Dating Greek Revival

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

Moderators: oldhouse, TinaB, Don M, Schag

AlHunt
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Post by AlHunt »

Don M wrote:If you are planning on saving your barn you should repair the roof as soon as possible because water is the great killer of barns. Your barn photos show evidence of water damage on a lot of the M&T joints.
Don
Yeah, the barn is in need of a LOT of TLC. We're going to tarp, or paper the roof or something before the snow flies and roof it in the spring.

Gotta do the sills, too. But it's worth it - I love the look of the posts and beams. But it has been the victim of neglect ...

By the way - I see you're posting from Boiling Springs, PA. I mis-spent several of my teenage years back in the 70's terrorizing Boiling Springs and Carlise. In between that activity I did take time to admire the great buildings in central PA. There's a lot of great history there in Penns Woods.

Al

MrsAlHunt
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Location: Guilford, Maine

Plaster Hints

Post by MrsAlHunt »

Mrs Al here.....if anyone has ANY hints about working with or repairing plaster, please tell me. I very much want to save/restore as much of the plaster in the house as possible and I have always lived with drywall, so it is new to me.

Thanks y'all.

Laurel

Don M
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Post by Don M »

Hi Al,
I had to replace about 2/3s of the sill on the bank side of my barn due to rot & termites. It is fortunate the barn has a good standing seam metal roof on it or it probably wouldn't be standing today!

I agree with you; your house has a lot of colonial revival elements on it. The dental molding, the soffit returns, the corner pilasters all fit the style. It also has some Victorian elements like the fancy brackets on your porch over hang & the bay window itself. Your window detail is like a couple I have on a second floor wing addition, probably from the late 1800s. Your shutters are a 1940s or 50s detail :shock: :lol: !

BTW, how was it you were living in the Boiling Springs area? We like it a lot although we are not natives; just military retirees who prefer the lack of biting insects and a slightly more moderate climate than that found in MA! Don
1840 Limestone Farmhouse
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AlHunt
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Post by AlHunt »

Hi,
Don M wrote:I agree with you; your house has a lot of colonial revival elements on it. The dental molding, the soffit returns, the corner pilasters all fit the style. It also has some Victorian elements like the fancy brackets on your porch over hang & the bay window itself. Your window detail is like a couple I have on a second floor wing addition, probably from the late 1800s. Your shutters are a 1940s or 50s detail :shock: :lol: !
Oddly, the bay window looks like original construction, but it is not on the foundation. It has it's own piers. The "shutters" are going to be another piece of history as soon as I can get them down. We're narrowing the construction date down - one day we'll happen across something to give us a definitive answer.
BTW, how was it you were living in the Boiling Springs area? We like it a lot although we are not natives; just military retirees who prefer the lack of biting insects and a slightly more moderate climate than that found in MA! Don
Dad actually was retired Navy and went to work at SPCC in Mechanicsburg, working on the Trident submarine project. I believe some of their old friends still live in Boiling Springs, but I can't recall where right off. He's retired Coast Guard. Lots of interesting history happened in central PA - I worked on Simpson Ferry road in Mechanicsburg (a very long time ago) which George Washinton marched down (an even longer time ago) on his way to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. You guys are really steeped in it there. Kind of too bad they took down the tower at Gettysburg - I know the purists thought it was an abomination, but the overview of the battlefield was fascinating.

Al
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Jill Tyler
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Plaster repair

Post by Jill Tyler »

Mrs. Al Hunt,

How bad is it?

I thought Irkgirl's suggestion under "Old house confessions" might be workable:

"Fabric (muslin or old sheeting) soaked in a dope of white glue and
sheetrock compound, pasted over weak or broken plaster. Quick,
dirty, and actually long lasting. If you are really ambitious, or are
working in a place it will show, skim coat it to smooth it out."

My sister and her husband used a skim coat of joint compound to smooth out the old walls in their home. She helped me do the same in my home. For ceiling cracks, we dug them a little deeper and filled in with the joint compound. When it was dry, we sanded it. It held up quite well.

Also, there is this product called "Nu- Wal" restoration system. I never used it. I discussed it with this contractor when I was getting an estimate on my kitchen to repair the bulging cracked plaster walls. He seemed to know what he was talking about but I didn't hire him because I couldn't afford his price. He wasn't against the product but thought my walls were so bad that they should just be replaced with drywall even though this would take away some of the character you get from the uneveness of old plaster walls.

Don M
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Location: Boiling Springs, PA

Post by Don M »

Hi Al,
We moved to Boiling Springs due to an assignment as Staff Veterinarian at the Navy Depot in Mechanicsburg in 1999.

You mentioned working on Simpson Ferry Rd and we just had dinner at the Tokyo Diner on Simpson Ferry last night! Small world!
Don
1840 Limestone Farmhouse
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oldhouse
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Post by oldhouse »

Hello Al,

I've read through this thread and it occurs to me nobody has answered your original question -- how old is your house?

