The Amos Hodsdon House Needs a New Owner

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We at Green Mountain Timber Frames have a friend and fellow “restorationist” and we are very excited to be collaborating with him on a new project. It’s an incredible opportunity to preserve the “Amos Hodsdon House,” built in 1837.

1904 Hodsdon postcard without text cape house green mountain timber frames

Ben’s story

Hodsdon dismantle crew green mountain timber frames

Meet Ben Heywood, center

Meet Ben – An Expert in Restoration

Ben Heywood moved into the area a few years ago after a career of preservation and restoration work in the Cape Cod area. Since moving to Vermont, he has become a friend as well as a consultant on some of our projects. He has aided us in assessing the fine details of houses dating from the 1800s. He has a wealth of knowledge regarding trim, window and door styles and the dating of buildings. He has done incredible work restoring original entryways, windows, and cupboards. On a recent weekend visit, I asked Ben how he got interested in restoration.

“I was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1951. There were dozens of abandoned 18th and early 19th century houses in a 40 or 50 mile radius. In the course of many Sunday family rides in the station wagon, my father would drop me at these so I could snoop around. It was arranged that I’d be picked up about a half hour later. All kinds of different architecture… it was great! It took no time at all for me to understand the difference between the handcrafted specimens and the numerous postwar boxes popping up everywhere. I also bought and devoured all the Eric Sloane books by age 16. All this sent me in the preservation direction.”

Ben’s First Home Restoration

Ben moved to Falmouth and purchased his first “vintage” house in 1978 for the price of $1! It was a circa 1815 three quarter cape with a center hall and three fireplaces. It had the original doors, wainscot, finish trim and floors. As Ben told me, “I assembled some buddies and had it down in three weeks. I’ll never forget having to buy a liability policy from Lloyd’s of London as I was young and not yet firmly established. Insurance for four weeks cost me 500 times what I had paid for the house! Most everybody thought I was nuts at the time- until they saw the place restored!”

In the decades that followed, Ben disassembled and restored around 20 period houses. He did restoration in place on another 20!

Bodfish house cape house green mountain timber frames

Ben completed the restoration of the “Bodfish” house in 1982, which overlooks Cape Cod bay.

In 2008, Ben decided to find one last gem of a house that he would restore for himself as he moved to Vermont and into retirement. Enter: the remarkable house built by Amos Hodsdon in 1837.

Hodsdon house vintage photograph cape house available green mountain timber frames

The Hodsdon house, built in 1837

Now, due to life changes and a desire to downsize his construction plans, Ben has decided not to use this house as his own. The beautiful historic Hodson House is available for sale!

And we at Green Mountain Timber Frames want to help our friend find a new family to make this house into their home.

About the Vintage House

After looking at many vintage buildings, Ben decided on a house in Carroll County, New Hampshire, named after Charles Carroll who died in 1832 as the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. Carroll County was created in 1840 with Ossipee as its seat. Ben learned this history lesson after his search of Carroll County deeds came up empty. Eventually, he realized that the county lines had changed three years after the deed to the property changed hands from father to son, and so was filed in Strafford County!

Hodsdon grave stone green mountain timber frames

Ben found the gravestone of Captain Amos Hodsdon

deed Hodsdon vintage cape house green mountain timber frames

Here is the deed showing the transfer of property from father to son

When Ben discovered the old Hodson place, the house was incredibly unaltered and in good “frame health,” for its age. It had been abandoned for ten years and had been occupied by an elderly couple before that. The kitchen had a typical cast iron sink mounted in what was surely a period dry sink. There was a rusty old spigot and pipe that ran into a tank heated by the wood stove! The last residents of the house had still been carrying water into the house from a six foot diameter dug well with a flat stone cover. Best of all… the house had never had a bathroom!

Ben assembled a crew and began dismantling the frame.

Hodsdon partially dismantled frame green mountain timber frames

The roof boards come off

Hodsdon rafter system vintage house

Here is a 46 foot purlin in the rafter system!

