Preservation Progress on Byrnside’s Fort: cleaning 200+ year old logs and beams

We finally got back to work on the preservation / restoration work on Byrnside’s Fort, since the economy is basically at a standstill at this point. On the first floor of the downstairs, of the old fort itself, we’re almost to the point of being able to start on the chinking.

It’s not easy restoring old log cabins. Fortunately, we only have the inside to deal with, since the outside got to keep its board and baten siding, and it now mostly finished. Once the old pre-Civil War plaster comes down off the walls inside, it’s a big mess. Even after it’s cleaned up, it’s still a mess.

This is the second floor of the old fort, east room:

The early log addition to the fort on the west end of the structure. You can see what a mess is left after the plaster comes down:

And after it’s cleaned up:

Before pictures of the plaster coming down in the east side room of the first floor of the old fort. This is the heart of the old fort:

Here’s how the east room of the first floor of the old fort looks now, as it’s undergoing the cleaning process. Taking all of the nails out, scrubbing, brushing, sweeping, and so on. I put the early 19th century mantle which was there back on just to see how it looks. We still need to replace the robbed hearth stone. I’m pretty sure we found it outside in the yard. Or at least most of it.

I’ve been slowly sanding and scraping off the old whitewash paint off the ceiling and original beveled poplar joist beams. Fortunately the soft popular is easy to work with. And the paint is so old that it’s brittle and falls right off. Mostly.

I’m sort of learning as I go, but instead of pressure washing, or even sandblasting, so far I’m giving it a go with just scrubbing them clean manually. Since this isn’t being done as a modern home, but rather for the sake of historical preservation, I really want to save as much as possible, including the chinking.

The stones are still sitting there just as the original 1770 settlers placed them there. Not everywhere, but in most spots. I really hate to disturb or destroy that. So far, I’ve been scrubbing them down with a fairly tough brush, to clean them, and then scrubbing them by hand with a steel wire brush, which works surprisingly well, both to clean them and to remove remnants of old whitewash paint, where it exists.

There’s a gap in between the exterior siding and the logs themselves, so by sticking my phone in open cracks where chinking was removed in the 19th century, you can get faint glimpses of the original log exterior of the fort. Pretty cool.

The apple tree in the yard is in full bloom, and the grass is just now starting to grow again.

The entryway may have been the first part of the old house to be plastered. I believe that this tongue and groove board partition wall is early. I think it was there during the purely log cabin era of this home’s existence. Long before it had exterior boards and a fancy entryway. I think this partition wall divided the original fort section of the plantation home into two separate rooms downstairs, and two separate rooms upstairs. At some point, the formal entryway with staircase and associated woodwork was installed. Possibly at the same time the board and baten exterior was installed. It was at this point that it became a respectable plantation house.

The view looking South from the West end stone chimney:

As I was poking around in the older chimney fireplace on the East end of the structure, I found a wrought iron blacksmith made spike sticking out between two stones. It came right out, and hopefully it wasn’t holding anything else in place….

The view from the second story porch, looking South towards Peters Mountain and the State of Virginia:

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