The Summer Kitchen

Over the last few months, we’ve really been adding to our collection of milestones:


First one on deck for this blog:  the summer kitchen!  You may recall from prior posts that the Summer Kitchen has long been attached to the Big House, originally by an open-air breezeway, next by a 1960s/70s north-wing addition that enclosed the breezeway, and finally in our version of Edge Hill, via the kitchen pavilion space that replaces the 60s/70s addition.

The original kitchen structure was one of the most dubious parts of our entire project.  We always knew we wanted to save/rehab as much of the original summer kitchen structure as we could, but our contractor knew the team would have to evaluate what (if anything) could be saved once they got into the thick of things.  Thus, during demo, we were left with:


Sort of like a boxer with one tooth left . . . but still fighting!  The two walls not pictured in the photo above had already been re-pointed and stabilized, but the wall facing us had SERIOUS issues.  It has been bowing inward for years – even a lay person could notice that it was curved, at some point deflecting in about 5 inches:


It was basically like someone had taken a huge swing at the center of that wall, and the whole structure was at the point of cave-in.  Our motto was: “don’t sneeze near the wall.”

Part of the problem was a prior renovation had removed the rear wall to the building, which had been providing lateral stabilization.  Another part of the problem was that the gutter downspout, as you can see above, was channeling all of the water directly into the foundation of the of the building.   It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Enter the Herr & Co. rehab team, who first built temporary walls to make sure the remaining structure was not further compromised by our repair, and who then began to take the wall out, brick by brick:


As you can see in the picture above about halfway down, at some point someone had tried to repair the wall by simply applying new mortar, but that mortar was too hard (and our bricks are super soft), which caused the bricks in the center of the wall to begin to disintegrate.  Normally,  we’ve learned, you want your mortar to be softer than your bricks so that if there is a weak point being damaged by water, your mortar is the first to go.  This gives the homeowner a red flag about the problem and also a much easier to repair once the water problem is fixed.  Alas, a water problem and a poor repair spelled DOOM for our wall.

Our guys saved the good brick, but much of what was there was too compromised for re-use.


Finally, the wall was down!


Then, it was time to start building it back up. First, the roof was removed.  This shot shows the original chimney breast windows, which had illuminated the loft in this building.  During de-construction we did not find any glazing in these windows, so the sashes had either been long removed, or the openings may have just been shuttered with no glass.


Many historic Shenandoah Valley homes have these small windows, and we knew immediately that we wanted them to shine light into the new space.  As a result, wse had the builder frame a vaulted roof for the space that would not obstruct the windows.

Then, the wall was rebuilt from our salvaged brick!  The new brick will have a lighter mortar color as compared to old hard grey mortar, in line with what we used on the rest of the project. This building will always have a little “Frankenstein’s Monster” quality to it, closing in on two centuries of use and repair, but at the end of the day, we are so pleased with the final result!

IMG_4300The large windows were left at their original hight, which will be a little lower than typical today, and you can see the mason did a running, or “American”, bond on this structure to match the original design.  We think those old bricks really cleaned up nice.

On the interior of the summer kitchen, we sprayed a layer of insulation and will keep some of the original beams and fireplace exposed (sorry for the sub-par lighting in these pictures):

IMG_1155.jpg .   IMG_7523.jpg

Finally, we got yet another little surprise when re-constructing this room.  The remaining original beams that you see in the shots above support a hanging shelf.  There is no indication this fireplace ever had a mantel, so we are guessing that this shelf served that purpose, hanging from the original beams.  One day we were up on a ladder inspecting the brick work and looked down at the shelf:


In the center of that photo you can see an old tin stencil:


“S. Moore” – Samuel Moore bought the house in 1846!  Looks like no one had cleaned that shelf in quite a while.  We think this stencil would have been used to mark trade goods coming from Edge Hill.  Pretty neat!

Saving the summer kitchen has been a real labor of love. We see ourselves using this space almost daily for the duration of our lives at Edge Hill, first as an office/workspace, and then, in our golden years, a downstairs bedroom for single-floor living.  We have designed this space to “age-in-place”: ensuite to the room shown above we have a good-size closet and full bath that is fully handicap accessible.  We will love our bedroom upstairs with its view of the river, but are under no illusion that we will always want to (or be able to) go up and down the grand staircase.  Incorporating the Bill Logan maxim of the 5 Ps -“Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance” – we have a space that will hopefully see us through.

Further, if you recall, the summer kitchen was the only part of Edge Hill that originally had a basement space, which we think was the original root cellar.  We have saved and incorporated that room into our basement . . . which one day may hold an extensive collection of Three-Buck Chuck!

We morbidly joke that with the scope of this project, we both plan to die in this house (we wouldn’t be the first).   Our family has picked up on this, and a couple of birthday’s ago one of us got this card from the Winters’ side:


Assuming we achieve the goal of out-living our renovation, now we can joke, with more specificity and certainty, this will be the room we die in!