South Porch Preservation Project – Summer ’03
In the summer of 2003, the Lincoln Cottage preservation team undertook a project to disassemble and salvage the porch facing the South Lawn of the property. The following notes from the preservation journal give a great example of some of the work that has been done to restore the character of the Cottage to Lincoln’s time:
“Prior to the start of this work, the porch on the south side of the President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument was in a state of advanced decay due to leaks in the roof. The wood-framed porch, with gothic revival details and ornamentation, was constructed over two periods: the east section, which is the original location of the first build of the porch dating to 1842; and the west section, which was constructed in the late 19th century, circa 1890. The west section extends across the south façade of an addition that was added in the 1850’s.”The lengthy and deliberate disassembly process provides an investigation of the construction of the porch, facilitates the collection of representative architectural artifacts, and leaves the porch ready for restoration to the period of greatest significance, when President Lincoln was in residence at the home. ” —————Friday June 20, 2003:The green-painted lattice from the east: east and center bays, and the west: east and center bays were removed, tagged, and stored in the basement of the Cottage. One primary section of lattice remains: the westernmost bay due to an electrical box attached to the framework of the lattice. The lattice work was removed and retained in entire pieces, including the wooden frames, some of which showed deterioration due to weathering, and some visible damage from animal intrusion.The bronze plaque/marker located on the west porch, mounted on the railing of the east bay of the porch was removed and placed in Room 105 for secure storage. The sprinkler pipes and heads located in the porch ceiling, below the porch ceiling, and under the porch floor were disassembled and removed from the cottage. Earlier work to discontinue service to the porch sprinklers was completed by AFRH staff a few weeks prior to the disassembly commencing.Kevin Keane of Millstone Restoration noticed the two basement level windows under the west porch did not show signs of paint analysis by Frank Welsh. Review of the paint analysis report confirmed this observation, although other basement level samples were taken from other window frames.Also located in this area in front of the 1850s addition is a storm water drain pipe which is no longer connected to downspouts on the west side of the porch. The pipe slopes down from west to east entering the ground under the gabled porch bay addition (west porch: east bay). Also prominently visible under the west porch are bricks set in the ground which could have marked balcony supports, a walkway, or planting beds. Archaeological investigation will follow the porch disassembly project.Floor joists visible from under the porch show differences from the old to new construction. Along the east porch, the joists exhibit paint/whitewash, and are roughly 3″ x 9″ in size. The joists located under the western porch floor are not painted/whitewashed, and the average size is 3″ x 8″. The changes in dimension and appearance of the floor joists are evidence of a different time period of construction between the east and west porch structures.
—————Monday, June 23, 2003:Removal of the porch of the ceiling began at the east side of the west porch, and proceeded towards the west. The ceiling was removed up to the center bay of the east porch, leaving intact two bays of ceiling on the east porch. The porch ceiling was comprised of 1″ x 3″ tongue and groove boards, with bead present on both sides of the board. Layers of paint obscure the bead on one side. Ceiling pieces with evidence of paint sampling done by Frank Welsh were tagged and retained. All of the wood used for the ceiling appeared to be of a consistent type and appearance, except for a small patch of ceiling near the intersection of the west and east porches, where a roof leak is present. The wood in this area showed signs of a varnish coat on the unpainted side. Two possibilities exist for this different treatment of wood. One, this area of ceiling may have utilized smaller portions of wood due to the angled, or mitered joints of the corner, indicating wood from other sources was reused. Second, leaks in this area of the roof appeared to be chronic due to the amount of water damage visible in the roof framing members. Over time several patches were likely made, including patches of newer, pieces of wood varnished on the back side to increase longevity.All corner molding adjacent to the ceiling of the porch was removed, tagged, and stored in the basement. Representative nail samples were salvaged from the ceiling installation. The nails are machine-made nails consistent with late 19th c. construction.Once the majority of the ceiling was removed, patterns began to appear about the materials used for construction of the roof and the ceiling. All of the wood used for the roof construction (rafters) is similar in appearance, size, color, etc. Conversely, all of the wood used for constructing the supports of the ceiling (joists) are different sizes and types of wood, and exhibit different usage marks varying from lath marks, to a ceiling rafter that is approximately 4″ x 4″ with a repeating pattern of a horizontal hole with peg approximately every 6″. Most, if not all, joists in the west section appear to be re-used from other locations.At this time, with only a portion of the ceiling removed off of the east porch, a lath pattern is apparent which could be significant evidence of first-build construction (photo 1). With only three ceiling joists visible, matching lath patterns are consistent from joist to joist, progressing eastward. The ceiling is still present on the eastern portion of the porch, so when the ceiling is removed, the question as to whether the lath marks continue will be answered.