Hodsdon frame opened up green mountain timber frames

The exposed frame

The Frame Awaits a New Owner

The frame is down, carefully stored and awaiting a new home. It is available as a complete package, including the beautifully restored trim work, original flooring materials, interior trim and wainscoting panels, the windows, and the entry. Even the staircase is ready to go back in!

Above you can see the tired entryway, and then the doorway after Ben’s incredibly meticulous restoration work.

When the house came into Ben’s caretaking, the decorative fan work over the entrance had been removed and flat boards had been nailed up. Ben studied the “shadow lines,” which are marks and weathering patterns on the wood, in an attempt to figure out through detective work what the original had looked like. Then, in a fortuitous turn of events, a friend discovered this old photograph of the house. It confirmed Ben’s guess at what had graced the entrance originally, and wait till you see what he created!

Cape House Green Mountain Timber Frames

This photo is the best rendition of the entranceway in the background. Oh, and the people in the foreground look fantastic too!!

Restored fan over entry Hodsdon house green mountain timber frames

Here you can see the incredible recreation of the decorative fan work over the doorway- all based on an early 1900’s photo!

Expertly restored windows Hodsdon cape house green mountain timber frames

Ben has even restored all the original windows!

This house boasts roughly 3,700 square feet of vintage living space. The crew at Green Mountain Timber Frames will do a complete restoration of the timber frame itself, and we are looking for someone who has always wanted to live in a beautiful New England style home!

Interested in this frame?

Know someone who may be able to help us find a home for this historical treasure? Please pass the word around that this wonderful structure is available and help us find a new “forever” location for this gem!

Contact us!

(802) 774-8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Timber Framing: Captured on Video!

Green Mountain Timber Frames is now of video!

But before I show you the video, let’s take a look at this before and after shot.
Antique Timber frame before afterYou may remember back in 2013 when I wrote a few times about the timber frame we had restored and erected up at Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs. A gunstock timber frame, it was built over 250 years ago.

For this project, we erected the restored frame with help of the one and only Vermont Jeepgirl (otherwise known as Crane Operator extraordinaire, Sue Miller.) Luckily for us, she made a video recording of the raising day!

Hats off to Sue for capturing our madness!

Vermont Crane Operator_Vermont Jeep Girl

Vermont Jeepgirl Sue Miller

It was a great crew that worked on this frame. Here we are, standing proud in front of the restored timbers.

Construction experts from Green Mountain Timber Frames

Construction crew from Green Mountain Timber Frames

This frame – even before it became a new storage barn – saw a lot of good times! For a couple months, the erected frame stood on the beautiful lawn behind Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home

Test Barn Raising of Timber Frame Barn Home at Sissy’s Kitchen

While we waited for the right buyer, the frame housed many a dinner party and afternoon tea, just around the corner from the workshop of Green Mountain Timber Frames.

Summer evening party at Sissy's under antique post and beam frame

Summer evening party at Sissy’s under post and beam frame

I want to send out a huge thank you again to Sissy for letting us have all this fun, right in her yard!

Timber framer Dan McKeen and Sissy in Vermont

Have more timber frame projects worth capturing on video? Let us know! We would like to hear from you!

Possible – Beautiful Barn Home from Benson, VT – Available Frame!

I am helping the owner of this finely crafted timber frame find a new owner. The frame, originally built in the 1870s stands a majestic 32 feet wide and 48 feet long.

1_Exterior view_original purple slate visible repairs noticeable from lighter slate color - Copy

The large barn is in good condition and could make a stunning barn home, restored barn, studio or gallery. With so much space, there are a lot of options. There is 1500 square feet of space with an additional 750 square feet of potential if we add in a loft.

5_Partial loft floor joists noticeable_ potential for 750 sq ft loft - Copy - Copy

Notice the partial loft floor joists – great loft potential!

One added feature is the slate roof. Since Benson is in Vermont’s “slate belt,” this frame boasts an unusual purple slate roof that is of the best quality that you can find in the region.

In the picture below, you can see the wide gable wall which stretches 32 feet. The roof pitch is 12-12. This is one reason it feels so big inside.

