Friday, February 15, 2013

Diversion: Opportunity on the edge of obliteration

The Sinnickson-Clancy House as it appeared in 2006. It was a well-known sight on Salem-Pennsville Road. The front block was added circa 1850 to a late 18th century hall-plan house. Such early frame houses are rare to find unaltered. It was vacant for many years and I had wanted to get inside to document it. Never did.

After meeting to confer over her Wistar wagon shed drawing this morning (Feb 9), Beverly Carr Bradway, Sharon Washburn and I set off on a mission to record the remains of the Sinnickson/Clancy farmhouse in Pennsville. Its demolition was on pause over the weekend, and now was a window of opportunity to record before it was totally inaccessible under fill. "It can't take long, it's just the foundation." Famous last words, as we spent four hours on a sunny, mildly cold afternoon measuring and photographing.  

North end of the Period II, circa 1850 section. Brick piers once supported a chimney.

We found the hole empty and scraped pretty clean of architectural material from the house. It was stone and built in two periods.

Looking south into the Period I basement (left). Period II basement was attached as an ell.
One fragment of a basement window frame in the rear section suggested an eighteenth-century origin. The opening had been bricked up in the past, but on the interior, one side of the oaken frame with three pieces of wooden grille bars still attached stood as evidence.

Bricked-in basement window frame with fragment of wood frame.

Wood grille bars are a sign of an early house.
Both sections were built of the same stone (not the native Jersey sandstone, but schist possibly from Pennsylvania) and whitewashed on the interior. The older, Period I section was 18x20 in plan, its broken east wall discernible where the two sections joined. At the west end was pile of brick and stone rubble that was the ruin of a large fireplace support. 

Looking toward the Period I basement. Sharon Washburn gathers fragments of architectural evidence.

We dug and clawed enough debris away to discover a fallen brick relieving arch, tell-tale of an early chimney support. After exposing the limits of the whitewash on the wall, we measured the dimensions of its extents at the back wall. It was seven feet wide and two feet deep, enough for a five-foot wide cooking fireplace. There was probably a winder stair above the space in the right-hand corner.

Debris from fireplace support in Period I section after digging for signs of its original location.

Me photographing the foundation. Photo by Beverly Carr Bradway.

Faded into the past.

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