(Click on the images for larger versions.)
This is an old Greek-revival style farmhouse, parts of which date back to before the Civil War. I’m certain the detail isn’t historically accurate. I’ve worked on many projects where classical detailing was used, and while I wouldn’t consider myself an architectural historian, I think I have a pretty good awareness of appropriate historical style.
For this project, though, we weren’t trying to do historic preservation or to restore the porch to what it originally looked like. Instead, we wanted to give it detail more appropriate to what it once may have had. Rather than trying to match what was once there, I suggested that this was trying to rhyme with what it had been. From a purist perspective, I’m sure this is sacrilege. But I think it is an improvement over what had been there before, even if it’s not as accurate as it might’ve been.
The porch was showing some signs of serious distress. The original lintel beam had been stripped of its detail and covered in aluminum sheathing some time in the past. It looked like it was failing structurally, and the project was to stabilize it and return it to functionality, but not to try to make it a historical restoration.
The two center columns (which are round, fluted columns) are still in very good shape, and only needed to be stripped and repainted. The two outboard columns (which were square, built-up board columns) were suffering considerable rot at the base and needed to be replaced.
When the carpenters started prying off the aluminum cladding and the old boards, we discovered that the whole thing was a box beam that had been nested in for some time. There was lots of pine straw and grass, and also loads of walnuts (if I’m recalling correctly) though there hasn’t been a walnut tree in the area for more than a couple decades. Rather than re-facing it, once we opened it up, it became apparent that the whole lintel structure needed to be rebuilt.
When the aluminum was stripped off, it was clear from the paint traces on the old boards that there had been some kind of a band across the middle which had been removed before the aluminum was put on. And the pediment of the front door suggests what the original detail probably was. The dentils on the porch are larger than what is above the door (again, rhyming rather than matching), but they seem more appropriately scaled to the porch.
It certainly looked better after the lintel was rebuilt and the new columns were in place, but that wasn’t the end. It took a while for the trim millwork to arrive, so it didn’t get installed before it was winter. But, now that the weather is getting better, Mike Kessler, the carpenter for this project, was able to get out there and finish it off. There is still some touch up and painting that needs to be done before it’s ready for final photographs, but it’s mostly done, and good enough to share these images.
It’s not unlikely that the corner columns are not originals, and with some of the details we reinvented there, we were repeating past mistakes. But, as I noted already, the main goal was to restore stability and functionality to the porch, rather than to try to restore it to a historical ideal.