(Photo 1: Lath on east porch showing similar lath marks on ceiling joists)
—————Friday, June 27, 2003:With the ceiling removed on the western section, the contractor proceeded with disassembly of the roof structure and supporting columns. Work to remove the upper portion of the porch began on the west side of the west porch. The contractors removed the roof and roof sheathing, leaving the rafters and ceiling joists. The rafters and joists were then removed one by one, with relevant and representative structural members saved for documentation.Two ledger boards are present on the face of the building: one which supports the rafters, the other supports the ceiling joists. On the 1850s addition, between the ledger boards is an older generation stucco which does not resemble the current stucco presently covering the exterior of the house. According to stucco conservator Andy Ladygo, as many as three different stucco re-finishes were applied to the exterior walls. Because the area between the porch ceiling and roof were enclosed, these areas were unaltered from the stucco application original to the 1850’s addition. As the roof is removed, this older stucco is protected with plastic to prevent precipitation from hitting the previously enclosed areas. A more durable method of stucco protection will need to be devised to protect this and other areas of older stucco that will be uncovered. Several months may elapse before stucco restoration/reconstruction work commences, so these temporary protections are very important.With the entire roof structure completely removed, the connection of the beams to the 1850’s at the southwest corner of the porch could be seen. The joint consisted of a pegged dovetail joint, with the opposite end of the beam situated in a masonry pocket one wythe deep. (see photo 2)
(Photo 2: View of masonry pocket in wall;location of far west beam)
Furring strips (see photo 3) approximately 1/8″ thick were attached to the inside face of the beams, roughly spaced every two feet. According to Kevin Keane, the strips were used to align the inside planes of the columns with the facia boards, creating an even plane of construction.
(Photo 2: Detail of southwest corner with furring strip on beam.)
The nails used for attaching the tongue and groove pine sheathing are similar in style to the nails used for the ceiling and framing construction. Modern roof nails were used to install a late 20th c. roof. The roofing materials consists of one layer of composition shingles over 15# felt paper. Additionally, a built-in gutter pan system is present around the perimeter of the porch, presumably carried over from earlierconstructions.During the disassembly of the western side of the west porch, a handwritten “West End” inscription was discovered on the unpainted side of the facia board. (see photo 4) This piece was retained and stored in the basement. The board used for the soffit on the west appeared to be a much older board than other wood used in the area. This board also has a hand-carved hole present for the downspout on the west end of the porch. This piece was retained and is stored in the basement.
(Photo 4:West beam with handwritten “West End” written in pencil.)
The beams along the perimeter of the porch are 4″ x 8″ planks. The beam on the south over the west bay of the porch was severely rotted and was cut through the worst areas of rot, approximately the same length as the north-south beam, creating a large architectural artifact which was taken down intact. The beam is currently still on site and remains pegged and joined together.
—————Monday, June 30, 2003:
Removal of the west porch continued on Monday, with the work shifting to the center bay of the west porch. The process was similar to the previous day, with the cutting and removal of the roof sheathing, leaving the roof rafters and ceiling joists as a structural skeleton. Ceiling joists with markings and/or paint residue were saved for possible paint analysis by Frank Welsh.
—————Thursday, July 17, 2003
The roof, columns, and railing of the east bay of the west porch was removed. All of the columns which were not extensively rotted due to moisture, were retained in the basement, in addition to the scrollwork arches.