So I'll give it a stab.

I'd guess your house was built between 1840 and 1850.

I'm basing this utterly unscientific guess on having owned, restored, lived in and poked around in hundreds of old houses here in central Maine over the years.

The biggest clue for me is the story-and-a-half post-and-beam design with the kneewalls pushed all the way to the exterior walls. This style was very popular in the 1840s here in Maine for some reason, (I'll bet you, by the way, if you look down the front wall of your house, it bows out like a sail. All houses built this way do. They spread with time.)

Other things in your house consistent with this period in the Maine countryside: The staircase; and the little window latch that holds up the double-hung window.

Now, from the looks of it, your home was "Victorianized" sometime in the 1870s or '80s or '90s.

That's when the bay window in the main part of the house, facing the driveway, would have been added. And it's probably when your front door was replaced (or, at least, the hardware on your front door.)

Cool house, by the way.

Hope this helps.
The Old House Web

AlHunt
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Post by AlHunt »

oldhouse wrote: I'd guess your house was built between 1840 and 1850.
Thanks for the response - we've had everything from there to turn of the century. Most of the dates are around 1850.

I thought the window hardware might be a clue. Funny, though - I also thought the wooden corner on the plaster would be a clue, but nobody has mentioned it. Maybe it was common for a long time.
The biggest clue for me is the story-and-a-half post-and-beam design with the kneewalls pushed all the way to the exterior walls.
The barn is post and beam - I haven't opened up a house wall to see what kind of construction was used. Odd about the "knee wall" you mention - I assume you mean the upstairs wall. I never gave it any thought.
The staircase; and the little window latch that holds up the double-hung window.
The windows bother me because they're 2 over 2. I thought 2 over 2 would indicate later construction - maybe they were "upgraded" at some point. There is a single 6 pane window in an attic window. The front bay window used to be 3 windows instead of 1 large pane (I can tell by the trimwork). I understand from a previous owner that the larger window was in place in the late 1940's when they bought the place. Also at that time the upstairs was in lath without plaster, which they drywalled.

Would it affect your opinion of I mentioned that the floor joists all show circular saw marks? I have no idea when sawmills became common in this part of Maine.

I read your article about leaving Maine only to return and buy your house back - very funny! I've left Maine a few times now and seem to keep returning. Must be something in the water.

Al

AlHunt
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Post by AlHunt »

Well ... we got a visit from the Property Assessor today that was most informative (they're re-assessing all the houses here in town to make sure they're hosing everyone for as much as they can on property taxes).

He was asking a few questions when he got to " ... the house was built when? ... about 1875?" Telling him that was a damn fine question, I asked what HE thought, because we didn't know (this guy is not a state or county employee, btw, he works for some private firm).

He says he thinks our house was built circa 1875, +/- 5 years and that the house and the barn were built within a few years of each other.

Because:

1) The facade details on the house and barn match - the little return on the eaves, (cornice return?) specifically. Both house and barn have them and they're identical.

2) The width of the trim board under the eaves would be wider if it were pre-civil war.

3) Pilasters (corner trim) would be wider on a pre-civil war house.

4) The small row of windows over the barn door are apparently a dead giveaway. They were only done for about 20 years around the time of the civil war. The idea was to allow light into the barn when the carriage was partway in or out so the horses could be moved in or out of the stalls on the other side of the barn. This was a period when the barn was transitioning to a "stable" for horses as opposed to a "barn" which was meant to house cows and horses.
[he knew the barn cold, by the way - he described the interior layout to me before he ever set foot near it]

5) The chimney has a cleanout in the cellar - he tells me that pre-civil war the chimney would have been solid from the fireplace on down.

There was still some kind of additional construction that took place because the shed roof between the house and barn overshoots the barn roof and you can see the original wooden shingles inside the attic space. Also, the side of the barn exposed inside the shed shows signs that it weathered for some time before being closed in.

He told us of a few houses in the area that dated to the early 1800's. After he left we took a ride out and lo and behold ... all the things he mentioned on the earlier houses were there.

He also pointed out exposed construction details in the shed area I had missed - he identified it as "balloon framing" which undoubtedly carries through to the main house. This makes sense to me, looking at the thickness of the house walls - they're thicker than modern construction but not nearly thick enough to be the same post and beam used in the barn.

Yeah, it's too bad when the property assessor visits. But in this case we got another opinion to help us date our house.

Hopefully these details help others to put a date on their houses. I thought the pre and post civil war distinction was interesting. I'll have to pay more attention in my reading to see if I can identify details that might have changed at that time.

Al

bookish
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Post by bookish »

You were lucky to have such a knowledgable guy show up. I guess it was worth it?
I've always been pretty observant of old houses, and I seem to have a knack of getting dates right a lot of the time, but I'll tell you, Maine houses can be tough to date as far as I'm concerned.

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