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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Roof Final Phase

It is always sad to see a tour season end at Beauport, but the guide team dusted off the drapes and covered the chairs to close the house up for the winter.  The house will re-open for tours on June 1, 2011. 

But the end of the tour season does not mean work stops at the house- in fact now the carpenters have taken over the front of the house to work on the final phase of the roofing project.  The work will continue through December.

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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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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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Terrace Elevation Roof Nearly Complete!

With the daunting task of a 200 square (20,000 square foot) roof, one of the biggest questions was: Where do we start?!  Although the question may seem simple, the conditions of the site are complicated.  The Beauport museum is open to the public on Tuesday through Saturday from June 1 through October 15— pretty much in the middle of prime construction season– and we did not want to close the site at all during the work.  So, not only did the roofers have to deal with Historic New England staff but also 5000 summer visitors. 

Because of the work, most of the summer programs were pushed into August and September, therefore the crew took the opportunity during the months of June and July to begin with one of the most sensitive areas–the terrace (west) elevation.  Once this elevation was completed, the crew could move to the north side of the building away from the terraces during the events while also avoiding the front entrance on the east elevation where the tours begin.

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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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