Nantucket Part 6

On Monday, June 29, Michael Devonshire, a New York architectural conservator, visited Preservation Institute: Nantucket and spoke about projects he’s worked on. He’s very passionate about what he does and has had the chance to work on some unique buildings. Take the  Bannerman Castle. It was constructed on an island in the middle of the Hudson River in Upstate New York shortly after the Spanish-American war to store military surplus. It’s now in ruins and owned by the state, but Devonshire was part of a team that assessed its condition to see if it could be stabilized and opened to the public. They came across some interesting stuff; Civil War-era bayonets and beds had been used to reinforce the walls, and live ammunition had to be removed.

In the afternoon, Devonshire accompanied us to the Maria Mitchell Association buildings we will be documenting. He had already thoroughly investigated them a few years back, so it was enlightening to hear a professional’s take on the problems there. (We’ve quickly realized the two biggest problems for historic structures on Nantucket are water and later applications of Portland cement.)

Tuesday saw us back at the Maria Mitchell Association beginning the formal conditions assessment after figuring out who was going to do what. In our subgroup, we inspected the Mitchell House, photographing potential problem areas.

In the afternoon, Peter Aalestad gave us a crash course on architectural photogrammetry. I don’t have a complete grasp of how photogrammetry works, but basically Aalestad takes a bunch of photos, puts them through a computer program, and then can come up with detailed measured drawings. The process is so rarely performed, Aalestad said he’s the only person in the U.S. who does it. After his presentation, we headed back to the Mitchell House to snap some photos, including this one of the Preservation Institute: Nantucket group.

group Maria Mitchell

Wednesday was our first day of measuring at the Maria Mitchell Association. I measured two structures at the Manatee Village Historical Park in the fall, but those were very informal, i.e. not up to Historic American Building Survey standards. Measuring isn’t as easy as stretching out a tape measure. Proportional sketches must be first drawn. Then level datum lines and plumb bobs must be set up. Measurements must be to the 1/8 or 1/16  inch.

Thursday was supposed to be another day spent out measuring, but the weather was poor and we were kept at Sherburne Hall. It was used as a day to discuss what we had learned Wednesday and go over our trip to Newport, Rhode Island, which begins Tuesday. Some of us also received a crash course on CAD, an architectural software program, from one of our peers. Yikes. On a brighter note, I finally found Something Natural.

For my internship, on Friday I started work documenting the Higginbotham House as part of an interior easement program. A partner and I studied the architectural features of most of the lower level.

On Sunday, half of us PI:N students visited a house that’s going to be on the upcoming tour of kitchens. The welcoming homeowners showed us around their home, which they believe was built about 1790. In exchange, we wrote about the architectural details for the docents who will be stationed at the house.

Here are some photos:

The house.

The house.

Front door.

Front door.

Painting and lightship baskets with scrimshaw.

Painting and lightship baskets with scrimshaw.


The kitchen.



All these old houses have tight stairways.

We’re heading to Newport, Rhode Island, tomorrow on the 6:30 a.m. ferry. Ugh.

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Filed under Florence Higginbotham House, Maria Mitchell House, Nantucket, Preservation Institute: Nantucket

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