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Collection HPTBC Sites and Structures Reports
Object Name REPORT
Title Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County Sites and Structures Committee Report, January 2014
Description Sites & Structures Committee Report for January 8, 2014 meeting of the
Board of the Directors of the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County

The following is a summary of stabilization, preservation, restoration, and related work planned, completed, and in-progress, including requested Board approval or other action on pending work and projects under consideration:

I. White Horse Winterization and Structural Stabilization:
A. COMPLETED: Infiltration film installed inside windows.
B. COMPLETED: Retrofit kitchen door frame and insert weather-stripping to close gaps.
C. COMPLETED: Stones and debris have been removed from cellars.

II. Underground Electric service project {WHT and GDH}:
A. Met Ed switchover and apartment meter re-wiring scheduled for January 23.
B. Removal of meters, conduit, wiring and all remains of electric, cable and phone services from building walls will be completed after cut-in of underground service.
C. Consider "evergreen" landscaping to conceal conduits, and possible use of mounts as "bulletin boards".

III. MJH structural condition:

Removal of a small section of plaster from the river-side eaves wall exposed disintegrated mortar residue and voids, filled in during the 1960s-70s restoration, with "plugs" of the same Portland-based pargeting material used as the rough-coat underlayment for the finish plaster. Modern wire-lath backed the rough-coat. These findings, coupled with the progressive deformation of this wall [bulged and visibly out-of-plumb across the three center bays], pose a serious question as to its stability.
Detailed measurements have been initiated to plot the misalignment [bulge, batter, rotation, de-laminations, etc.] of the wall segments relative to foundation and rafter-plate locations [Image #1, 9/18/15, #8386, wall displacement drawing], and to convert the resulting data into a drawing, [Image #2, 3/25/14, Data Drawing] showing the locations and extent of the deformations and possible effects on the structural stability of the wall fabric and the roof loads it partially supports.
In addition to the disintegrated masonry, the extent of which is not yet known, several joists supporting the 2d floor have also failed, rotting out of the bearing pockets in the interior wall masonry. Other joists have deflected, further contributing to the risk of structural failure. The existing 2d floor joist-and-board membrane, installed during the 1970s restoration, will be replaced by old boards and reclaimed white oak joists of the 5" x 8" dimensions recorded by a HABS drawing produced from on-site measurements taken in the 1950s.

The area where the disintegrated mortar residue and voids were discovered, including present and former window and door openings, had been chopped-out and re-worked several times over the 297-year life of the house, compromising the structural integrity of the three central bays. More than 40% of the central bays are not original masonry, containing Portland-type cementitious mortar, notoriously damaging to masonry walls because of its imperviousness to migrating moisture in the wall system. The proposed restoration project will use only high-calcium "lime mortar" in its formulation for bed, joint, and pointing mortar.
The first opening in the center of the wall at ground level was apparently a doorway centered in the wall under the date-stone [Image #3, photo #6863, 1/30/14, shows the vertical joints of the masonry doorway opening], replaced in mid-nineteenth by a large vertically-hung sash window which was temporarily replaced by a similar window in the 1960s, then by the small square casement currently [January, 2014] in place. Each of these alterations involved in-fill patches, new vertical joints, and varying types of mortar and walling techniques. The failed mortar seen in the photo probably dates to an earlier period. The attached elevation sketch shows [within the blue-line rectangle on Image #4, Photo MJH wall elev, 9/18/15] the areas of the three central bays which have been disturbed and re-constructed during the 298 year existence of the house. Pending further investigation, wall segments I & III [the end-bays] appear to be stable and relatively plumb.

If the Board approves Phase I, temporary "dead shores" [posts] will be installed under the 2d floor and attic-floor joists as a short-term and marginal safety measure [preliminary interior shoring elevation drawing attached-Image #5, photo #6531, 1/5/14]. Image #6 is photo 6853, 1/30/14, showing the laminated sill upon which the shoring posts were set to bear the attic joists. A similar composite sill was set on the bricks on the first floor as a base for the shoring posts supporting the 2d-floor joists.

ACTION REQUESTED ON: III, subject to Sites & Structures committee specifications, drawings, and reconstruction details.

Laurence Ward, November 2016
Date January 2014
Catalog Number 1008.01.064
Archive Number HPTSSR19
Search Terms sites and structures
commiittee reports
wall displacement
lime mortar
dead shores
laminated sill
shoring posts
contour drawing
deviation data drawing