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It was , and year-old Annie was a blind child living in abject poverty. Residents at the Massachusetts poorhouse milled about like forgotten animals. They also exposed the stigma and shame society placed on those who were unable to support themselves. The concept of the poorhouse originated in England during the 17th century. Municipalities were expected to care for their poor, and made a distinction between people who were old and unable to care for themselves and the able-bodied.

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Every old house has a story to tell. Find out when your home was built, who lived there, and how they changed it. Tracing the history of an old house is like making your way through an overgrown garden maze.

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In most cases, unless you are a descendant of the original owners and have an attic full of memorabilia, finding out when your house was built, who lived within its walls, and what changes various homeowners wrought can be a challenging-but fascinating-journey. Anyone who undertakes it will need to be equal parts architectural historian, oral historian, research librarian and genealogist. On a street filled with ersatz 's Colonials, the two-story white clapboard house with the black shutters exudes antique charm, especially when one notices the quaint sign hanging at the end of the driveway: Suttonfields, ca.

The sign dates toafter Gladys Schondorf, who owns the Somers, N.

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Working with the town historian, she learned that her 2. Schondorf presumed that her house included part of that original homestead-but now, after more digging, she's unsure if Mr.

Sutton ever lived within its walls. The first step in compiling a house history is to identify the era in which the structure was built.

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With the help of an architecture book or two, most home owners can discern a core style-even among a century or two of renovations and additions-by examining the silhouette of the house and its layout, as well as the style of the windows, doors, and other features.

A mansard roof, for example, may be of the Second Empire style of the late 19th-century, while a hip roof might indicate a Queen Anne house built a decade later. But keep in mind that while looking at visible features reveals a lot, there may be a hidden chapter to the story. Many a contractor has been surprised to uncover an old wall, a few stair steps, or some other vestige during a renovation.

If you are not inclined to dismantle your house, a tour of the neighborhood to scope out similar homes can suggest the original blueprint lying within altered walls. Schondorf took her research several steps further and invited some local experts to assess her home.

As they studied the exterior and interior of the Schondorf house, John Massengale, an architect and historian from nearby Bedford, N. There was, for instance, a column motif indoors and out, as well as a casing detail around the front door, interior doors, and mantels. But just because Greek Revival houses were prevalent in the early to midth century doesn't necessarily mean that the Schondorf house was built then.

The original house may have gone up earlier and received a stylistic facelift, or it may have been built later, after the style waned. Carpenters in the 19th century learned the rules of classical architecture through builders' guides, like Asher Benjamin's handbook, The American Builder's Companion.

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The portico columns on this Greek Revival house seem to be poorly designed 20th-century additions because they are set in too far from the entablature above. The date of a house's style can be supported-or contradicted-by construction details, since the frame of a house is unlikely to have been altered since the time the house was built except in parts damaged by fire or changed with an addition.

When Massengale and Gengo descended to the cellar of the Schondorf house, the consistent foundation under both the "old" and "new" parts told them the whole house was built at one time.

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A closer look at the floor joists, foundation, and timbers supported their conclusion. Massengale and Gengo maintained that the milled boards used in the frame came into use too late for even the center part of the house, assumed by the Schondorfs to be the 18th-century core, to have been built then.

Though the timbers are clearly hewn, the joists supporting the center section have the straight and parallel teeth marks typical of a 19th-century water-milled board. Other details that help rough-date a house include nails, paint colors, and molding and muntin profiles.

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Before the 20th century, all of these had styles particular to certain eras. The manufacture of building materials became fairly standardized by the late 19th century. The type of nails in the frame, for example-wrought, cut, or wire-direct the fastener-educated to a particular period. Professionals can help date elements of a house by examining a cross section of a paint chip, says Brian Powell, an architectural conservator with Building Conservation Associates.

If Powell finds that a room had 10 layers of paint, for example, but a door casing only had the last eight, he would then know that the casing probably appeared around the same time as the third layer of paint on the walls.

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Chemical qualities of that layer might link it to a period of manufacture. Hardware also tells a story-albeit a difficult one to decipher because sophisticated hinges and bolts were available from Europe at the same time that early local hardware remained relatively crude.

But if a hinge design, for example, matches the estimated date of a door, and that hinge shows no sign of having been changed paint irregularities and superfluous screw holes are big cluesthen it may confirm the estimate. On the other hand, if the hardware is from the days of mass production-from the Victorian era on-old catalogs, available in many university libraries or historical societies, become a great resource.

When all the available clues are taken into consideration, the possible construction date of a house ideally falls into a or year window: "That's about as good as most of us can do," says Gilmore. Noting the wood gutters built into the eaves-which didn't show up till or later-and the materials used in the frame, Baker deduces that the house went up around Official records should back up any guesstimate about construction dates and alterations, especially for a house built in the s.

