Deconstruction reveals Stannard House secrets

By NEIL ZAWICKI

Worked resumed April 29 to dismantle and catalog the General George Stannard house on Route 7, and a few surprises made the work that much more interesting.

When Eliot Lothrop of Building Heritage and his crew finished removing the inside walls, leaving only the exterior walls and roof on the structure, they found timber supports holding the chimney in place that left them amused and baffled. It was a web of braces and timbers and blocks that looked so haphazard and after-the-fact that it told its own story of efforts over the decades to keep the tall brick column, running right up through the center of the house, in place with whatever piece of wood was available.

“The engineers were just amazed,” said project historian Terry Richards. “And scared.”

Richards was referring to the team of University of Vermont engineering students who in 2015 used the house as their capstone project. Through that project, the students drew up and printed plans for the house, which Stannard House Committee Chair Bill Kaigle said has been useful for Lothrop and his crew as they take it apart.

Once rebuilt and restored, it will stand as a museum to the Civil War general’s and other Civil War veterans’ lives and contributions to the war. 

During the deconstruction, Lothrop also discovered a rain gutter made entirely out of wood, with a cove molding face. Because it’s part of the original house, new gutters, made the same way, will likely have to be made. Lothrop does not hide his excitement at this prospect.

“I hope so!” he says when asked if he’ll get to make them. 

This moment in the project, where the house is gutted and little gems are revealed, is bringing out the kid in everyone involved. A staircase cut from stone, leading to the basement, has everyone talking. Lothrop only recently uncovered it. 

The floor joists, which become the ceiling for the dirt floor basement, are made from trees maybe 10 inches in diameter. They’re planed on one side, the bark still covering them.  

Kaigle said the entire house should be completely taken down and stored in Bombardier Barn by mid May. The project is expected to cost between $220,000 and $280,000, and so far they’ve spent $37,000 of the $57,000 they have from a state grant and privately raised funds. To get the final $150,000 to $200,000, said Kaigle, the committee will mount new fundraising efforts. 

One such effort comes from Milton business man Gary Waltz, owner of Vermont Wooden Pen. Waltz reached out to Kaigle and offered to create some commemorative pens out of some of the original Stannard house wood, with proceeds from sales of the pens dontated to the project. The pens would carry a laser engraved emblem and have design elements that mimic the innovative rifle projectile known as the minie ball.

If all goes to plan, the restored Stannard House will be open on Oct. 20, 2020, Stannard’s 200th birthday.