December 11, 2013

The Ghost of Christmas Present

So, one of the byproducts of allowing a TV production crew to film on our property was the chance to pick the brains of the psychic mediums who were the stars of the show, which Jenny did.
All three of the mediums were super nice, and loved our house.  Two of them had lived previously in early American homes, so they were particularly appreciative.  Unfortunately, only one of the three had impressions of the "psychic energy" of our house.  The other two were too focused on the readings that they were doing for the show.  So, for what it's worth, here is what a professional psychic medium has to say about the house:
In our downstairs guest room, which was being used as the hair and makeup room the for the shoot, the psychic very matter-of-factly communed with the spirit of an old woman named Martha who lived (lives?) there.  She apparently was the relative of one of the past owners, and that was her room.  Although the psychic said that Martha was friendly and happy, she apparently was something of a neat freak, and was dispensing suggestions as to where the makeup woman should hang up the jacket that she had left sitting on the floor.  Martha also seems to have a strong design sensibility, as she told the psychic that the floor should be wood (it is currently wall to wall carpet) and that the walls should not be painted their current bright shade of Baltimore Oriole orange.  I have to say, Martha is my kind of spirit.  The mess in the guest room annoys the hell out of me, and I am always nagging Jenny to put away the stuff that she "temporarily" stores there.  I've also been on a campaign to rip out the carpet and install the same antique wide plank oak flooring that is in the rest of the house.  I think that my vote and Martha's outweighs Jenny's, right?
Interestingly, when we had an architectural historian look at that room when we restored it seven years ago, his thought that it was most likely added onto the house in the very early 19th century for a mother-in-law, or spinster aunt or sister.  It was too nice for a hired man's room, but not really part of the family area of the main house.  I'll have to dig around to see if there is a record of a Martha in the house.  I don't recall one, but you never know.  In any case, the guest room henceforth will be Martha's room.  My sister has already told me that she will never sleep in the room.  I'm sure that Martha would prefer that she not intrude, anyway.
The medium also "saw" a nursery in the space between the two upstairs bedrooms that used to be a small third room, that indeed very likely was a nursery.  She also had visions of a black woman who served as a nanny in the house, although that would have been very unlikely based on what I know about who lived here long ago.  But what do I know?  I had never even noticed Martha before.
Anyway, the psychic seems to have dug the vibe of our house, which is really all that we could have hoped for.  It certainly beats the alternative, which would have been them telling Jenny that there was a bad energy about the house, at which point she would have begun packing our belongings.

A Star is Barn

Interesting day today at the Enos Kellogg Homestead.  A TV production crew is in the barn filming a development pilot for a show tentatively titled Seance.  This is a reality show that brings psychic mediums (media?) in to give readings on groups of people.
The production crew thought that a barn would provide the right atmosphere, and a friend of a friend sent them our way.  After a full day yesterday setting up lights and decor, they are busily filming the episode today.  Which means three mediums, the people being "read", and the entire production crew are running around the property today.  Interesting to watch what goes into a reality show firsthand, but it will be nice to get the property back to ourselves tomorrow.

Since this pilot is something that will be used to shop around the show to networks, I doubt that it will ever see the light of day (even if the show is picked up by a network), but on the off chance that you think you recognize our barn when flipping channels in the future, you just might be right!

December 03, 2013

The Barn Restoration is Complete!

After more than five months, restoration of the c.1784 Enos Kellogg barn is complete.

I'll do a more detailed involved post later on, but here are a few photos of the finished structure, including some interiors from Thanksgiving Day, when we officially put the barn back into use with dinner for 35 inside.

Happily, the barn crew all signed their names on gable-end rafters, for someone to discover in another century or so.


A Long Way Down
Renard installing the traditional "propeller" door latch

Our painter, Bill, braving darkness and a snow flurry to finish up

October 28, 2013

Enos Kellogg Barn Restoration - In the Home Stretch

We're almost done!

Left to do:

Hang four doors, roof the rear of the barn, install the gable end windows, install the final layer of flooring and finish staining the structure.

Tantalizingly close.

