Monday, April 27, 2009

Anyone for Volunteering?

The Florence Griswold Museum invites you to join our group of volunteers by contributing your time and talents. Some volunteer jobs have a public role, others are more behind-the-scenes, but each is vital to the Museum.

It is such a rewarding part of the museum experience. Visitors always appreciate the personal touch given by every one of our volunteers. You see it in our beautiful gardens. Guests are greeted at the house and gallery by smiling faces and knowledgeable dialog. Being a member of one of our volunteer committees allows you to make a difference in the workings of a great institution and you meet and make friends with the most interesting people. Miss Florence would be very proud!

This coming season proves to have many new positions for those who admire, enjoy and have interest in our landscape--coinciding with exciting new installations and our barn restoration.

Positions are available for those interested in art, nature, education and hospitality. Time commitment varies according to volunteer description.

Please visit for full descriptions and an application. Not sure where your talent lies? Call me at 434-7995 or contact Shawn Savage, membership coordinator, at (860) 434-5542, ext. 112, or e-mail

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Barn Restoration Project, Part III

On 06 April 2009, we started putting up siding on the north side facing the historic garden. this work continued on 07 April as well.

On 08 April, David Colita, the site supervisor discovered, upon removing the south side siding, that we have three more defective girts - that is, the horizontal members that extend between upright posts that are used for structural support and as nailers for the barn siding. One girt actually collapsed as Carmello Santos was leaning against it!

On 10 April, we had a meeting with the Director, the Project Manager and David Colite the on- site supervisor to discuss the conditions of these girts. David also took this opportunity to point out the deteriorating condition of the two posts that flank the south side waggon doors. All parties agreed that we do not want to replace any further historic fabric than absolutely necessary. the Director authorized the replacement of three girts that were beyond repair, as well as another 2 X 6 board that had been a patch repair back in the 1970's. Regarding the flanking south door posts, the new posts being installed for the waggon doors will be "sistered" to the original posts and will, in turn, lend a degree of support to those members. We will further add a reinforcement piece onto the western post above the lintel for greater strength.
During the week of the 13th, the crew installed gussets on the roof line, hurricane tie-downs where the rafters meet the roof plate, and installed four new girts on the south side. They also finished attaching the rest of the south side siding.

On the 20th, the crew removed the old west side barn siding.

On the 22nd they began work on installing the new west side siding.

Regarding an inquiry from one of our blog readers; The Rafal Landscape Center will be completed and opened to the public in early June. I expect Kronenberger & Sons Restoration to have their work complete by the first week of May. At that time the plumbing and electrical will be brought into the barn, and Keith Ragone will begin installing the exhibitry.
One of the goals of the Center is to educate the public on historic gardens and the local grange traditions. We will be conducting hands-on demonstrations and lectures that will focus on this subject matter.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Barn Restoration Project, Part II

In early March the crew (Dave and Carmello of Kronenberger & Sons Restoration) poured a new concrete floor. This involved the removing of the older dirt floor, digging down a few feet to lay a gravel bed, installing reinforcements, and pouring the concrete. Sometime in the past forty years the original foundation was replaced by a concrete one. However, they kept the dirt floor intact. Interestingly, the 2 X 12 boards used as the forms for the poured foundation were then re-used to replace two deteriorating upper central cross members. At the time of the pouring of the new concrete foundation, the barn’s sill plate (that part of the structure that sits on the foundation) was also replaced with red oak. No doubt this was due to extensive dry rot and insect damage. There is also evidence at this time of some diagonal braces being replaced as well as “dutchman”(selective cutting and patching of framing) and modified scarf joint repairs of upright posts.

Selective post and beam replacement. The barn needed to be "racked", using a “come – along” racheting device, to make the barn plumb to facilitate post repair. This involved the wrapping of a chain around the walnut tree outside the barn and racking the barn to achieve a properly upright perpendicular. All post replacement and repair was accomplished by the first week of April. A considerable number of the barn’s original posts and beams required either complete or partial replacement using shiplap joinery or “dutchman” repairs. This involved the cutting out of the damaged wood and affixing a matching wood patch. One post, for example, required a full seven feet of repair, without, however, replacing the whole post of twenty-four feet. In addition, two central posts that had been sheared off sometime in the past have been restored.
On 20 March the roof was removed, to be replaced by a standing seam metal roof at a later date.
The re-siding of three sides of the barn commenced second week of April. Most of the exterior siding is too far gone to reuse. Only the eastern side facing the Hartman Education Center will retain its original siding. Selective repairs of the eastern side may be made with boards salvaged from the other three sides. The eastern side features a dove cote, a window and two doors. Replacement siding will be a red cedar stained to a hue compatible with the existing eastern side.


Barn Restoration Project

The goal of the Barn Restoration Project is three-fold:

- Renovate and repair the structure, using, where practical, traditional timber frame joinery. At the same time remaining sensitive to preserving the historic fabric where possible.

- Tell the story of the agrarian and gardening/landscaping traditions of Southern Connecticut.

- The eastern third of the barn will be reserved for the volunteer “Garden Gang”.

This traditional barn, on the campus of the Florence Griswold Museum, is the sole remaining outbuilding that is extant from the Art Colony period.

The Barn was built around 1851 in that style easily identified with the utilitarian barns of the Connecticut River Valley. Assembled from local chestnut, oak and fir, the traditional mortise and tenion joinery of post and beam construction is much in evidence in the structure.
Later repairs in the mid–twentieth century were indifferent to the traditional joinery methods. These repairs utilized modern fasteners, such as steel nails, carriage and lag bolts, to hold the post and boards together. Central timber beam members were replaced by conventional 2 X 12 fir boards. Central timber posts, essential to the stability of the frame, were sheared in half, presumably to maximize greater storage capacity on the ground floor.

So, the scope of the work on this project is to renovate, selectively restore and completely repair the Historic Barn to such an extent that it can be used for the purposes of the Rafal Landscape Center, while remaining sensitive to the historic fabric of the building.

Subsequent blogs will discuss in detail each repair.