Final Reflections

At this, the end of the Coffeehouse Reconstruction, we wanted to share some closing reflections from a few staff members who were involved in the project:

Kim Ivey
Associate Curator, Textiles & Historic Interiors

The reconstruction and furnishing of the Charlton Coffeehouse has truly been a team effort by the Foundation's archaeologists, architects, engineers, historians, carpenters, tradesmen, conservators, and--more recently--the curatorial staff (to name just some of the folks involved.) The curators' goal was for the furnishings and room arrangements to tell a story and to identify the function of each space. We know that we've been successful if a visitor walking into a room immediately recognizes the activities that took place in that space. It was a pleasure and an honor working with so many talented and skilled coworkers.

Jason Whitehead
Supervisor of Historic Masonry Trades

The Coffeehouse has meant a tremendous amount to the Brickyard. It provides a natural connection for folks who visit the Brickyard to find out how bricks, mortar, and plaster are made to a sight where they can see the finished product in use. At the end of an interpretation I often ask people if they have toured the Coffeehouse yet and many of them have. When I tell them that about 10,000 bricks from the Brickyard were used in its reconstruction they are impressed. When I add the fact that much of the mortar and plaster was also made in the Brickyard out of oyster shells burned on site, folks often leave with a new appreciation for the level of authenticity we put in to projects like this one. I am glad to see it finished and I can't wait to start the next building.

Joshua Muse
Associate Digital Content Specialist

The Coffeehouse Reconstruction has been one of the most interesting projects I've worked on here at Colonial Williamsburg, fascinating and exciting throughout, and I feel lucky to have been here during such an eventful process.

The scope of the project has meant that departments who may not have had that much interaction on a regular basis got the chance to work together closely. Personally, it gave me the opportunity to work with a wide variety of staff members from across the Foundation, from Architecture and Engineering, to Historic Trades, to Maintenance, and Marketing, to name but a few. My fellow staff members have shown themselves to be both both knowledgeable and very helpful, and I gained a notably better appreciation for how the various components of the Foundation fit together.

Perhaps more unexpectedly, the Coffeehouse project also brought me into contact with a great number of people from outside the Foundation. Working on the Coffeehouse webcam and blog gave me the opportunity to interact with many enthusiastic members of the public. Though we had planned an online aspect for the project all along, we were still amazed by the level of interest shown in the webcam and blog updates. Better yet, the Internet gave me the chance to correspond with many fans of the project, whether by e-mail or through the blog, and even meet a number of them in person.

As this may well be the last blog update, I wanted to again thank everyone for all of your interest in the Coffeehouse Reconstruction. Your involvement and enthusiasm has made working on the blog and the webcam deeply enjoyable – I appreciated every single e-mail and blog post, even when it was to let me know that the camera was mysteriously dark, or to ask a question whose answer I didn't know. I especially enjoyed those chances to meet some of you in person.

Ultimately, I'd like to thank you for helping to make the Coffeehouse website such a success. I hope that we have started a precedent for future projects of this kind here at Colonial Williamsburg.

Thanks again, and Happy New Year!
Josh

Coffeehouse Conversations - A Recap

In honor of the Coffeehouse opening, we wanted to repost links to all of the Coffeehouse Conversations videos. As you may recall, these short videos document a broad-range of parts of the project, and feature many of our staff members who have worked on the project. Many thanks to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Division of Productions, Publications, and Learning Ventures, who produced all of these videos.

All of the videos require Adobe Flash® to view. If you don't have Adobe Flash installed, you can download a free version from Adobe's website.

Coffeehouse Conversations 10 - A Particular Charm

We've posted the tenth video in our Coffeehouse Conversations series; this episode is entitled A Particular Charm, and features Jim Horn, Vice President for Research and Historical Interpretation.

In this episode, Jim gives a summary of the project and its results. He describes the project's attempts to create as accurate an 18th century Coffeehouse as possible, inside and out. Jim also discusses the role of a Coffeehouse in Colonial society, as well as the role of Charlton's in the environment and experience of Colonial Williamsburg. Coffeehouse Conversations is produced by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's division of Productions, Publications, and Learning Ventures.

The video is 4 minutes and 37 seconds in length, and requires Adobe Flash® to view. If you don't have Adobe Flash installed, you can download a free version from Adobe's website.