October 16, 2013

All New Barn Restoration Photos

Just a quick photo-heavy post to update on progress on the barn.
We reached a milestone last week - the first metal going into the barn, as the framers started nailing up siding.  The timber frame is fastidiously old-fashioned, held together only by wooden pegs and sound engineering.
As of today, all sides are wrapped in the first course of rough cut siding.  This will be followed by a second exterior layer of smoother ship-lapped siding.  The roof decking (more rough cut 12" boards) is about half installed, and will be followed with cedar shingles on the front and metal roofing on the rear. 
The first layer of 1" flooring is down, and will be followed by a second layer of the same.
60" wrought iron hinges for the big doors should arrive next week.
We're in the home stretch.

Rafters Going Up

East Wall, with Siding

Sam Bracing Rafters

Racing Darkness to Install Last Rafter

Siding the Front Wall

Intruder Alert!

All Sided

East Gable and Rafters
Autumn over the Barn

August 12, 2013

Topless Photos . . . of the Enos Kellogg Barn

So, the Enos Kellogg Barn has been left stark naked - stripped of its collapsing roof, and disrobed of its rotting siding. 

Naked as the Day it was Raised
We've reached that phase of the restoration process where it becomes hard to see progress.  Which is not to say that significant progress is not being made.  It is just much harder to notice a tenon repair, the whittling of 150 wooden trunnels (pegs), or the cutting of floor joists than it is to see an entire wall or roof removed in a single day.
What has been a welcome site is the completion of the roof removal.  Our barn's roof has given me nightmares since the day we moved in.  Back in 2001, it already had a few holes in it, courtesy of a branch that impaled the barn on the previous owners' watch.  Several years back, we had an expensive tarp installed over the roof to keep the water out, and while it was effective, it looked like hell, and I cringed every time I saw it from the Merritt Parkway.  Being the old house obsessive that I am, I also hated seeing the miserable rafter replacement that had been inflicted on the barn in the 1980s - with badly-installed dimensional lumber marring the beauty of the timer frame.  Seeing a huge trunk of Superstorm Sandy-felled tree sitting astride the barn for the past six months also made me a little ill.  But, no more.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.  The new roof will be returned to the 12:12 pitch of the 18th century original (as evidenced by the last remaining piece of original roof plate), will include unmilled logs with one flattened face as rafters, and will be free of modern dimensional lumber.  Sadly, it will be too expensive to install cedars shingles on the roof, so we will have to go with a metal roof for the time being.  Hopefully we can re-roof once we win Powerball.  Otherwise, I give whoever owns the house in 100 years permission to curse my name for using a historically inappropriate roofing material.  Fair is fair.
Another exciting step forward is the arrival of the 30 foot log that will become our new tie beam for the east bent of the barn.  It appears that this particular piece of lumber has long been a problem for the barn - probably as a result of the northeast corner of the barn sinking over the years.  The original beam was no longer in place, having been replaced probably in the 19th century by a recycled 18th century hewn timber that appears to have served previously as a floor joist-carrying beam in another early structure.  This beam, too, failed at some point - cracking in half at its mid point.  To remedy that issue, another beam was sistered to the broken tie-beam - bolted along its top face.  With a newly-poured footer under the northeast corner of the barn hopefully eliminating the centuries old problem with the tie beam, we have removed the old replacements, and are going to install a new beam. 
While I knew that the beam had to be hand hewn to honor the history of the barn, finding an appropriate 30 foot log proved to be a challenge.  Once again, though, my friend Clint Thorn came to the rescue, tracking down a huge, straight and relatively knot-free red oak log through one of his friends.  Delivered two weeks ago, Renard and his crew have hewn about 3/4s of the log so far.  The next step will be installing the new beam onto the east bent of the barn (which is currently lying on the ground) and then re-raising the entire bent.  That should be cool.
30 Foot Red Oak Tie Beam, Partially Hewn
Finally, I should point out the beautiful dry laid fieldstone foundation that is now partially in place around the barn.  The masons that Renard recommended are awesome.  We returned from vacation to find restored foundations on more than half of the barn - built just as they originally were 230 years ago, with stones from our property laid carefully with no mortar.
Pretty nice looking, huh?

