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The secrets these walls held were not secrets after all. It takes a knowledgeable hand to know what might lie under walls that were erected centuries ago. And it takes a skilled hand to make sure they are removed intact. It was an old custom to place a shoe by the front door of a dwelling. In keeping with that tradition, it only stands to reason that we found a baby’s shoe embedded into the wall of this museum bathroom when we removed it for restoration. An acrylic display box was custom built and placed in the wall of the “new” bathroom where the shoe and a silver spoon, also found in the wall, were discovered.

A perfectly sensible and traditional barn floor in the age of dust restrictions, drainage requirements and energy conservation meant drawing on some wide-ranging experience. Suitable material for this application is a soil containing clay, silt and sand. A recent project at a different museum yielded enough material to be trucked in for this project.

Beginning with the architect’s sense of authenticity, old notes, internet searches, consulting with some special old-timers, and input from coating manufacturers, we created an environmentally friendly, modern earthen floor.

Rocks were sifted out then the mixture was combined with straw, linseed oil and mineral spirits. The floor was compacted in layers, then seal-coated with a final top-coat. The finished floor looks authentic and is so smooth and solid it can be swept clean just like any other floor.

There is “no such-a-thing” as matching when it comes to old and new brick. Decades pass, suppliers change hands and clay deposits dry up. Many times a fully functional wall or building must be sacrificed to provide enough material for a transition or even a complete job.

Fortunately brick laying techniques have changed little in hundreds of years. But, matching old and new mortar adds another wrinkle to the mason’s job. An analysis of the old mortar was used to make a composition that would look like two hundred year-old mortar.

Apart from the 300 year-old farm house was a root cellar that was part of a complete site restoration. The initial task was to restore this root cellar to its original condition. It had been used as a garbage dump for one hundred years and was thought to be about six feet deep.

The archeologist gave us our guidelines – we could dig down in the corner of the cellar until we hit bottom. To everyone’s surprise, that was an additional eight feet. Upon further digging, which from this point on was done by hand, we uncovered two wheelbarrow’s full of old stained glass, porcelain, dishes, cups, water jugs, whiskey jugs, belt buckles and more. It took countless hours of delicate excavation by hand, performed by an extremely careful crew to recover the treasures left behind two centuries ago.

The last stages of the project were to install a modernized roof with appropriate drainage to keep out rain and snow. On the inside we installed 2”x26” oak rough cut shelves and used locust branches for shelf supports. These were placed into shelf holes that we had earlier discovered in the walls of the root cellar.

P.O. Box 268, Mountainville, NY 10953