2_Gable wall is 32 feet wide_roof pitch is 10-12 - Copy - Copy

Both the roof boards and wall boards are in excellent condition and the frame features long timbers that are hand hewn. The posts themselves are sawn.

Some more interior pictures below. Notice the beautiful honey color and the well preserved vertical wall boards.

Timber frame roof boards

4_Interior color is honey brown_ nice vertical wall boards

historic post and beam home

Interested in living in a historic property? Have questions?

Please give me a call at 802.774.8972. This post and beam frame could really make a one-of-a-kind barn home and we are looking for just the right owner to preserve this beautiful frame.

Restoring a Barn Home – with Guest Blogger (and Carpenter) Luke Larson

Today’s blog was written by a guest blogger, Luke Larson.

A tremendous thanks to Luke of Larson Carpentry for sharing this with us – not only his pictures and story, but his talent with wood. Luke and his crew recently dismantled the Gambrel style timber frame which I wrote about earlier in the winter. You can read more about the English Gambrel style home, which was built in the 1790s, in my blog here.

This beautiful vintage timber frame is looking for a new owner. Interested in calling this frame home? Contact us! 

Vermont Timber Frame Gambrel Roof_Crew Shot

Dismantling the Gambrel Frame – Luke and Crew

Gambrel Roof Timber Frame

Timber Frame Home with Gambrel Roof from Danby, Vermont

When we first began inspecting this home back in the fall, we were guessing it was built in the 1820s. Throughout the process of gutting the house down to the original ingredients, we have made the exciting discovery that it is an earlier timber frame, built in the 1790s!
We also discovered that the house is featured in a Vermont architectural survey, described as an early and rare example of craftsmanship. The frame size is 28 x 38 feet and the stout timbers are made out of American chestnut, beech and white oak wood. The main beams are hand hewn while some of the floor joists and the rafters are water sawn. These were likely crafted at a river mill within a few miles of the site.
Gambrel Roof Timber frame in New England Snow

The Gambrel Roof Timber Frame in New England Snow

“Gambrel” refers to the double pitched roof seen above. It is a style that is uncommon here in Vermont. One of the major benefits is the wide open and spacious feeling of the second floor. There is a 22 X 38 foot clear space in the center. With the uncommon arches collar ties on the back half, this will make a remarkable master bedroom! The posts on both floors are gunstock, meaning that they get larger at the top and make for exceptionally strong timber frame joints.
I had a great crew of 10 for the day we lowered the frame to the ground. It is an amazing thing to remove the oak pegs that have been holding the building together for the past two hundred plus years. And it is amazing to be learning my craft from master builders who lived more than two hundred years ago. Every piece of this house is now labeled and carefully stored away.
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Beautiful Joinery on New England Frame. Note the arched collar ties!

Let’s return to the detective-like task of uncovering the date the house was constructed. After about 500 hours of tearing out additions, sheet rock, wiring and insulation, we were finally able to get a better look at the original ingredients. A major clue as to the date of the house came from the nails used. Most were rose head nails, meaning they were formed completely by hand with a forge. The term “rose head” comes from the beautiful shape of the nail head, which was pounded out with four quick strokes of the blacksmith’s hammer.
Some cut nails (made by machine) were also used on this house, primarily on the flooring. It was exciting to discover that these cut nails were of the earliest variety, as evidenced by the way the metal sheets from which the nails were cut had to be flipped over during the process, creating a slight metal bur on opposite sides of the nail. Only a few years later, the technology had developed enough that the nails were “stamped out” of sheet metal without needing to be flipped over, creating a different bur pattern.
The earliest machine-made nails still had the heads fine-tuned by hand, but with only two strokes of the hammer. It was a very narrow window of time during which these nails were made and it helped provide the time frame for this home’s construction.
 Rosehead Nails for Timber Frame Wood

Rose Head Nails

Another clue in the dating process involved the plaster and lathe. Very early homes such as this one used split board lathe to hold horsehair plaster to the wall. It was made by chopping a wide board with a hatched, thus stretching it apart like an accordion. This was then nailed to the wall. As sawing became more economical during the early 1800s, later home builders used narrow lathe that was sawn rather than split. This house had accordion lathe throughout, as the next photo shows. This picture is just one wide board that has been cut and spread apart.

