Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Field Experience at Summerseat in Ettrick, Virginia

During the Fall 2016 semester at SEMO I had an awesome opportunity to work with HistoriCorps for five weeks gaining hands on field experience in Historic Preservation in Ettrick, Virginia. Through an agreement between Southeast Missouri State Univeristy’s Department of History and HistoriCorps Institute, funded by donations from Historic Preservation Alumni, I completed my graduate level Advanced Project in Applied History working to restore an 1860’s Italianate house. Not only was I able to meet the requirements for my AP, I was also able to earn HistoriCorps Institute’s Certificate of Achievement in Heritage Conservation and Construction. What this means is that I have the experience and skills needed to work within the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings. This experience helped to expand my education with SEMO that incorporated all the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historical Documentation, Architectural and Engineering Documentation, Registration, and Preservation Planning.
Week One at Summerseat, Ettrick, VA
HistoriCorps is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to preserve historic structures on public lands in the United States by utilizing volunteer and student workers and funding provided by various types of grants. HistoriCorp began in Colorado in 2009 and quickly spread across the nation. They have since completed work on over 138 buildings and structures. The project I was involved with was the restoration on Summerseat in Ettrick, Virginia. This building is ca. 1860’s Italianate, with an elevated brick basement. There is also a two story addition, ca. 1880. The building was restored through funding provided by the Cameron Foundation, a 501(c) whose focus is on the improvement of Petersburg and the surrounding areas. Through an intricate agreement between the Cameron Foundation, Virginia State University, and Concerned Citizens of Ettrick group, HistoriCorps was contacted to restore the building for reuse. Though the final intended purpose of the building had not yet been decided by the time I had finished with project, the general hope is that the house will be used in some way to represent the mill workers and carpenters in the Ettrick area in the 1860’s. Additionally, it is one of few remaining buildings of the Ettrick Historic District, and the only one of its type.

During my time there, my direct focus was the restoration work on Summerseat, though I was afforded multiple opportunities to speak with volunteers and professionals from different backgrounds and gain a better understanding of their involvement with Historic Preservation. I made multiple connections, learned new perspectives, was educated on new resources, and interacted with historic preservation in a real world setting. I still remain in contact with many of them.
I was in Virginia for 5 weeks, working with different volunteers. Each week with HistoriCorps incorporated something new, while building on what we had learned before. Natalie Henshaw and Mike Reigert, both with fantastic credentials, were excellent in educating us on masonry. Answering questions, giving demonstrations, and supervising our work allowed all of us present to leave with a strong foundation to continue building on what we had learned while working with them.
Week One: Kira and Natalie
repoint the East elevation
Week Two: Marc Wagner gives a talk
about the Summerseat project

Week Two: Whitney repoints
the East elevation

Week Three: Ricky and Natalie
remove rotted stairs

Week Three: My beautifully
repaired windows.

Week Four: I conquered my fear of heights!
Look at those gorgeous dentals!
They were also willing to share their own professional experiences to help us understand the historic buildings trades and different opportunities in the field. I had experience in window restoration from work at the Felixe Valle State Historic Site in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. I was really happy to be able to put those skills to use working in Ettrick. Natalie was a font of knowledge on the subject and I learned even more way to handle window repairs and restoration. Dennis Moran was also very experienced and knowledgeable in his field. Dennis supervised the carpentry work being completed. He was always willing to teach us something new, answer any questions, and give advice on projects we may have in the future. Though, I did get the chance to teach him how to build a steam box. It was really a great confidence boost to be able to show someone so knowledgeable something new. Between these three, all of the students and volunteers learned a fantastic amount about project planning, management, and budgets.

In addition to training in the historic trades, we were given many opportunities to interact with professionals in the Historic Preservation field, as well as learn about the way many different groups interact and work together to fund and complete a single project. Robert Ogle, Director for HistoriCorps Institute,  was a valuable source of information on the administration side of project planning and funding. Bob was always willing to take a moment to answer questions and explain anything that was happening.
Marc Wagner, Architectural Historian for Virginia, was also an amazing person to work with. Marc asked questions about the various programs supervised in Missouri, as well helped me understand the similarities and differences in Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources. HistoriCorps worked closely with Marc, making certain the project stayed within the Standards. As the house was eligible for nomination to the National Register, work needed to stabilize and repair any damages had to be done with careful consideration to not damage the historical integrity of the building.
Week Five: The volunteers and staff in
front of (nearly) completed Summerseat

This experience with HistoriCorps provided a well-rounded experience in which I could apply previous classroom experience in documenting, interpreting, and preserving the built environment and combine it with the ability to comprehensibly articulate project planning and scheduling, and how that work could best be completed within the Secretary’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. This is just one of the many opportunities provided by Southeast Missouri State University in experiential learning.

Week Five: On my way out of town, I had to stop and
say goodbye to Summerseat!