Friday, March 8, 2013

On the Casper Wistar Farm with the Monday crew

By now, the Monday crew has completed basement and first floor plans and all but one room on the second floor of Casper & Rebecca Wistar's 1825 house.

Our second day there was February 11. Beverly, Stephanie and I completed the basement. Stephanie was initiated on the board, and did great. We alternated on the board by room. We speculated on the meaning of features like fireplace foundations, the extra-deep floor in the northeast room, and the thick, stone bearing wall under the hall. For a corner chimney to be supported by a masonry wall to the floor is unusual; typically they corbel back to the wall. Why did they use so much added masonry? The wall under the hall may be the north wall of the house that predated the Wistar's 1825 creation. We imagined the deep room as storage for roots crops, not far from a closed-off interior stair to the first floor, where a door may have led to the kitchen. Did the double arch-support under the kitchen fireplace signify an extension? Or is it about the difficulty of building only one arch under such a long length? The act of measuring forces you to notice things. It's tempting to ponder such questions while measuring, but that is why we are measuring. The drawings may reveal the answers in the metrics and arrangements of room and features. Also, I will be surveying design, materials, and workmanship in detail at a future time for my architectural description narratives.

Basement field notes

After telling my crew beforehand that we would be working inside the house on February 18, upon arrival I had to tell them we had to be outside after all. I realized that we had not completed the exterior plan on the first day. First things first. Though somewhat disappointed about working in the cold, Beverly and Maria soldiered through it. After completing the three remaining sides of the house, we spent the afternoon measuring the first floor, completing two rooms.

Maria Cerda-Moreno draws.
Beverly Carr Bradway, Maria Cerda-Moreno, and Maggie Culver, proud crew

Maggie supervises from her stoop.

On our next field day, February 25, Beverly, Stephanie, and I finished up the first floor except the rear shed.

This past Monday, March 4, minus both Stephanie and Maria, Beverly, Dave Culver and I completed the shed addition. Here, a protruding wall suggested a chimney. Part of it is utilized as a closet in the kitchen, but a void may contain the remains of a chimney that once ran up the rear elevation of the house. Was the shed a summer kitchen? Was it Suzanne Culver's great-grandmother Flora Hancock's onsite vegetable canning operation before she set up her factory in Salem?

First floor field notes
We then moved to the second floor and completed all but one room. Dave, a retired scientist, was immensely helpful in measuring a curve in the hallway wall, offering ways to mathematically describe the formula with Excel. Well, that would be a new methodology for architectural field work! We were satisfied with a hand-drawn best fit curve to overcome errors in our plumb lines (see Detail "A").

Second floor field notes