Every state has a preservation officer who can guide a homeowner to the right resources: county archives, state preservation trusts, and most importantly, local city or town historical societies.

The latter will have the best catalogs of municipal information, including maps, local newspapers, and the genealogical information that reveals fascinating details about the people who lived their lives in your home. Florence Oliver, the town historian for Somers, did the deed trace for Gladys Schondorf inworking backward from the current owners.

The search started at the town's deed office, then moved on to the Westchester County archives for the period before the town was incorporated. Oliver looked at transfers for the Schondorfs' 2.

She was able to trace the sale of the property through the previous 23 owners, as far back as the initial colonial landowner at the turn of the 18th century. The house itself is first mentioned specifically in a deed date in which a man named George Van Kleek bought an acre lot from his sister Theresa "with the provision that their mother, Sarah, could occupy and enjoy during her lifetime one kitchen, two bedrooms, one parlor, privilege in the garret and cellar in the dwelling house and the use of a quarter of an acre for a garden.

If the Schondorfs' home didn't exist byit was about to be built. George Van Kleek's house is clearly visible on an map, the earliest one in the Somers Historical Society that shows property locations. Looking at maps in chronological order, a researcher can pinpoint the date a house first appears in a town survey. For homes built afterSanborn maps-named for the firm in Pelham, New York, that created them-give excellent descriptions of size, layout, and materials for houses in more densely populated areas the maps were used by insurance companies.

They are usually on file with historical societies or available through the Sanborn company, which still exists. When starting your quest, D'Alonzo points out, don't dive into old records looking for your own address.

This is the main search page for the archives. Browse our archived listings by location, age, style and old house feature. Each detail of your old house, from its appearance to construction, contains valuable clues to the building's age. Dovetailed with building research, it often reveals a story of development and change. This brochure is a brief introduction to dating methods. Pamphlet created by: Ryan D. Hayward, Preservation Consultant IntroductionFile Size: KB. Dating Old Buildings Frank Kelsall Two buildings in Fleet Street, the former Union Bank by George Aitchison Sr of and the former Legal and General Insurance Office of by Sir Robert Edis. J T Smith's guide On the Dating of Houses from External Evidence is still a most helpful guide. His more recent study, English Houses

The original covering was linoleum for use as a floor decking on British naval ships. The composition of the original products included asphaltic binders to which an asbestos filler was added by mixing on a rubber mill. Non-resilient floor coverings used in buildings that can assist in determining the age of a structure include bamboo, brick, concrete, stone, and a wide variety of wood products.

Contemporary snap-together flooring products that resemble wood or other surfaces, but are made of plastic, and other pre-finished and ready-to-assemble wood flooring products are a much more modern product. Sadly the laminate floor shown at left was ruined by a building flood.

Pressure from expanding materials absorbed both the original free space around the floor perimeter and added enough force to buckle the flooring up at the center of the room. Product development for Pergo laminate flooring began in and was first brought to the market in Pergo laminate flooring was first sold in the U.

In evaluating the probable age of a home when inspecting its foundation, we consider the foundation materials and style of workmanship. A photograph of a buckling, damaged stone foundation on an structure in Rhinebeck, NY is shown at left. A building's foundation materials and style of construction, stone, wood, brick, masonry block at least two different generationsand poured concrete various generations and methods including hand-built and by machine and pumper truck can give considerable information about the foundation age.

On occasion we'll find a very old structure which has been moved and re-set on a new concrete or concrete block foundation, adding more historical information to the home. All of the common building foundation materials, how they fail, how they are inspected, are discussed.

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The foundation material below the house in the middle of the main structure is limestone with mortar. The outside is rock faced block with "rope? The main house is all on crawlspace, with only the kitchen having a root cellar below it. Those look like form-cast concrete blocks - if so that's a later foundation material, possibly s to s. In this region, there are numerous houses with rock faced block foundations known to have been built in the s.

Just pulled a lock off of the basement door. That's so helpful, thank you. Perhaps citing some research we can understand the early history of use of concrete block foundations and decorative-stone-faced concrete blocks in North America and elsewhere. The earliest patent I've found for finished stone faced concrete block is Ransome, Patent No.

A second earliest patent I found for finished block faces was by Wight in though of course there would have been versions before his patent, and my search was not exhaustive.

From sources I've read, the first widespread-use of hollow-core concrete blocks date from about Ransome's decorative-faced concrete blocks date from ; in the U. Palmer didn't patent his concrete block production machine design until The product was a tremendous success, such that within 5 years of that patent there were many companies producing such blocks. Some of my early research in New York included talking with now deceased Henry G.

