Restoration of Ham House

Of course the whole purpose of this project was to take what was a collapsing wreck of a building and bring it back to its former glory. In reality Ham House had been neglected for a very long time. Though originally a dramatic building, it had probably not looked its best since about 1830. Over time, elegant features were stripped off, slowly dumming it down until almost indistinguishable from a late 19th century barn. Original siding that had been reinstalled as sheathing in 1896 with the re-siding of the house had not a trace of paint on it. Most of the damage we repaired had been inflicted in the 19th century.

Figure 1. Beginning the SE corner. The sill plate came out mainly as rotten wood chips

Figure 2. SE corner fixed

Restoration of Ham House began with an inspection of the frame. Optimism blinkered us from the dog of this project - the foundation. Other issues that had to be resolved early in the survey were the original windows and doors, interior millwork, and the exterior facade of the building. Understanding these features took time as great care was taken to recover original pieces of the building re-used in past renovations. This task was made a little easier in that original construction nails were wrought iron rose-head nails while later renovations were made with cut 'square' nails. Furthermore, all original milling was done by hand with heavier timbers squared with a broad axe or cut in a pit saw. Sawing in the age of steam was often done with a circular saw. With this in mind, it took 2 years to gut the house of its modern modifications.

Characteristic of a pre-industrial building is its masonry chimney. Though iron stoves were becoming more available by the end of the War of 1812, they were distrusted. More importantly, iron cook stoves did not arrive until the 1830's meaning a cook fireplace was essential. The original chimney column with mantle pieces was still intact, though the cook fireplace masonry had suffered some rough 'maintenance' around 1854 and around 1900.