Accordion Lathe on colonial timber frame

Accordion Lathe

Here I have stripped the house down to the original siding boards:
Gambrel 1

Original Siding – up to 22 inches wide!

The boards you see above are one and a quarter-inch thick hemlock planks. Many are over twenty inches wide! Imagine the trees that the boards came from! At this stage in the process, I was able to discover all of the original window and door layout, which I have carefully documented. Notice the tiny windows out in the eves. These would have allowed light into the area right under the rafters.
Joinery Summer Beam
Here is some of the amazing joinery. In the picture above, you can see the end of a summer beam, meaning a beam that runs mid-span and supports floor joists. This joint is “dovetailed,” meaning the joint is made in such a way that it cannot physically pull apart.
Finally, we were down to the first floor after the upper structure was down. Once the beautiful wide flooring boards were removed and saved, I labeled each of these sills and floor joists. Even without a foundation, the rot-resistant tendency of American Chestnut means that many of these sills are still in great shape and ready to be used again!
First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

First Floor of Timber Frame with Upper Structure Down

It was a pleasure working on dismantling this frame and I enjoyed uncovering details at each step along the way!  Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process.

In may ways, it was both a joyful and sobering task to take this houses down. There were many poignant moments when I thought about all of the living that has taken place in this space, all of the generations and families that have called this building home.

My hope is that the time-darkened timbers and patina laden boards of this house will again be someone’s home. I intend to honor both the craftsman who chopped these beams from the forest as well as all those who have cared for it since as I embark upon my next step: the restoration of this beautiful timber frame.

Below are a few more of my favorite photographs from the dismantling process:

Timber Frame of Gambrel House

A Beautiful Timber Frame!

Removing Timber Beam for Frame Restoration

Lifting Down One of the Five 38-foot Beams

Dropping Gambrel Frame into the ground

Preparing to Lower the Rafters

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Please contact Green Mountain Timber Frames to learn about the vintage timber frames we have available – or to share your own story about barn restoration! We welcome guest blogs!

 

Repairing a Silo – without letting her tip!

I recently repaired this wooden silo in Danby, Vermont. It was originally built in the 1850s. While the silo is not currently being used, the owner wanted to maintain the look and feel of his New England barn home and asked me to repair the vintage wooden structure. It had originally been used to store silage for cattle.

The silo had a 38-foot circumference and most of the bottom boards around the base were rotten. I was hired to fix this tall task!

Rotting timbers in silo - historic properties in New England

Rotting boards along base of silo

Luckily, only four inches of the base wood was rotted. To restore the silo, we cut seven inches up to get back into solid wood. The original silo boards were either spruce or cypress, but I used locust wood for the repair. Locust is plentiful in our area and is our natural “pressure treated” wood species, meaning it is very resistant to moisture rotting the wood fibers.

We had the new pieces of wood custom sawn to the exact dimensions we needed to ensure they would match the size of the original silo boards.

Restored timber frame silo in Vermont

New boards on silo

In order to repair the frame, we first built an internal frame on the inside of the silo. This frame enabled us to screw the short pieces of locust wood back into something solid. This system ensures the integrity of the repair and will help the silo stand tall for decades to come.

New beams in timber fram silo

Support system seen from inside of silo

I used a three-tier system, shown below. The first tier board was fastened to the concrete floor at the base of the silo. The second board was for fastening the new seven inch locust replacement silo pieces.

In the third level,  I attached the original section of the silo board. With these three levels in place, the silo boards are now secure and there is plenty of space for air to circulate inside the silo. This air circulation will help prevent rot in the future.

New timbers for silo Vermont timberframe

Prototype of interior fastener

The silo’s wooden walls are two inches thick, so I could not use my preferred routing method to duplicate the original tongue and groove boards Instead, I used three table saws to carve the tongue and groove system for the replacement pieces. Tongue and groove joints allow two flat pieces of wood to be joined together to make a single flat surface. It’s a wonderful system that ties all the boards together.