Henry's blocks were a topic of some discussion among inspectors because his hand-mixed portland cement was sometimes a bit light on the portland, and the blocks, after a few decades, were rather crumbly. Henry and other block manufacturers used a hand-casting machine - it was very labor intensive.

Aug 29,   When Anne Sullivan came to Tewksbury, she wasn't yet the renowned "miracle worker" who would teach Helen Keller to communicate. It was , and year-old . A s North Carolina farmhouse is paid the ultimate old-house compliment-its new screened porch is often mistaken for being a century any addition to a year-old farmhouse requires sensitivity to its architecture and Zoe Gowen. Aug 22, - Explore Bobbie's board "OLD FARM HOUSES", followed by people on Pinterest. See more ideas about Old farm houses, Old farm, Abandoned houses pins.

His blocks were set up on the family farm property on Rte. Portland cement, critical in the fabrication of concrete blocks, dates from in England Joseph Aspdin. So concrete blocks could pre-date the sources I've found to date. The observation of framing materials, framing markings, and framing styles provides considerable information about the probable age of a house.

Antique and modern trusses are distinguished and modern laminated beams and I-truss beams and wood joists are discussed. Common wood structure framing methods include the techniques described below, arranged alphabetically, not by age.

Arkansas framing system : 2x6 wall studs are spaced 24' on center, a spacing that permitted installation of more wall insulation volume than provide by conventional 2x4 wall studs. The Arkansas building framing method became popular in North America following the 's arab oil embargo and addressed concern for high energy costs. Tall wall studs run from the sill plate atop the foundation wall to the top plate below the building rafters.

Wall studs and first floor joists rest on the building sill plates flat wood members set atop the building foundation. The wall studs extend from the first floor sill to a height sufficient to frame both the first and second floor walls.

First floor joists and second floor joists are framed by nailing to these tall wall studs at the appropriate heights.

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Rafters attach to the top plate of the building walls. Ceiling joists for the top floor are nailed to the sides of the balloon-framed wall studs just as the floor joists were nailed below. See Log Home Guide. Modular construction - present was first provided on a large scale with Sears Kit homes that were distributed from about to o0.

Some modern modular homes built in the U. That is no longer the case. Since at least the 's a modular home is constructed in a factory of one or more sections which are carried to the building site on a trailer photo above left and lifted by a crane to be set upon a foundation which has been prepared ahead of time. Modular homes can be quite large, involving four or quite a few more individual sections which are lifted and "set" into place at the site photo at left.

Some manufacturers provide custom architectural services and can deliver unique, but factory-built homes in sections. Panelized construction : floor and wall panels constructed in a factory are delivered to and assembled at the building site. Panels may be conventionally-framed stud walls in modular sections or structural panels may be constructed of a sandwich of OSB oriented strand boar plywood, or wafer board on either side of solid foam board insulation.

Panelized construction makes use of wall, floor, ceiling or roof "panels" which have been framed off-site and brought to the site by truck.

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Panels are lifted into place by crane and fastened together on a foundation, and possibly a framed-in floor which have been prepared before the panels arrive. Some framing panels make use of special materials, such as plywood and foam roof panels for insulated cathedral ceilings. Plank houses were constructed entirely of sawn planks and without the use of larger dimensioned 2x lumber.

Some of the plank houses we've inspected were made from scraps or salvaged lumber such as a home in Dutchess County New York that was constructed from packing crate wood. Larger collections of plank houses were built as company housing in the mining or railroad industries.

A floor is constructed atop of the building foundation, forming the first "platform", using the platform as a working surface.

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Interior plywood is generally glued with urea formaldehyde based glues; exterior plywood and marine plywood use phenolic formaldehyde glues and are water resistant. The cross-grain construction combined with glue produces a strong, uniform material that is used for both enclosure and for structural stiffness in frame construction of building walls and roofs.

The properties of plywood, including its tolerance to weather exposure marine plywood depend on the glues and finishes used. Both softwood and hardwoods are used in plywoods, and fine wood veneer finishes are also available for furniture use.

Timber frame construction initially used hand hewn beams, later manually or mechanically sawn beams cut by a pit saw.

Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., Carlton Street Suite , Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: Email: [email protected] firm provides professional HOME INSPECTION SERVICES and also extensive HOME INSPECTION EDUCATION and home inspection-related Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home . Dating an old house. The Old House Web. Tweet. Editor's note: Nancy Platteborze is sharing the story of her restoration of a year-old house with The Old House Web. In this installment, she tells about researching her home's history. Index to all stories in this series. By Nancy Platteborze. The first step in compiling a house history is to identify the era in which the structure was built. With the help of an architecture book or two, most home owners can discern a core style-even among a century or two of renovations and additions-by examining the silhouette of the house and its layout, as well as the style of the windows, doors, and other features.

