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A Look Back at 2016 in Preservation

December 20, 2016 Published By Julie Arrison-Bishop

This past year has been one of big dreams and even bigger accomplishments. Our dedicated staff have devoted themselves to new, exciting projects while continuing to maintain the daily tasks and behind-the-scenes work that keeps The Gables going. In early January, our doors may have been closed to the public, but our historic buildings were full of life. Staff members from around the campus were busy cleaning and caring for the variety of furniture, silver, glassware, and other pieces that make up our extensive collection. Our maintenance and preservation crew members were preparing the grounds for winter, and deep cleaning all of the spaces around the site. This annual shutdown is a necessary period for The Gables to ensure the coming year will be ready for our many thousands of visitors.

During this time, we were also gearing up for the start of the second-floor chaIMG_2656mber restoration, known as the “Secret Rooms Project.” In February, work began on the stabilization and restoration of these spaces. The first step was to remove the floor in the dining room chamber, and the 1976 plaster ceiling from the dining room to expose the summer beam from the top and bottom. Then, the task was to create a steel framing to brace the summer beam and floor joists. The reinforcement was installed on March 30th. Meanwhile, conservator Christine Thomson analyzed paint in the second-floor chambers, and wallpaper expert Richard Nylander looked at wallpaper samples to help us shed light on decorative finishes in these spaces. Work continued throughout the year on the “Secret Rooms Project” with the accounting room beginning the process to restore it to an earlier configuration.

Spring was an eventful time of year for our staff. On May 16th, our longtime Director of Maintenance and Preservation offered a special, members-only tour of historic preservation projects through the years at The Gables. He took guests through more than 100 years of work here on site. These behind-the-scenes tours will be offered again in 2017.

As we moved into summer, repair work on wood-framed windows around the site began, and the replacement of the Retire Beckett House roof started with the help of outside contractors.

joe-napolitano-napco-crew-finishing-beckett-roof-6-23-16The Retire Beckett House (1655) is the oldest house on The Gables property. It is because of the consistent upkeep and preservation of this 360+ year-old structure that it remains a crucial part of our National Historic Landmark District. In October, work continued on the Beckett House with the replacement of siding near the back entrance to the property on the north facing side of the house. Some repairs are underway on the façade of the Nathaniel Hawthorne Birthplace as well. If you visit, you may even see some of that work in progress.

The year is coming to an end, but the work to preserve and maintain the buildings and grounds of our historic site never stops. This retrospective on the past year offers a glimpse into the projects and routine work involved in taking care of historic properties, but is only a small look at what was accomplished in 2016. As we approach the new year, we would like to say thank you to all of our supporters, staff, and friends who ensure that there will be a House of the Seven Gables to visit for generations to come.

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This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop