My So-Called Pilgrim Life

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A chronicle of daily life in the 1627 English village at Plimoth Plantation from both a modern and historical perspective.

One House Goes Up and Another Comes Down

February 3rd, 2010 by admin

Pic 1

On Friday, January 29th, after a long, cold morning of “de-thatching” the soon to be razed Brown House in the English Village, we welcomed archeologist Tad Baker, chair of the History Department at Salem State College and other friends who stopped by the Plantation to conduct an informal but informative survey of timber decay patterns & the thrusts & stresses of a failing, 23 yr-old earthfast timber frame. It may sound a little dry, but it was anything but! The detective work that archeologists and framers apply to an old frame and the surviving bits left in and above the ground are as interesting as anything seen on CSI! There are important details to be gleaned on how a timber framed house–without a foundation–will eventually succumb to the ground and the elements, and we can use this valuable information to instruct us in the building of new houses, even as we gain rare insight into the past. We were very impressed as Tad rolled up his metaphorical sleeves on a frigid afternoon, knelt to the ground, trowel in hand, and looked for clues. Many thanks to Tad and friends for their expert help! These are essential relationships for Plimoth Plantation to keep and cultivate as we move forward in our research, understanding, and interpretation.

Pic 2
Michael French and Justin Keegan “de-thatching” Brown House. The reed will be recycled for repairs on the lower storehouse. The old and the new: View of the soon to be razed Brown House with the new Brewster House in the background.

Pic 3

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Tad Baker examining sill and post decay of the Brown House. He is looking for patterns of what oak does after 23 years in the ground, and how that affects the overall structure. There is value and insight in making archeological comparisons between a “new” structure, and framing remnants from from centuries ago.

Pic 6
Digging outside looking for sill remnants in Brown House.

Rick McKee
Interpretive Artisan

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One Response to “One House Goes Up and Another Comes Down”

  1. John Montague says:

    Rick, Buddy, and All,
    Thanks so much for the photos of the Browne house deconstruction and investigation. Since I am so interested in the house construction techniques used at Plimoth Plantation and the processes by which they’re derived, the de-construction would be just as fascinating.
    Here’s hoping for a great 2010.
    John Montague

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