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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, November 2013
Description Sites & Structures Committee Report for November 13, 2013 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:
A. Attic Insulation completed [original Tavern only];
B. Previously approved: "Insulating" film to be installed inside windows [no fasteners or adhesives in or on wood];
C. Proposed: Retrofit kitchen door frame and insert weather-stripping to close gaps.

II. Paint project for WH entry steps and porches: Frank has prepared wood for paint, and today painted the posts and rails, deferring painting new treated lumber, treads, risers, and decks until spring, after the treated wood has exhaled its excess chemicals.

III. Electric service project {WHT and GDH}:
A. Mounting frames installed, conduits set, and wiring has been run from meter frames into buildings;
B. Met Ed switchover to be scheduled [not on a Thursday]; will give the Board as much notice as possible.
C. 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.
D. Apartment wiring to be from independent 100 amp meter-completed today?
E. Consider "evergreen" landscaping to conceal conduits, and possible "billboard" use of meter-mount panel facing road.

IV. Mouns Jones Site Archaeology:
Sub-grade masonry walls exposed 5-6 feet from MJH doorway extending toward River, with possible cellarway opening and exterior stone steps [Images # 1 & 2, photos #5353 and 5375]. Structure appears to extend up-river parallel to eaves walls of MJH. Spring archaeology "units" will follow walls from apparent corners, and seek to determine wall thickness, perimeter dimensions, mortar characteristics, and an analysis of construction methods compared to MJH masonry. Relative depths of coping and base of unearthed walls will be plotted and compared to bearing-plane and plinth of MJH foundation.

V. George Douglass House:
The arched bearing structure in the eastern corner of cellar [Image #3, photo #5573 (smaller arch to left, sharing a support pier with the larger vault supporting the fireplace)] possibly indicates that the present doorway [Image #4, photo #5586, 11/11/13] was not an original opening in the SE gable wall, but was possibly initiated when the store was constructed, c. 1798-1810, to provide a more convenient passage between the house, store, smoke-house, root cellar, a possible out-kitchen, and other functional elements of the store and meat processing enterprise. There would have been no purpose or benefit in constructing a massive and expensive bearing structure beneath the short passage to an exterior doorway, when standard dimension floor-joists would have been quite adequate to support the dead and live loads imposed by use of the doorway passage for domestic and mercantile purposes.
The smaller vault could have been intended as a bearing-vault for an oven or other masonry structure ancillary to the kitchen function. However, knowledgeable consultants have found no evidence of an oven or other ancillary kitchen utility in the fireplace jamb or adjacent partition wall structure.

Whatever the original purpose of the smaller vault might have been, it has served for more than two-and-a-half centuries as an un-yielding counter-structure resisting in static equilibrium the massive thrust and oblique force vectors from the larger cellar vault supporting the kitchen fireplace and chimney mass above. In essence, the smaller vault is a stabilizing abutment for the large vault supporting the fireplace and its superstructure. The smaller vault is a mechanically and economically efficient alternative for providing lateral support as part of the base for the massive "loads" imposed on this two-vault foundation. If the space between the larger vault under the fireplace and the northeast foundation walling had been in-filled with masoned or rubble stone, the resulting structure providing lateral support counteracting the thrust of the larger vault would be a massive pier, composed of many more stone "units" than the small vault requires. The arched "barrel" vault-form alternative takes fewer stones and fewer man-hours to accomplish the same mechanical objective as a more massive pier. This solution leaves a void within the volume of space encapsulated under the intrados ["soffit"] of the vault, but is securely abutted by the cellar wall and the exterior earthen fill imposed against it.

The shortened "quoins" adjacent to the NE door jamb in the gable wall, possibly cut down to accommodate the jamb, are also consistent with a later period for this doorway [although the counterpart "quoins" in the northern corner pier also tend to be shorter than average, but do not appear to have been cut-down to a shorter length].

Recommend: Interior archaeological investigation to determine whether a possible bake oven, secondary hearth, or other masonry structure was supported by the smaller vault. The flooring inside the doorway should be removed to expose the details and geometry of the vault and any remaining masonry it supported.
The NE jamb of the fireplace should also be examined for evidence of a closed-up aperture and/or a smoke-vent connected to the FP flue [NONE FOUND]..

ACTION REQUESTED ON: I C; III D-Refer to committee? V.

Submitted by Sites & Structures Committee, Laurence Ward, Chair; Updated November, 2016.

Laurence Ward, November 2016
Date November 2013
Catalog Number 1008.01.063
Archive Number HPTSSR18
Search Terms Archaeology
Committee Report
General Text
Sites and Structures
Underground electric
bearing vault
support vault
Fireplace support vault
barrel vault
abutment pier
Abutment vault
force vector
lateral support