As lovers and students of old buildings know, asbestos was a common building material for everything from siding and roofing to the much vilified pipe-insulation.
It’s use started in the late 1800s and its legacy lasted well into the last century. Sure, the material–invented somewhat by accident history has it by the Keasbey & Mattison Company–is the stuff of mesothelioma (the particular kind of cancer over-exposure to it causes and the topic of many-a late night law firm advertisement). But the water that may have passed under the bridge of history is how well it worked. And how beautiful it could be. The roof pictured here is likely a century old. How many new roofs like this do you see going on?
Now I’m no idiot (of course that case is easily arguable). I’m not advocating ramping production up again. But what I do notice on the few asbestos roofs left–probably in the world–is that roofers clearly saw the home’s peak as a place to highlight the soaring lines and make them sing with style, grace and pride.
We’ve strived to make our roof a destination point for neighborhood eyes inasmuch as it is just about the largest single area on this–or anyone’s–house. Our roof is period-appropriate and I hope it pays homage to the roofers who came before us who hand-nailed their heavy, gnarly, and brutal stuff with enough dignity, style and craft to please the eyes and keep water away across the gap of two distant centuries.