Table saw for Vermont Historic Properties_Silo Project

Table saws for creating tongue and groove system

We cut one three-foot section at a time, secured them to the internal framing, and then moved on to the next three-foot section. There are twelve sections in all. Nine feet of the original boards were still solid and did not need restoration.

Restored timber frame silo

Repaired timber frame silo

I feel good about the repairs we did to this beautiful historic property, and I believe this system will hold up another 150 years. We left some locust boards in the silo, so if another repair is needed in the next 50 years or so – they are ready to go! That untouched original 9 feet of silo might need repair in 30 years!

In working on this silo project, I was once again grateful to live in New England and to work together with people – like the owner of this silo – who value history and are willing to invest in ensuring that old barns and silos remain part of the landscape for generations to come.  We all benefit from their passion to preserve our heritage.

To see more examples of historic properties and old barns I have restored at Green Mountain Timber Frames, please see the completed projects on my website!

First Light of Day After 55 Years

We spent five cold and snowy weeks preparing this 1770s gunstock barn frame from Ira, Vermont for dismantling.

Slate roof on Old Barn in New England

Gunstock Timber Frame from Ira, VT

Historic Old Barn with Slate Roof Removed

Temporary roof on Ira timber frame

With a great team of five fellas, we tallied 370 hours clearing out the interior of the old barn of horse-drawn contents and everything else imaginable.  Removing the 40 square (a square is a 10′ x 10′ surface area) of slate roof took another 80 hours. We then put on a temporary protective roof, seen in the picture above, so the spring rains won’t damage the roof boards and timbers.

At times it wasn’t easy, given the freezing temperatures and the mounting piles of snow. Here is a picture showing the take down of the slate roof in the snow. Half the slate is still on the left side of the roof.

Removing slate roof from Timber frame and braving the New England Elements

Part of what made this project particularly interesting is that the barn was full of antique farming equipment. As we shoveled out the old hay and debris from each of the barn’s five bays, we got to inspect the equipment closely.

Antique farm equipment from post and beam frame

Corn Chopper

Much of it is in great condition and we dragged all of the equipment out into the field around the barn. Imagine the fun of cleaning up and inspecting equipment that had not seen the light of day since 1959! When these machines were last used, they were harnessed to horses and pulled to the fields nearby.

Farm Fleet from Old timber frame barn in Vermont

Corn chopper and hay rake.
Pallets of slate in background.

With the barn emptied out and the rugged beech timbers sighing relief from 15 tons of slate removed, the next step is to dismantle the antique hewn beams and truck the frame to the shop for restoration. We’ll dismantle the frame in late April. First, we have to get rid of two feet of snow and survive mud season!

Here are some more pictures of the treasures we removed from this antique timber frame.

Antique Farm Equipment from Tmber Frame Old Barn

Hay rake being removed from the barn

Removing equipment from old barn for sale in new england

Sled for carrying a maple sap barrel or timber

Cultivator from Old Post and Beam Barn

Cultivator/planter for seeding hay

Moving antique timber frame for restoration

Delivery of horse drawn equipment its new owner in Northern Vermont

Antique Farm Equipment Vermont

Antique Farm Equipment sees the light of day

Phase One is accomplished!

Clapboard removal from antique timberframe

Finishing up clapboard removal.
Removal of sheathing boards will have to wait for Phase Two.

Stay tuned for Phase Two. We’ll let you know when we start dismantling this Vermont Republic frame from Ira!

I’ll leave you with a fun fact: This little Vermont hamlet is named Ira after Ira Allen, brother of Ethan Allen, of the famed “Green Mountain Boys”.

Top Five Reasons to “Go Old”

For those of us who have been restoring old timber frames for years, the magic of these buildings goes without saying. But in the more than 30 years since founding Green Mountain Timber Frames,  I have often been asked about the benefits of “going old.” Many customers wonder about the reasons to buy and restore an old frame rather than building a brand new timber frame which replicates the style of a certain era.

