by Kevin White, Director of Maintenance and Preservation
The House of the Seven Gables is about to embark on phase two of the Secret Rooms project. This phase will entail the installation of needed reinforcement to achieve desired floor stabilization. As The Gables moves forward on this very exciting project, we would like to share some interesting finds that we have encountered thus far.
During the first phase of the project, floorboards were carefully removed, numbered and put into storage for reinstallation. Underneath these floorboards was found what appears to be the original finish floor from the 1668 structure. Looking at the extensive wear on these boards, one can well imagine John Turner bustling about while he tends to his burgeoning trade just steps from his grand mansion. Found in the cracks of this floor were two tiny blue beads which appear to be turquoise. The beads are incredibly small, and it was good fortune to have seen them in the dark crack of a centuries-old floorboard.
Also found in the masonry and plaster of the south wall was a piece of Westerwald pottery which, from all indications, has been there since the 17th Century. Westerwald is a salt-glazed pottery that has been made in Germany since the 15th Century and is still made today. Westerwald pottery retains its glaze and color even when buried for long periods of time. In the same wall cavity there was also found a small piece of homespun fabric with two button holes. This striped fabric gives a glimpse into what may have been common material in the 17th Century. We imagine this to be a piece of waistcoat or something of the sort. Another possibility has been expressed that this may well have been a piece of scrap on which to practice buttonholes. We will never know exactly, but the fabric itself tells a story that resonates with anyone curious about the past.
The ceiling of dining room chamber tells us the story of a more recent century, but still not our own. Fragments of wallpaper (or in this case ceiling paper) were found as the later partitions were removed from this space. The remains of a very bright red border still exists on the ceiling and fragments of two different patterned papers as well, that seemed to have covered the rest of the ceiling. We have heard stories of the Uptons holding dance class in the “ballroom.” Imagine Henry Upton’s dance students learning their steps in this grand old room adorned with brightly colored papers on the walls and ceiling.
These are just a few examples of the common items, or pieces of such that help weave together a timeless tale that speaks to all who hear.
To support the restoration and reinterpretation of the second-floor chamber, please visit our Secret Rooms Project page by clicking HERE.
Tags: 1668, archaeology, architecture, ballroom, bead, chamber, colonial, dance, elizabeth, fabric, find, floor, gables, henry, history, house, ingersoll, john, kevin, mansion, original, preservation, project, room, second, secret, summer-beam, tour, turner, turquoise, upton, wallpaper, westerwald, white
This post was written by Ryan Conary