Finishing Touches – Floor Plans and Interviews

Joey's shed.

Joey’s shed.

As has previously been written on the blog this last week is hectic.  More hectic than the last and the one before that.  At times it seems like we won’t finish all our projects and work on time but right now there is a quiet determination throughout the convent.  This quiet an interesting change as the convent is usually bustling with conversation and cooking.  With eight “sisters” living in the space there always seems to be something going on.

Inside Joey Yard's Shed.

Inside Joey Yard’s Shed.

It is also a bittersweet week as it is our last in Witless Bay.  I’ve certainly enjoyed the convent life although at times we’ve questions whether we enjoy it too much (is listening to Gregorian chants during meal time taking it too far?).  The communal way of living – cooking, cleaning and living together has been a great experience and I know I’ll miss my sisters when we return to St. John’s (although we’ll see each other four days a week in our two remaining classes when we return).  I’m looking forward to presenting our work to the community on Saturday at 5:00 at the Recreation Centre.  It’ll be great to be able to show what we’ve learned and who we’ve talked to.

Jacquey  climbing around the shed.

Jacquey climbing around the shed.

This week I’ve learned a number of things from different people.  I’ve had four interviews – including Bonnie’s which I posted about on Monday.  Tuesday I had an interview with Vicki Walsh of Burnt Cove who members of the Fifty Plus club recommended I interview.  It was a great interview and we discussed everything from her family in Witless Bay and her great-grandfather’s house close to Lower Pond to rug hooking and Newfoundland Ponies.  Vicki was even kind enough to join Dena Wiseman and do an impromptu rug hooking workshop last night.  I picked Dena’s brain on heritage while everyone practiced the techniques.  I think we may have a few new rug hookers on our hands.  The people here have really been wonderful – inviting us in to their homes, sheds, stables, root cellars, asking us to join them for bingo, craft nights and cards and dropping by the convent with gifts of fresh vegetables or bottled preserves.  I really wish we had more time in the community to enjoy the warmth of the people.  My last interview was this afternoon with the Mayor of Witless Bay Sebastien Despres.  We discussed heritage in Witless Bay while his daughter Amelie explored the chapel in the convent.

Claire hanging out and measuring the shed.

Claire hanging out and measuring the shed.

Other than interviews my week has also been filled with finishing up a floor plan of Joey Yard’s shed.  This shed has two parts – the rear part which was built by his father Henry in the 1930s or 1940s and the front part which was built by Joey in the mid 2000s.  Joey said the shed once housed hay which had been cut in the nearby meadows to feed the Newfoundland Pony their family owned.  The rear part of the shed now contains disused fishing gear such as caplin traps, a squid roller, handmade swivels, gill nets, and piles of rope.  The front of the shed is used more frequently and has barrels of diesel for Joey’s boat, tubs for fish, and containers for lobsters.  It was interesting drawing the inside building with all its studs but even more interesting watching Claire and Jacquey climb around the shed.

Caplin trap.

Caplin trap.

To clue up my last blog post and write what I’m sure we’ll all say on Saturday – thanks to the community of Witless Bay!  It has been an incredible and packed three weeks.  I’m thankful to everyone who made this experience as amazing as it was and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Joey Yard

Joey Yard

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The Difference a Day Makes

Jacquey and Claire examining the outside of Bernadette's house

Jacquey and Claire examining the outside of Bernadette’s house

Yesterday was our first day on our own measuring houses.  We split into three groups of three and headed to our separate houses.  Claire, Jacquey, and I headed to Bernadette Maddigan’s house to measure her house and start our floor plan.  We started off with the outside and measured all the sides of the house including windows, doors, the veranda, and the front and back porch which jut out from the main house.  It was interesting to what we had been shown and practiced earlier in the week in action.  After completing the outside of the house we stopped to the convent for a quick lunch.  We headed back to the house and that’s when the trouble began.

Bernadette's companion Blackie who visited us frequently the past few days

Bernadette’s companion Blackie who visited us frequently the past few days

Starting in the back porch we added the measurements for a built in cabinet, and a water pump then we ventured into the bathroom.  Two people measuring a bathroom is quite a tight squeeze and this is where we began to see issues.  The exterior walls in the bathroom appeared to be a foot thick.  We went outside and measured again.  We went inside and measured again.  Everything appeared to be correct!  Finally we decided to leave it and come back to it.  We moved into the pantry and aside from the thick walls all seemed fine.  The walls were still an issue and we were losing time so we decided to start from the front porch.  Here the walls were still quite thick and time was running out.  Finally we opted to pack up and head home to the convent.

Gregorian chants and popsicles

Gregorian chants and popsicles

Andrea and I were on cooking duty and prepared a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.  To unwind we listened to a CD of Gregorian chants while Sharna read Henry Glassie aloud.  Andrea and I supplied jam-jams and popsicles as dessert and we all ate a quiet meal with the accompanying chants.

A bump in Bernadette's home indicating a wall which has been removed

A bump in Bernadette’s home indicating a wall which has been removed

This morning was a new day and we headed to Bernadette’s again.  Claire had checked over the measurements and drawn a new drawing to see where the issues were but couldn’t find any major problems.  Dr. Chappell suggested the walls were simply thick due to the layers of siding and insulation over the years.  We opted to draw both the original wall size and the current wall size to show the different dimensions.

The wood stove which replaced an older stone fireplace.  This may have been a lobby entrance house with a large stone fireplace in the centre, and stairs to the second floor.

The wood stove which replaced an older stone fireplace. This may have been a lobby entrance house with a large stone fireplace in the centre, and stairs to the second floor.

It was much smoother day and we worked from the front porch through the house adding all the different measurements from built in cabinets to sinks, from stairs to counters as we went.  We labeled the rooms and added notes for changes and built in work.  We stopped mid afternoon for some cookies, a cup of tea, and a chat with Bernadette.  We left feeling much happier and more accomplished than yesterday and it just goes to show the difference a day can make!

The difference of a day!

The difference of a day!

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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