More photos to come as work progresses further.  Hopefully I will also have a "barn raising" video of the east bent going up in the next week or so.  Fingers crossed.

Enos Kellogg Barn Restoration, Chapter II

Sorry for posting this two weeks after the fact - delayed by vacation . . .

As illustrated by the four inch layer of white oak chips in our driveway, restoration work on the Enos Kellogg Barn continues to roll along.
The wood chips are result of the hand-hewing of a new corner post for the barn.  No sissy lumber mills for this post - only old school, bad-ass chopping axe and broad axe work.  For the three major timbers that need replacement, our barn restorers are starting with actual logs of white oak (bark and all) and creating the timbers using the same tools and techniques that were used when the barn was first constructed in the 1780s.

Lyla Hewing a New White Oak Corner Post in Front of Chicken Audience

Work on the new corner post is complete, with the hewing finished, and all mortises and tenons cut.  One timber down, two more to go.
I have to say, it is truly fascinating to watch an experienced framer hew a timber.  Is it wrong that I sit in a comfy lawn chair and spectate while the framers are working their buts off with a broad axe?  At least I have the decency not to hold a cold beer while I'm sitting and watching.  That makes it ok, right?
Renard and Company Providing Entertainment
In addition to the corner post, the flooring system for the east bay of the barn is almost complete.  New footings have been poured, ground sills cut and installed, floor supports laid out, and most of the joists cut and installed.  Particularly satisfying was seeing the center post that had been swinging freely in the barn since we purchased the property in 2001 (and probably for many more decades before that) finally mortised into a solid piece of white oak.
New Sills and Floor Joists
I even tried my hand at metal detecting to see if  could find any artifacts before the floor goes in.  This experiment was hugely successful if you are a fan of 20th century nails, of which I found close to a hundred.  In terms of interesting finds, though, it was a complete bust.  I'm hopeful that I will have more luck in the west bay once the concrete pad in that area is removed.  That was the animal bay, and likely had no floor in the 18th century.  I'm hoping that someone had the decency to leave a coin or two in the dirt a couple of hundred years ago.
At this point, work on the east bay is as finished as it can be until we get the 30 foot white oak log that will be hewn into the horizontal tie beam that runs from corer to corner at the gable end of the barn.  That will be a monstrous amount of axe work.
Hopefully, we will get a load of wood delivered in the next couple of days, and the barn can creep a little closer to restoration.

Here are a few other sights around the barn:

A post jacked up awaiting installation of a new sill below.


An 18th century construction error.  Look closely at what looks like a thumbprint to the right of the nail.  This is the beginning of a spoon auger hole, apparently started a couple of inches too far to the left of where the diagonal brace was supposed to intersect the post.


August 11, 2013

The Other Enos Kellogg Houses

Just a quick posting on two other Enos Kellogg Houses that still exist, both in New Canaan, CT. 
This "second" Enos Kellogg House, at 296 Carter Street in New Canaan, is located just under two miles from us.  As Ponus Avenue and Carter Street were essentially one continuous roadway prior to the construction of the Merritt Parkway,  this property was literally up the street from our house.

The Carter Street property was previously owned by Enos Kellogg's father-in-law, and then passed on to Enos' brother-in-law, Abijah Fitch.  "Master Bije", as he was known, was a schoolmaster, teaching at one of New Canaan's one-room schoolhouses.

In 1819, Enos held a note on the property from Abijah, and it appears that Abijah defaulted on the note.  He did, however, continue to live in the house, probably until his death.  By 1830, Enos' daughter, Hannah, also lived in the house, along with her husband, Minot Ayres.  Master Bije, who never married, continued to reside in the house along with the Ayres family. 

Upon Enos' death in 1832, the property transferred to Hannah.  Enos also left Hannah $1200 to buy out an interest in the property held by her cousin, Matthew Kellogg.

Here is a video tour of the house from when it was for sale a few years ago.  Beautiful.