Timber framing using post and beam construction with mortise and tenon joint connections was used in Europe for at least years before it was first employed in North America. By a typical timber frame building used multiple bents and girt beams, may have been more than one story tall, and included an exterior made of horsehair-reinforced cement stuccoed over hand-split lath.

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Our photo above shows an 18th century Norwegian timber frame building using brick infill and stucco to complete the wall enclosure. Where there are special safety or maintenance concerns for certain systems we cite those as well. At above left we show a photograph of an "octopus heating furnace", originally coal fired, usually by now if still in use converted to natural gas fuel. These octopus furnaces, also called "gravity heating systems" provided heat by natural convection, hot air rising into the building from the top of the furnace where it was delivered to the building first floor through a wood or iron grate, or perhaps delivered through metal ducts.

The original installation usually supplied heat to a home through a central grate in the first floor of the building from where warm air might rise to upper floors. Later versions or modified original systems added ducts to individual rooms, sometimes still only on the first floor of the building.

These furnaces are the ancestor of modern forced hot air heating systems. Our photo at left shows a pre brick wall lining used as insulation and as a wind or draft block. Brick nogging can determine the probable age for the home. Houses built between an or perhaps earlier may have brick-lined walls. I have found brick nogging in the walls of a Poughkeepsie NY home. A close observation of the type of fasteners used in a building is one of the most popular means of estimating its age.

Hand wrought nails, machine cut nails, modern round "wire" nails and other details offer considerable information about the time of original construction of a building as well as of the time of modifications to the structure.

An examination of nails and fasteners and other building hardware is a complimentary effort useful in determining the age of a building and its components. The window latch shown in our photo above left dates from the Justin Morrill Smith Historic house in Vermont. Above is door hardware from the Suffolk Reserves house dating from Notice in both the door hardware photo above and that shown below that unlike contemporary passage door locksets, the knob setback distance from the door edge is considerably greater.

The photos shows the door lock hardware and the folding-down interior turn knob and key opening. On the other side of this door was a small keyhole and a white ceramic door knob. There are several generations of plaster and lath, plaster board, and drywall which have been used in buildings. We name and illustrate these and discuss their periods of use below as an aid in finding out how old a building is and tracing its history. Details about Beaver-board and Upson Board, a wood fiber product used as an inexpensive interior wall covering and draft blocker from about are provided.

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On the exposed side this wood fiberboard product was usually painted and its joints covered with wood lath or other trim. In some applications it was covered with wallpaper. In some homes it was later covered with drywall to provide a more fire-resistant surface. As late as the 's Upson Board was used in prefabricated houses and exterior building sheathing and in recreational vehicles.

Upson purchased the Beaver Board plant from CertainTeed in Upson began its decline in the 's and closed inopening later that year as Niagara Fiberboard. Often old gas lines have been disconnected entirely and sometimes they have been re-used to route electrical wiring to new light fixtures or to gaslight fixtures which have been converted to electric.

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Don't assume that an old gas fixture or valve on a wall or found in a fireplace are inactive. We turned-on and lit this fixture which gave a bright surprise to everyone. Watch out for "live gas" connections to supposedly abandoned gas piping and don't trust " Plumbing fixtures and piping materials offer considerable age in dating a building, including easy clues such as the presence of a date of manufacture stamped into many toilet tanks to the periods of use of types of water supply piping lead, galvanized steel, black iron pipe, copper, plastic piping and building drain piping lead, cast iron, copper, plastic, clay.

Often on older buildings multiple types of piping will be present as repairs and changes have been made in the building plumbing system. Chart of plumbing types and years of use courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.

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But an inspection of interior and exterior roofing details can indicate the probable age of a wood roof which can last up to 40 years as well as the roofing history of the building, the number and types of roofing layers, and related house-age-determination details.

The wood shingle roof shown in the photo below is on a building in Key West, Florida, adjacent to the Hemingway house, viewed from the Key West tower. Notice the absence of lichens on the wood shingles in the roof area below the metal-flashed rooftop tower? We discuss here various roofing materials Wood, slate, asphalt shingles in several generationsclay tile, metal roofing several styles and generationsand how they assist in finding The age of a building below.

This article series explains the eras of use of different types of roofing materials as an aid to understanding the history and age of buildings. If you are trying to determine the age and condition of a particular roof covering, please see Roofing. Cement board is a non-structural building sheathing material which in its contemporary form is made from Portland cement covered with a reinforced fiberglass mesh fabric.

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