Posted by: PearlSBuckHouse | 03/27/2013

Exposing the Beams: March 2013

Nearly a month of exploration and preliminary work in the basement and attic is the way to quickly summarize what transpired in the month of February once the house was turned over to the contractor.  A month was necessary because everyone involved in the final phase of restoration is working toward the ultimate goal of completing the work without major modifications having to be made to the interior architectural finishes of the Pearl S. Buck House.  The month enabled us to find the best pathways for re-wiring the house, adding infrastructure required for an upgraded fire detection system, and making alterations to the existing HVAC System.

All hard-wired electrical fixtures throughout the house and cottage will be cataloged, removed and restored before re-installation takes place.  Here you will see evidence of lighting/electrical fixtures in place and the current view after having been removed in the Mud Room.

Photo #70 - Electrical Fixtures

Photo #70a - Mud Rm Lights

Recognized as a significant need to ensure the long-term preservation of the house, completely re-wiring the structures will ensure the safety of the home and the visitors who will continue to enjoy tours and exhibits into the future.  Shown below is one of the electrical panels found in the basement.  You will see an array of wiring representative of years past and some more current wiring similar to what may be found in your home today.

Photo #71a - Elec Panel in Basement

Every outlet and light switch will be replaced and upgraded to correspond with the new wiring. Examples of old fixtures are shown here during the exploration work.

Photo #71 - Old Wiring - Outlet

Photo #72 - Outlet and Plaster Wall

As a result of years of water infiltration, some interior plaster finishes and built in cabinets are also scheduled for restoration. This unusual built in cabinet in the living room of the house, formerly housed the phonograph records for the family, will be completely restored as well as the plaster wall above it.

Photo #74 - Built in Cabinet

 The large library, just a few steps away, housed two record players (a 33 ½ speed and 45 speed) which were tucked away in a closet beneath the stairs. The corresponding speakers are nestled into the book shelves, as if they were to be undetected by those who enjoyed the music they projected.

The interior trim work of this window with an eastern exposure out onto the courtyard is another example of the damage created by wind-driven rain and fluctuations in interior temperatures. When the house re-opens, evidence of the deterioration in the trim will be gone.

Photo #75 - Window Trim

In some areas of the house, the best solution was to install new conduits that will support the electrical and fire detection systems running from the basement through the attic. You will see in this photo of Pearl S. Buck’s bedroom, pre-existing mechanical system pipes painted to match the interior walls now co-exist with the new conduit. The conduit will be painted when the entire interior of the home receives a fresh coat of paint.

Photo #73 - New Conduit for Elec - Fire Detection

Ms. Buck and her husband, Richard Walsh, would often leave detailed lists of work to be done at their home while they vacationed with their family.  Prior to the existence of computer paint chip analysis, the human eye was relied upon to match the color of the paint in the house.  As one might imagine, there are numerous rooms in the house that have vague and subtle variations in the color and finishes.  Some walls and trim vary from flat to an eggshell finish, while other trim can be found in semi-gloss and a higher gloss finish.

Photo #76 - Wall and Trim Paint

To ensure accuracy, the letters in the archives from the home owners requesting repairs and painting of interior surfaces were carefully reviewed. Based on paint analysis taken during the development of the Historic Structures Report, the solution moving forward is to have the entire home repainted in the same color, except for the boy’s “yellow” bathroom. The walls will receive an eggshell finish and the trim will receive a semi-gloss finish to bring uniformity throughout. This will also enable future preservation to be completed more easily.

Similar consideration was also taken when identifying the paint for the floors in the mud room and the dining room.  As the main entry into the house for tours, the floor of the mud room receives a great deal of foot traffic, as it did during the family’s occupation when the children would enter and remove their muddy shoes.  The Walsh family chose a utilitarian brick floor to hold up to wear and tear of their growing family.  Appearing to be semi-gloss sealant paint over brick, under closer inspection in the protected areas of the floor and in the corners of the closet, a rich barn-red paint, in a high gloss finish, was revealed. To eyes accustomed to the well-worn floor, some of these updates may seem to be changes, when in fact they are restorations to original colors and finishes.

Photo #77 - Floor Paint

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