Looking for Architectural Clues

Mother Carey's Chick

Mother Carey’s Chick

Our Monday morning started off with a visit from a Leach Storm Petrel (known locally as Mother Carey’s Chicks).  Dena Wiseman dropped by to let us handle the rarely seen sea bird which is nocturnal and nests on the islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.  Although I’ve seen puffins before the storm petrel was new to me.  Both birds can become disoriented and stranded along the roads and are part of the puffin and petrel patrol in Witless Bay.

Left to right, top then bottom: Dr. Chappell climbing into the attic, Dr. Pocius examing the attic, a loose collar beam, smoke blackened wood.

Left to right, top then bottom: Dr. Chappell climbing into the attic, Dr. Pocius examing the attic, a loose collar beam, smoke blackened wood.

After breakfast we had an intro class with Dr. Ed Chappell who is the Director of Architectural and Archeological Research with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  Dr. Chappell presented the basics of architectural floor plans, how to read buildings for changes such as “scars” left from additions or removals and techniques for dating buildings.  We had a quick lunch then we headed into the field.

Replaced board where chimney may have been.

Replaced board where chimney may have been.

We started by examining the first floor of the house before Dr. Chappell and Dr. Pocius decided we should see what we could learn from the attic (there was no access to the basement  – otherwise we would’ve been under the house as well).  We manoeuvred our way into the attic and examined the ceiling planks which were imported and seemed to mechanically cut.  There were studded walls with vertical planks some which had been blackened by smoke.  There were also new boards across the ceilings planks which seem to suggest the presence of a chimney and later possibly a wood stove chimney pipe.

Left to right: Field students examining the attic, markings on the floor of the attic, Andrea and Saeede.

Left to right: Field students examining the attic, markings on the floor of the attic, Andrea and Saeede.

Dr. Chappell suggested we start with a plan of the first floor and add in details of additions and changes when the plan was complete.  In order to start the floor plan we needed to decide upon a scale – we went with 3/4 inch equals 1 foot and started measuring.  Dr. Chappell showed us how to measure the buildings, how to include the windows, doors and moldings and how to label the floor plan.  He also demonstrated how to use an architectural ruler in order to draw the building to scale.

Dr. Chappell demonstrating how to draw a floor plan.

Dr. Chappell demonstrating how to draw a floor plan.

When the first floor plan was drawn the changes in support beams and the suggestion of a small entrance way were added before the attic was measured again.  Dr. Chappell was still doing some measurements and drawings in the attic when we left.  We are currently at the  convent preparing a quick supper before heading to the Fifty Plus Club’s Craft Night.  Later in the week we will work in teams of three to measure and document buildings as well as discovering the building’s history.
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