December 6, 2013
How Did We Get Here?: A Look Back at the Kitchen Reconstruction
To our readers: James Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury opened on November 16th, 2013, bringing the reconstruction project to a close. While we will all enjoy the completed Armoury for decades to come, this blog, dedicated to the reconstruction effort, will soon be winding down. Before we go, it seems appropriate to take a parting glance at the progress we have made. Over the next 6 weeks, we will focus individually on the Armoury’s component buildings, from their archaeological discovery to the final coat of paint. For those who arrived late to the Armoury Blog, this is an opportunity to read an encapsulated history of the project. This week’s post takes a look back at the reconstruction of the Anderson Kitchen.
Given that everyone always gathers in the kitchen (no matter the century or location), it is fitting that the Armoury reconstruction began with this building. The kitchen appears on the 1782 Frenchman’s Map, although its use is not indicated. It was excavation, conducted in the 1930s and again in the 1970s, that revealed a massive chimney base and other features suggesting cooking as the building’s primary function.
Excavation also revealed another important fact: that the kitchen was in use long before the rest of the Armoury was constructed. We believe that it was built between 1750 and 1760 to serve a tavern once standing where the Anderson House stands today, and that it was incorporated into the Armoury complex in 1778. Because of its earlier history, the kitchen is often referred to as the Anderson Kitchen rather than the Armoury Kitchen.
To learn more about the discovery and reconstruction of the Anderson Kitchen, continue on. The gallery below is best viewed by clicking on the first image. This will enlarge the picture and, through captions, provide a narrative for the action. Continue through the gallery by clicking the arrow at the right of each image. Enjoy!
In June of 2010, archaeologists broke ground on the site of the kitchen. Here, Meredith, Lucie, and Andy, strip sod with the old blacksmith shop as a backdrop.
Why shovels and not a more delicate tool? These same kitchen foundations were uncovered (and backfilled) in 1931 and 1975. As 20th century backfill, the overlying soil could be removed quickly and aggressively. Here Meredith and Lucie assist in exposing the kitchen foundations for the third time so that they can be incorporated into the reconstruction.
There were new things to be found…and found out…as well. The orange clay in this image is a remnant of the kitchen’s 18th century floor. Samples of this material were analyzed to determine an accurate composition for the clay floor now installed in the kitchen.
The kitchen fully exposed. At the right of the image is the chimney base, and below it, a drain that carried waste water from inside the building out into a ravine. The remaining walls appear to have been robbed of their bricks sometime around 1800 when the kitchen was dismantled. Along the bottom of the image you can see an open trench marking the former location of the north wall. The evidence indicates a building measuring 16’ x 20’.
Wherever possible, original fabric is preserved and incorporated into reconstructed buildings. Here, the kitchen chimney base is shored up as masonry expert Ray Canetti prepares to lift it, to stabilize the brick with an underlying concrete pad.
Canetti (right) lifts the chimney base using an I-beam above, and a metal plate, below.
With a concrete footer beneath, 18th century foundations (bottom courses) are suitably stable to support modern masonry.
The kitchen reconstruction required approximately 10,000 bricks, each molded by hand. The size and color of these bricks was based on archaeological examples recovered during the summer excavation.
Here, Jason oversees the first of two brick burnings held in the fall of 2010 to prepare for the kitchen and Armoury reconstructions.
Mortar was also “homemade” based on mortar analysis from surviving foundations at the Armoury. The list of ingredients included sand, hydrated lime (from oyster shell), clay, and brick dust. Above, oyster shells, a major ingredient in the mortar, are prepared by burning in a “lime rick.”
Across town, Historic Trades Carpenters spent the summer of 2010 preparing the kitchen frame in the joiners yard. On congested urban lots, it would have been common to construct the frame offsite, and to transport it to its destination for reassembly.
On November 12, 2010, Historic Trades Carpenters raised the frame for the Anderson kitchen.
…with some help from obliging (and very strong) guests!
One of the keys to flawless assembly is carefully labelling (here, with Roman numeral III) each component.
The front and back walls of the kitchen are made up of sills, plates, corner posts, braces, door posts, and wall studs.
Danny and Bobby on the plate. Just below Bobby’s feet are the door posts, framing the kitchen’s front door. The kitchen frame is constructed largely of tulip poplar. The sills, which need to be rot resistant, are white oak.
Jack setting a ceiling joist. The wall studs below him are set on twenty-four inch centers, which is what is usually seen in early Tidewater Virginia framing.
Each of the vertical timbers in the wall frame measures 4 ¾” thick. A common thickness makes it easy to run weatherboards on the outside of the wall, and to lath and plaster the inside without posts protruding.
By November 15th, 2010, the frame, including roof trusses, is finished. Try getting that sort of speed today! Ken, Garland, Clyde, and Allison survey the work.
