and included a rare geometric pattern.  Ms. Coon traced the pattern and color matched the wool. 
 
Back in California, the Orange Coast Classic Chapter members dyed the wool and started the rug.  Each person was responsible for a small section– passing the rug from person to person until the rug was finished.  In total, 27 people worked on the rug, which was completed this summer.  
 
Diane Daniels (former President of the Orange Coast Classics Chapter) presented the reproduction hooked rug today to Pilar Garro.  Along with the rug was a small journal with entries of all the participants throughout the process. 
 
Here is a sample of two of the entries:
 
“It has been a joy and an honor to work on this rug.  My interest in handcrafts of the past led me to rug hooking.  Needless to say i’m ‘hooked’.  I appreciate the opportunity to help re-create this rug for future generations.”  Rosanne Zukle
 
“My hope is this rug will be enjoyed for many years to come!  It is a worthwhile project to be a little part of history.  I started hooking almost 60 years ago, and started again about 12 years ago!  It has been a very special pleasure for me to hook on this rug with my daughter.” Jean Harris Coon, Corona del Mar, CA
 
Other participants were: Gene Shepherd, Debi Borden, Susan Kievman, Elise Roberts, Sally Coon, Peggy Johnson, Bobbie Crouse, Marcy Gurnett, Barbara Milakovich, Cathy Childester, Barbara Holden, Sylvia Esparza, Kathy Bunch, Julie Winkler, Susan Naples, Bernie Herron, Emily Gail Wyett, JoAnn Gonzalez, Iris Salter, Beth Stiel, Jane Olson, Karen Moore, Norma Flodman, and Diane Daniels.  
The historic rug will be stored for safe keeping and the journal will be kept in Haverhill at the Collections and Conservation Center.
Happy Hooking!

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Wallpaper Now A Plate

The beauty and charm of Beauport comes from many different things- whether you are interested in old wood paneling, pottery, porcelain, glass, or paintings- Beauport offers a distinct collection of beautiful and rare items on view.

But Henry Davis Sleeper, the master mind behind the house, was not only interested in the collection of pieces but also specific paint colors and beautiful wallpapers.  We’ve talked about his wallpaper before- in the jewel-like room of Strawberry Hill (http://wp.me/pqX9f-31) but this is the Belfry Chamber overlooking the front entrance.  The Belfry Chamber incorporates a steep ceiling that follows the distinct roof lines of the house.  Sleeper used a French botanical wallpaper which he cut and pasted in different arrangements to decorate the complicated room.    

And now you can own a piece of the room- through collaboration with Historic New England, Neptune 1 Studios has created a new collection, Décor Chinois, inspired by the Belfry Chamber.  The Décor Chinois collection includes seven new designs featuring details from this extraordinary wallpaper on decorative plates.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated back to Historic New England to continue our mission.  

http://www.wickedlocal.com/marblehead/fun/entertainment/arts/x124986744/Local-company-draws-on-historic-wallpaper-for-new-plate-collection

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Closed- But Not For Us!

The house might be closed for tours during the winter but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any activity there.  Unfortunately, some of the activity can be a little unwanted…  

The house is constantly monitored for various issues from moisture infiltration and crack monitoring  to pest infestation.  Due to the size of the house and grounds, most off-season walk throughs can take between 2 and 3 hours.

The exterior is monitored for fallen branches or trees, vermin activity, cracked windows, stone wall deterioration or displacement, and snow accumulation.  Monitoring the areas that seem to get the bulk of moisture helps us form better conservation and maintenance planning for the building.  And it is not only the roof that piles on the snow, due to the location of the house on the Gloucester Harbor, the wind can lead to significant snow drifting at the ground level.

On the interior, rooms that have either suffered from leaks previously or are currently suffering from leaks are monitored and assessed for continued damage.  Leaking from the roof due to improper or deteriorated flashing continues to plague the building.  These leaks will be addressed this summer during an intensive roof replacement and chimney repair project at the site.  This work is partially funded by a Save America’s Treasures grant through the Department of the Interior. 

Significant cracks are also monitored at the site.  Although cracking is a normal occurrence as the house settles, any changes in the cracks can be an indication of serious structural issues.  Also, major projects, like a roof replacement, can upset cracks or displace deteriorated framing.  Therefore, significant cracks and any new cracks will be closely monitored during the work.   

Leaks are not the only problems on the interior; pests are another issue and can seriously damage the interior collections of the site.  Beauport has had its fair share of pests from bats, squirrels, and mice to powderpost beetles, silverfish, and spiders.  But that is for another post…

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Filed under Roof Replacement, Uncategorized, Window Restoration