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Preserving a door to the past at Hamilton House

August 20, 2015

Fig 9

When you arrive at Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine, the Goodwin Barn is the first building you encounter. At forty feet wide by seventy-two feet long and thirty-five feet tall, with two large and elaborate sliding doors, it is an impressive structure. Historic New England's carpentry crew recently made a significant repair to one of the barn's doors.

In the nineteenth century, when the Goodwin family owned the property, the barn was located next to the house. It served a central role as part of a working farm. Emily and Elise Tyson moved the barn after they purchased the property in 1898. The Tysons made substantial changes to the barn's structure, re-configuring doors and windows and adding a large ell.

Sometime after 1903, a pair of large doors in the gable ends were moved from the interior to the exterior. They continue to see regular use today. In recent use, the south-facing door began to fail and become increasingly difficult to use.

After evaluating the condition of the door, Historic New England's property care team had to strike a balance between preserving the original material, which may date to the Tysons or before, and the need to keep the door functional. We decided to replace the frame while salvaging as many of the other components as possible.

We also carefully considered paint color. While the barn has been red since 1960, recent paint analysis and our own records indicate that it was not always so. Careful study of paint evidence from the barn and house revealed that the barn was painted a very pale gray during the Tyson era. We decided to paint the door pale gray, with the ultimate goal of restoring the entire barn to this color.

After carefully documenting the dimensions and construction of the door, the vertical boards that covered the frame were carefully removed, documented, and stored for reuse. A temporary layer of plywood was attached to the frame to allow the door to function while new components were fabricated.

After making new frame members and sheathing boards in the Historic New England carpentry shop at the Lyman Estate, we assembled the new frame in the barn. Roughly half of the older sheathing boards were repaired and repainted, and new material was prepared to replace damaged boards. The old frame was taken down and the new frame hung in a single day.

A few weeks later, the repaired and newly painted windows were reinstalled. The door is tight and sound, and its crisp appearance is calling out for the rest of the barn to follow.

Please consider helping us fully restore the Goodwin Barn at Hamilton House with a gift to the Preservation Maintenance Fund.

Choose an image below to see a gallery of the repairs:

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Preserving a door to the past at Hamilton House