Top to bottom/left to right, Danny, Jack, Steve/ Ted, (Ayinde behind Ted) Bobby, Garland, and Cameron at the end of a successful frame raising. Note the wetting bush at the peak of the roof. Although there is some disagreement about the meaning of this symbolic placement of greenery, no building is reconstructed without it!
Throughout December the Historic Trades carpenters applied weatherboards and shingles to the Anderson Kitchen.
Unlike the Armoury which has planed and beaded weatherboards, the kitchen has riven siding, a more rustic finish for a more utilitarian (and older) building.
Imagine making 3,500 shingles by hand. That’s what it took to cover the kitchen roof. And for the Historic Trades carpenters, that was really just a warm-up. More than 15,000 individually made cypress shingles were required for the Armoury roof.
Is it less labor intensive to cover the roof “virtually”? It depends on who you ask! As the carpenters were at work shingling the kitchen roof, our 3D modelers were providing a glimpse of what the finished product would look like.
In January 2011, a white tower appeared on Duke of Gloucester Street. Seen here at the far end of the kitchen, this heated tent was constructed to allow work on the kitchen chimney to proceed in all kinds of weather. Not only did it shield the brick masons, it kept the wet mortar from freezing as it dried.
In January the Roving webcam gave viewers a (nearly) real-time view of masonry work on the kitchen chimney. Blog reader Dave Sams captured this screen shot of our Historic Trades masons appearing to consult the directions!
Dave Sams also captured Bill, mugging for the camera.
In a more serious moment, the brick masons continue the kitchen chimney past the kitchen’s second floor. The three dots on each brick indicate that they have been made in the proper size and color for the Armoury reconstruction. (l-r: Ray, Josh, and Jason.)
While construction may appear to follow 18th-century rules, modern building codes still apply! Here three ceramic flue liners are inserted inside the authentically proportioned brick chimney to meet the required cross sectional area stipulated in 21st-century building codes.
With the chimney stack complete, the Historic Trades masons turn their attention to interior finishes: the application of a clay floor, and plastering the walls.
Jason mixing one of many batches of clay for the kitchen floor. The “recipe” for this floor was derived from the analysis of archaeological samples. Among the components: 4 parts clay, 2 parts sand, ¾ part quick lime, and 1/10 part brick dust. Keep mixing, Jason…you’re going to need 566 gallons of that clay!
By early April, 2011, lath had been nailed in place. Every nail, including the lath nails, was made by our blacksmiths (10,000 nails for the kitchen alone). Here, Jason takes the next step: applying plaster to the walls.
By mid May, 2011, the interior of the kitchen was complete. Note the outlet for the drain (seen in archaeological images at the beginning of this gallery) in the corner of the kitchen.
The kitchen was painted with tar paint, a mixture of 3 parts pine tar, two parts linseed oil, and one part iron oxide, heated slowly to 190 degrees. Notice that the old Anderson shop has disappeared.
Tar paint was used throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It provides a protective coating that is easily made and applied, and was therefore fairly commonly used. Colonial Williamsburg’s Architectural Historians have found evidence of tar paint on surfaces at the John Blair (east) house, St. George Tucker house, and the Robert Carter house. Analysis of these surfaces has been instrumental in formulating a tar paint “recipe.”
While we cannot know for certain that the Armoury’s kitchen was tar painted, it is a likely choice. Tar paint’s relatively rough finish also provides a subtle visual cue that the kitchen was standing before the (more finely finished) Armoury building was constructed in 1778.
Furnishing the kitchen was a job for Colonial Williamsburg’s curators. With 40 workers to feed, emphasis at the Armoury was likely on bulk food preparation: massive kettles, and large numbers of tinned plates and cups. Many of the furnishings were made by Colonial Williamsburg’s craftsmen: the table and pine press were made by the joiners; the blacksmiths made iron objects for the fireplace and cooking implements; the coopers produced barrels, wash tubs, and buckets; and the basket weavers provided storage.
Archaeological evidence showed that there were relatively few ceramic vessels in use at the kitchen. Instead, workers likely made use of products from the Armoury’s tin shop: tinned iron plates, mugs, and coffee pots.
Putting cooks in the kitchen brought it to life. Here, our friend Jim Gay lights an inaugural fire in November, 2011.
Today, visitors to the kitchen witness 18th-century cooking techniques of a more simple variety than those practiced at the Palace kitchen. The meals prepared here draw their inspiration from archaeological evidence. In this image, Barbara begins another tasty meal that will be enjoyed by the site’s interpreters.
Outside the kitchen, cooking continues at the Armoury’s bake oven. Here, Rob heats the oven for the afternoon’s supply of freshly baked bread.
Photo Credits: Dave Doody, Lisa Fischer, Willie Graham, Tom Green, Peter Inker, Clyde Kestner, Jeff Klee,
Amelia Poole, Meredith Poole, Dave Sams.