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What’s New in Preservation?

By Brian Payne, Preservation Carpenter


Photo of staging on the north elevation of the Phippen House during chimney restoriation Summer 2021If you visit The House of the Seven Gables, you can’t miss the staging on the north elevation of the Phippen House. We’re working with Florentine Renaissance Masonry to restore the two original chimneys on the structure.

The Joshua Phippen house was built c. 1792. Over the years, the weather-battered chimneys have become less safe to both the integrity of the roof and to visitors to the historic site. The first phase of this project started in late fall 2020. Forty bricks from the top of the chimneys were removed. The current phase of the project includes repointing both chimneys and rebuilding the north crown. Repointing is grinding down the mortar between the bricks and replacing it with fresh mortar to stabilize the chimney.

The key to this project is keeping as much of the authentic material and structure in place. According to the mason, Fabio Bardini, all of the bricks on both chimneys are original. The preservation of these bricks is the priority and the material used is key. Bardini will be using a traditional lime mortar instead of Portland cement. Lime mortar is much softer and can take a full century to cure but this slow process alleviates stress on the bricks. Portland cement is quick drying and quicker to cure but the pressure it creates on the bricks makes them more likely to crack and crumble over time.

Bardini studied architecture in Florence and brings his knowledge and resources to this project. The lime mortar that is being used cannot be found in the U.S. It is imported from Italy through connections that Bardini maintains.

Bardini brings much passion and experience to the job. This project is a great example of preservation done right.

Mason Fabio Bardini of Florentine Renaissance Masonry working on the chimney of Phippen House during restoration in 2021

Fabio Bardini working on one of the chimneys of Phippen house

The House of the Seven Gables is grateful to the Methuen Festival of Trees for partial support of this historic preservation project.

Date: August 5, 2021

Author: Holly Watson

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