Amazingly, a "third" Enos Kellogg House is also still standing in New Canaan.  This property is at 166 White Oak Shade.  Also known as White Feather Farm, the then 17 acre property came into Enos' possession when Ezra Seymour Jr. defaulted on a mortgage note held by Enos in 1813.  It appears that Enos held a mortgage on an additional four acres, but Ezra's father bailed him out by paying off the debt on the four acres. 
It seems that Enos built the house on the property at some point between 1813 and 1830 (and more likely than not after 1820), probably as a residence for his orphaned nephew, Matthew Kellogg, whom he raised in our original recipe Enos Kellogg House.  Matthew's father was Enos' brother, Isaac Kellogg, a soldier in the Revolutionary war who served in Lt. Carter's Company in 1776.
So, there you have the two "other" Enos Kellogg Houses.  While Enos never lived in either one, he owned both at the time of his death, and likely built one of them.

July 21, 2013

Enos Kellogg Barn Restoration - Overview of the Project

For anyone who is interested, I thought that I would post a brief overview of what restoring our c.1784 barn will actually entail.  For the sake of clarity, I will break out the work by each of the three barn bays.
For those who don't know, timber framed barns are divided into bays, which are the areas between each bent.  A bent is a portion of the barn frame that consists of two or more vertical posts, joined together at the top  by a horizontal tie beam or girt.  When you picture a barn raising, you probably picture a bent being lifted up.  This scene from the movie Witness (which, by the way, is an awesome movie, ranking in my Harrison Ford hierarchy behind only the Star Wars and Raiders trilogies [sorry, I know that there were four Indiana Jones movies, but I prefer to live in a world where Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does not exist] should give you an idea of what I mean.

Raising a bent in Witness

Our barn, like most traditional Connecticut barns of the 18th century, is comprised of four bents and three bays.  The center bay was used for threshing grain. As such it would have had a wood floor to provide a clean, hard surface for threshing (see picture at right).  While our floor is long gone, one floor support and a handful of joist mortises in an original ground sill provide evidence of its original design.  We are restoring the threshing floor to its original configuration based on this evidence. 
One side bay (the west bay, in our barn) was the animal bay, used for housing cattle and sometimes other animals.  We know which side was the animal bay in our barn by the presence of three cattle doors at the west gable end of the barn, and by the cattle stanchions (used to hold a cow's head during milking) that remain in place in our barn.  The third bay (the east bay on our barn) was the mow, used for storing hay and other animal fodder.
Cattle Stanchion

OK, with that digression out of the way, herewith is what needs to happen on our barn:
East (Mow) Bay (this is where the barn had suffered the most over the years, with decay, water damage and some serious hurt from the pine tree that fell on it during Super Storm Sandy last year)
  • Replace northeast corner post with new hewn white oak post
  • Tenon repair on mid post
  • Tenon repair on southeast corner post
  • Replace 30' tie beam with new hewn white oak post
  • Replace rotted, broken and missing nailers with white oak salvaged from rafters
  • Replace all ground sills with milled white oak
  • Replace all roof plates with milled hemlock
Center (Threshing) Bay
  • Tenon repair on northeast post
  • Replace rotted bottom of southwest post with oak salvaged from east bay
  • Tenon repair on centereast post
  • Replace southeast post with new hewn white oak post
  • Replace missing centerwest post with new hewn white oak post
  • Replace missing nailers with white oak salvaged from rafters
  • Replace all ground sills with milled white oak
  • Replace all roof plates with milled hemlock
  • Install new swinging doors on north and south sides of barn using 60" forged iron strap hinges and pintles
West (Animal) Bay
  • Likely tenon repair on northwest post
  • Likely tenon repair on southwest post
  • Tenon repair on tie-beam
  • Replace missing nailers with white oak salvaged from rafters
  • Replace all ground sills with milled white oak
  • Replace all roof plates with milled hemlock
Throughout Barn
  • Replace all missing or damaged bracing
  • Replace all siding with shiplapped, wide plank tongue-and-groove boards over rough sawn boards
  • Replace all rafters, restoring roof profile to original 12:12 pitch
  • Install metal roof over 12" rough cut boards (sadly we can't afford to put up cedar shingles) 
  • Install wide plank floor, with necessary supports and joists
  • Rebuild dry-laid fieldstone foundation

Wow, that's a hell of a lot of work for 2 months.  The overriding philosophy is to save as much of the original fabric of the barn as possible, and to restore the barn to its appearance c.1784, using appropriate materials, tools, and techniques, with particular attention paid to replicating the joinery methodologies employed when the structure was originally built.  Wish us luck.

July 14, 2013

Restoring the Enos Kellogg Barn

At last!  Restoration work on the Enos Kellogg Barn is finally under way.
While we had been able to nurse our much-neglected 18th century barn along since purchasing the property in 2001, a chance meeting with a giant white pine tree during Super Storm Sandy last October left us with the choice of either undertaking a major restoration project or risking the collapse of the structure.

Front View, Pre-Restoration
Back View, Pre-Restoration

While simple economics might have argued for the latter course of action, we simply couldn't stomach the thought of seeing the old barn give up the ghost on our watch.  So, with some advice from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation (which runs an amazing barn preservation program), we set out last fall to find someone to bring our barn back to life.  Trying to juggle finding the right person to do the work, negotiating with our insurance company over the Sandy damage, applying for a barn stabilization grant, and scraping up enough of our own funds to get the project going was not particularly fun.  Among the lowlights were having the first timber framer that we talked to flake out on the project right before it was scheduled to begin, and getting turned down for the barn grant due to a lack of funding for privately owned structures.

Happily, however, our barn mojo has improved dramatically in the past month.  First, we caught an exceptionally lucky break when one of the timber framers that the CT Trust had recommended most highly had an unexpected opening in his schedule due to the postponement of another job.  So, Renard Thompson and his crew (Lyla, Sam and Ben) were able to start work only a week after coming out to do a full evaluation of the structure in mid-June.

Renard is a walking encyclopedia of timber framing, having done beautiful restorations of many timber frame structures around Connecticut (take a look at his website - Bring Back Barns).  In the two-and-a-half weeks that they have been on site, I have learned a ton about timber framing, in general, and our barn, in particular.  Most interesting for me is confirmation that the barn is located on its original site (and not moved from somewhere else), and was constructed using tools and construction techniques consistent with the 1780s.  So, in all probability, this barn is the original barn associated with our home, and it likely was built either concurrently with our house, or very shortly thereafter  This makes its restoration all the more important in my eyes - we are extremely lucky to have both the original house and barn still standing as survivors after 230 years, and I see it as our duty to do what we can to help them endure for a few more centuries.
Our second lucky break came when we were trying find a source for white oak.  Our barn was originally constructed almost entirely of this species of wood, which is ideal given its strength and rot resistance.  Unfortunately, our project required quite a lot of new wood, most importantly to replace the rotted ground sills throughout the structure, and three particularly large pieces of oak  to replace other posts and beams that were not salvageable.  What I learned quickly is that big lengths of white oak are hard to find and are very expensive.  Luckily, it occurred to me that our friend Clint Thorn might know of a good source.  Clint is a master furniture maker, specializing in reproductions of some of the most beautiful pieces of furniture made in 18th century New England (check out his business The Open Talon).  He harvests much of the wood for his projects right from his own farm.  He, his wife, Kim, and their two sons live in Goshen, CT, on an idyllic farm that also houses their dairy operation (including cheese making and the crafting of amazingly delicious artisanal chocolates - check out their Thorncrest Farm & Dairy website).  Unbeknownst to me, they also had started a wood mill on their farm, and what material did they have available?  White oak!  And for a very attractive price.  As I said, our barn luck clearly had improved.

So, with a team of  experienced timber framing experts and a source for wood, our restoration is moving along.  So far, the crew has removed the majority of the roof, taken down the eastern bent of the barn where there was significant damage from the tree, poured new foundation piers for the eastern bay of the barn and prepared new sills and roof plates for that bay.  They also have almost finished hewing a corner post for the northeast corner of the barn, which will replace the post that was broken by the falling tree.  More details to come as the project progresses, but here are an array of photos of what has taken place so far.