Timber Frame Restoration in new england

Timber frame during restoration in Rupert, VT

Timber frame Old Barn restored in Vermont

Post restoration, the completed barn

For those of you who may be considering restoring an old New England barn – or any historic building for that matter – this blog is meant to highlight some of the best reasons to go old.

So here they are – in no particular order – my own assessment of the top five reasons to invest in restoring a vintage timber frame!

1) Respect for History

The United States of America is a relatively young country. In many ways we lack a rich architectural heritage like that of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. As our society moves ever faster, we tend to put an emphasis on consumerism and acquisition, promoting what’s new and forsaking the old.

It is up to us to preserve the historical artifacts that remain from our not-so-distant past.

The old barns that dot New England’s landscape tell of a time when colonialists from Europe ventured across the vast Atlantic in hopes of creating a better life for their families. They and their decedents built these barns, and also fought in the American Revolution and Civil War. It is these same people who created the foundation of our society today.

The structures we preserve at Green Mountain Timber Frames are the homes they lived in, the storehouses that kept their grain dry and the barns that housed their livestock. It is these historic barns that are disappearing, dissolving slowly into the landscape as they fall into disrepair and neglect, or are simply torn down. By saving and restoring an old barn, we are doing our part in preserving the history of this country for generations to come.

2) Preservation Matters

In a society where new things are acquired constantly from box stores, outlets and through Internet transactions, we tend to forget that resources are limited and that not everything, always will be replaceable.

By restoring historic timber frames, we are doing our part in preserving some of the most precious resources of our world. We are reusing wood of the finest quality rather than cutting down new trees and letting old frames rot.

And in addition to the physical preservation, we are preserving stories as well – and a way of life and a style of construction that has long since been replaced by more modern techniques.

3) The Unmatched Elegance of Old Wood

The hand hewn look and feel of old wood cannot be replicated in a building made of new posts and beams. The patina that surfaces after old hand hewn beams have been washed varies greatly, depending on the type of wood: chestnut becomes honey blond; pine becomes dark golden. These beautiful textures cannot be manufactured. Like fine wine, the craftsman’s original art improves with age.

While it may not be scientific or measurable, there is a real sense of magic that comes from living in a building built centuries ago. The romance and the history have soaked into the timbers and each restored barn brings with it a special feel – an energy that seeps through the walls or flickerings of memories from previous owners. Even the finest replicas cannot quite capture the special feeling that comes from living in a historic building.

4) Trees – they don’t make them like they used to!

Timber frames built before 1800 were constructed from trees that had never been intentionally grown and harvested. The forests were “original,” the trees hundreds of years old. In steep contrast to these old growth trees which boast 40-60 growth rings per inch, today’s trees have only 6 to 10 growth rings per inch and are intentionally planted and farmed. The old trees stood close together, allowing for the tight growth rings to form. Structurally, old growth wood is a very different timber with far more strength and fewer knots. The factory wood used today simply cannot compete.

5) Timbers tell stories

Listen carefully and every timber frame will reveal stories about its past. In some frames we have restored, these stories are told in newspapers stuffed between timbers or old coins found buried beneath the floor boards. In others, there are old numbering systems to be deciphered on the original timbers.

Restored word in a colonial post and beam frame

Note the markings on the timbers

Often times, when I first come to visit a historic property, the current owner will tell me a bit of the history of the building. Handed down over the generations, these buildings hold stories of love and family, of tragedies and miracles. Just this past week, I wrote in my blog about the Ira, VT barn that miraculously survived a fire in the early twentieth century.

Each barn comes with its own unique story, a collection of physical evidence and memories that can be felt, heard and learned over the years. Part of the fun of living in an old timber frame is learning about the specific history of that barn. I always enjoy exploring this history together with my clients and trying to uncover as much as I can by speaking to previous owners and neighbors and by making careful observations of the wood.

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Do you think I missed a good reason to restore an old barn? Let me know and we’ll add it to the list!