CABIN A Restored & Preserved 1850 Slave Cabin

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1 CABIN A Restored & Preserved 1850 Slave Cabin Cabin A has been restored and preserved to reflect its original 1850 construction and utilization as a slave cabin. This cabin had the most intact architectural elements dating back to its original mid-19 th century construction. Therefore an approach that combined both restoration and preservation was undertaken. One room of the cabin (the right/north side) was preserved with its patina intact in order to compare the past to the present and illustrate the difference between preservation and restoration. The only construction work done there was that of basic repair and stabilization for safety purposes. The left/south room was restored to what is believed to be its original 1850 appearance. Appropriate furnishings will eventually be placed in this room for interpretation. In 1850, this cabin would have housed an enslaved African-American family in each of the two rooms. Construction began on this cabin in May of It was completed in August of The following is a brief summary of the work done on Cabin A with accompanying photographs. BRICK PIERS & MORTAR MIX All of the original brick piers for Cabin A had to be replaced as the cabin foundation in many instances was simply sitting on the bare ground or had only a handful of recycled hand-made brick with no mortar stacked loosely on the ground. All of these were replaced with hand-made brick. Cabin A was then lowered to what is believed to have been its original foundation height. The mortar mix used for all of the piers was a historic lime-based mixture. River sand was collected and used for the mix to reflect what was originally used in the 19 th century. An additional center support beam with offset brick piers was installed under each of the cabins for safety and stabilization as they will be for public use. Machine-made bricks were used for those piers so that they both blend, but also are distinctive and different from the historically based piers. In each case, when the foundation for the piers was excavated, archaeology was done to make sure that no significant cultural resource materials were either damaged or destroyed. Some interesting artifacts were recovered underneath Cabin A ranging from 19 th century coins to an old skeleton key. FIREBOX & CHIMNEYS Cabin A s firebox and chimney was in dire need of re-pointing and structural stabilization. This was accomplished utilizing historic masonry techniques. The upper chimney and chimney cap were built from scratch copying the existing chimney in Cabin B (see photo below). The dimensions of the two caps match exactly. The firebox in the left/south room was completely restored, while the firebox in the right/north room was simply repaired and stabilized, leaving in tact most of the additions made to it over the years, such as patches for the wood-burning stove thimble openings. 1

2 Cabin A Left South Room Firebox & Chimney Before & After Restoration Cabin B Original Chimney Cap Cabin A Faux 1980s Chimney Cap Reconstructed Chimney Cap on Cabin A 2

3 ROOFING All of the five dwellings had a variety of tin roofs added onto them. These varied from 5-V plate to corrugated tin. In many instances, the original wooden shingle roofs were found underneath them. On Cabin A, the tin roof was removed and a hand-cut cedar shake roof was installed using what few original wooden shingles still existed as a pattern. Various braces had to be replaced as well in the roofing support system. Cabin A Roof Before Restoration Cabin A Roof After Restoration 3

4 EXTERIOR WEATHER BOARDS All of the exterior weather boards were removed from each of the cabins, each being carefully numbered and recorded as to their exact location. They were then examined and evaluated for rot and damage. Those that could be salvaged were refurbished and put back in place. Those that were too badly rotted or damaged were replaced with similar rough-cut pine boards that had been machine cut with a large blade reflective of the saw mill blades used in the late 19 th century. A saw mill existed at Magnolia Plantation as early as Historic lime wash paint was created and used to repaint the exterior weatherboards on each of the cabins. FLOOR BOARDS The majority of the floor system in Cabin A was restored utilizing the original floor boards. The floor board system was dismantled, carefully numbering and photographing each step of the project. Once dismantled, the foundation beams were either refurbished or replaced based on their current state of preservation. Once that was completed the individual floor boards were refurbished and reinstalled back into their original placement. In a few instances, some boards had to be replaced due to rot. INTERIOR WALL BOARDS The wall boards in the left/south room of Cabin A were removed to illustrate the exposed beams that would have existed when the cabin was originally built in Evidence of white washing on the interior beams and weatherboards still exists; therefore the historic lime wash was reapplied to that room. The existing wall boards in the north/right room of Cabin A were left in place as part of that room s preservation plan. Those wallboards that were removed from the left/south room were recycled and used as replacement wall boards in Cabin D. Cabin A Interior Wall in Left/South Room Before & After Restoration 4

5 BEAMS and JOISTS A variety of construction techniques was discovered during the restoration process and each type of technique was duplicated using historic methods. Where mortise and tenon joinery was found and needed to be replaced it was replaced using the actual peg from the original joint whenever possible. The slavery era carpentry was excellent and survived well to this day. Cabin A Northeast Corner Joint BEFORE Cabin A Northeast Corner Joint AFTER LOFT A half-loft was restored in the left/south room for interpretation. These half-lofts were an excellent way for the enslaved families to utilize their relatively small living quarters, enabling them to store items above as well as a sleeping place for their children. NAILS USED Only historic square-cut nails were used in both the exteriors and interiors of each of the cabins. Many of the nails used were actual original 19 th century nails recycled from a historic building in the upstate of South Carolina. These nails were straighten out and then reused. The remainder of the square-cut nails was ordered from the Tremont Nail Company, the oldest nail manufacturer in the country, which manufactured these nails in the 19 th century. WINDOWS & DOORS Cabin A still had most of its shuttered windows intact; however, one window in the left/south side had been converted into a rear door. This was converted back to its original shuttered window. The other shuttered windows were removed and refurbished before being reinstalled. Period iron hardware was created to use as the hinges for both 5

6 the shuttered windows and doors. The modern wood doors were removed and replaced with appropriate period doors built specifically for each cabin based on its time period of interpretation. STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY The entire structure of Cabin A was in imminent threat of collapsing due to sheer neglect and disrepair. The outer walls were pulling away due to lack of proper support. Wire cables were attached to the exterior walls and 6000 pounds of pressure was used to pull the walls back into place. This was followed by adding some additional support beams to stabilize the structure. It was estimated that the building would have likely collapsed within one year if this restoration process had not occurred. 6

7 BEFORE & AFTER RESTORATION PHOTOGRAPHS 7

8 Cabin A Exterior Front Elevation BEFORE Cabin A Exterior Rear Elevation BEFORE 8

9 Cabin A Left/South Room Ceiling BEFORE Cabin A Left/South Room SW Wall Exposed BEFORE 9

10 Cabin A Left/South Room Firebox BEFORE 10

11 Cabin A Left/South Room South Wall Window BEFORE Cabin A Left/South Room Floor and Front Door BEFORE 11

12 Cabin A Right/North Room Ceiling BEFORE Cabin A Right/North Room North Wall & Window BEFORE 12

13 Cabin A Right/North Room Firebox BEFORE 13

14 Cabin A Front and South Elevation AFTER Cabin A Front Elevation - AFTER 14

15 Cabin A Rear and North Elevation - AFTER Cabin A Interior Left/South Room looking Northwest- AFTER 15

16 Cabin A Interior Left/South Room looking Southeast- AFTER (Note the addition of the half loft) Cabin A Interior Right/North Room looking Southeast- PRESERVED AFTER 16

17 Cabin A Interior Right/North Room looking Southwest- PRESERVED AFTER Cabin A Interior Right/North Room looking Northwest- PRESERVED AFTER 17

18 Cabin A Interior Right/North Room looking North- PRESERVED AFTER 18

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