The remainder of the ceiling of the east porch was removed, revealing consistent lath patterns on the ceiling joists in the two eastern bays of the porch. Also consistent is the termination of the lath markings on each joist: approximately 16.75 inches from the southern tip of the ceiling hanger. This lack of lath pattern on the joists indicates a previous construction assembly at this location. The depth of the porch was increased-most likely during the expansion of the porch to the west along the 1850’s addition. When the depth of the porch increased, the joists were left in place to support the ceiling of the new, deeper porch. The absence of lath marks on the outer 16.75 inches reinforces the theory of the re-use of the ceiling joists because this area would not have held a ceiling, but instead would have been located at the outer edge of the porch, where the eave and structural support of the porch was located. (see figure 1)Examination of the ceiling joists shows a tapered edge cut on the top side of the soffit ends of the pieces. The joists are not attached to the beam on the south edge of the porch, but instead are just resting on the beam. The connections of the ceiling hanger to the house consist of two different variations: a notch cut into the edge of the hanger and toenailed to the ledger board attached to the wall, or every third hanger is set in a masonry pocket in the wall. There is no structural correlation to the spacing or alignment of the pockets in the wall which supported the joists on the east porch. (see photo 5).
(Photo 5: Masonry pockets for ceiling joists. No structural grid/pattern visible.)
(Figure 1: diagram of ceiling joists)
—————Wednesday, July 30, 2003:
Removal of the remaining portion of the roof, columns and railing on the east portion of the porch.The ceiling joists on the east portion of the porch were deemed to be original to the first build of the porch due to the appearance of the wood, similar lath patterns visible on the underside of the pieces, the nailing patterns, and the tapered form of the wood on the top or roof side of the pieces. The lath pattern is lacking on the southernmost 16.75 inches of the board. Scribe marks are present at 1.5 and 12 inch marks, leaving an area of roughly 9.5 inches with consistent nailing patterns not associated with lath or the later tongue-and- groove ceiling. When placed side by side, a consistent pattern is visible which reinforces the theory that these pieces were present during the first or second build of the porch. (see photo 6)
(Photo 6: underside of ceiling joists)
—————Thursday, August 21, 2003:
Removal of floor deck of western porch.
The entire deck and supporting structure of the west porch were disassembled and removed.The ledger board attached to the masonry wall was attached with an iron tie-back device consisting of an iron rod installed into the masonry wall. A plate was attached to the end of the rod which secured the ledger board to the wall. No threads are visible on the end of the bar, so the plate was attached to the end and the bar was struck to spread the end of the bar which secured the plate against the ledger board. (see photo 7)
(Photo 7: Iron rod and plate at former location of ledger board supporting floor deck.
Assorted pieces of iron were found embedded in at least one of the brick piers. One piece matches an earlier piece of iron found near the porch before removal of the porch commenced. David Overholt, Preservation Projects Manager, reported seeing a similar object at Quarters 2, which was built in the mid-19th century. The object, shown in Photo 8, is used as a support for the railing at Quarters 2. It is located between the main supports of the railing, presumably as an intermediary support to prevent the railing from sagging. The use of the piece is unknown. Other pieces of iron found in a pier have grooves or channels visible on them. The pieces remain in the brick pier until further archaeological or site investigation continues. (see photos 8&9)
(Photo 8: Photo showing iron remnants embedded in brick pier at southwest corner of porch.)
Further investigation of the former floor/deck area may reveal some clues about the attachment method of the balcony in this area. At present there are no visual clues which provide proof of the location of the balcony. Stucco and layers of paint obscure much of the possible connection points. Once this material is removed physical evidence regarding the balcony may be obtained.
(Photo 9: Iron artifacts located in brick pier. A similar piece on the left object was found near thelocation of the porch before disassembly.)
Temporary stairs recycled from existing stair construction are now in place in front of the door which provided access to the cottage from the porch. Weathering protection is present along the newly exposed wall areas under the former porch roof line to protect open masonry joints and older generation stucco samples. Weather protection is also present on the floor of the east porch to prevent rain water from damaging existing floor structure on the east porch.