Coffeehouse Conversations 8 - Plaster Works

We've just posted the eighth video in our Coffeehouse Conversations series. This episode is entitled Plaster Works, and it features Conservator of Architecture Matthew Webster; it also shows members of the Historic Masonry Trades Staff, bricklayers from the Maintenance Department, and members of the Conservation team.

In the video, Matt describes the process of acquiring lime from oyster shells, and then goes on to explain the composition and application of plaster in the Coffeehouse. Coffeehouse Conversations is produced by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's division of Productions, Publications, and Learning Ventures.

The video is 6 minutes and 13 seconds in length, and requires Adobe Flash® to view. If you don't have Adobe Flash installed, you can download a free version from Adobe's website.

October 26th Update

Here's a list of work both recent and soon-to-occur at the Coffeehouse. This time, we’ve posted even more photos, including a few from earlier in October.

Last two weeks of work

  • Completed hanging doors
  • Continued installing hardware
  • Installed stone steps at porch and cellar kitchen door
  • Continued interior painting
  • Installed two additional shelves in west passage
  • Installed five leaded glass casement windows and four interior shutters in cellar
  • Repaired plaster and then whitewashed porch ceiling
  • Hand scraped floors
  • Completed paving at front porch and repairs to main sidewalk
  • Installed stainless steel shelving in servery
  • Installed dishwasher in servery
  • Closed-in dumbwaiter shaft in cellar
  • Completed fabrication and installed three benches for front porch
  • Fabricated dresser (offsite) for kitchen and installed

Next two weeks of scheduled work

  • Install handrails at front step and ADA ramp
  • Install handrails at interior stair winders
  • Complete hand scraping floors and stair treads
  • Repair plaster and re-whitewash where additional shelves installed at west passage
  • Complete installation of all door locks and hardware
  • Install grab bars and mirror in restroom
  • Complete painting and touchup interior and exterior
  • Install sign post
  • Install audio system and put into operation
  • Fabricate and install pales and gate on east yard fence and apply finish
  • Install post light
  • Install telephones
  • Install carpet and wall paper
  • Begin installing furnishings
  • Replace glass in lanterns with blown glass
  • Remove portion of gravel and install crushed shells on path to cellar doors
  • Remove post and rail fence along west side of path and relocate portions as directed
  • Repair path to Revolutionary City seating area

Photos by Clyde Kestner and Joshua Muse

October 12th Update

Here's a list of work both recent and soon-to-occur at the Coffeehouse. We’ve tried to include more photos this time, to better showcase the recent construction.

Last two weeks of work

  • Continued painting throughout on first and second floors
  • Continued installing doors and hardware
  • Completed final site grading, sod, seed and straw
  • Installed gravel paths from Revolutionary City path to cellar doors
  • Installed the remainder of double hung windows and shutters
  • Installed custom stainless steel servery equipment
  • Installed ceiling tiles in servery
  • Installed lighting fixtures
  • Closed in dumbwaiter shaft at bar
  • Installed plumbing fixtures in servery and restroom
  • Installed east fence posts and rails
  • Removed and reset pavers in main sidewalk in front of building
  • Excavated and poured concrete footers for the sign post, post light and two stone steps
  • Installed pavers for front walk and two stone steps
  • Installed dampers in kitchen fireplace
  • Put plumbing systems into operation
  • Completed conventional smoke detection system in cellar and security system

Next two weeks of scheduled work

  • Complete hanging doors and installing hardware
  • Complete interior painting
  • Install five leaded glass casement windows in cellar
  • Whitewash porch ceiling
  • Complete paving at front porch and repairs to main sidewalk
  • Startup HVAC systems
  • Close-in dumbwaiter shaft in cellar
  • Complete east yard fence and apply “red tar” finish
  • Install sign post
  • Install audio system
  • Cleanup interior
  • Install landscape plantings
  • Complete fabrication of three benches for front porch
  • Fabricate dresser (offsite) for kitchen

Photos by Joshua Muse

September 18th Update

Here's a list of work both recent and soon-to-occur at the Coffeehouse.

Last two weeks of work

  • Completed installing trim and panel walls on second floor
  • Completed plaster in west stair passage, all the second floor rooms and porch ceiling
  • Installed five doors in north room and west passage
  • Began final coat of paint in southeast room
  • Continued making hardware offsite
  • Cellar window sashes shipped to England to install leaded glass
  • Completed work on corner cupboard offsite
  • Began installing hardware for first floor doors, locks, etc...
  • Began work on the post and rails for new east courtyard fence
  • Closed-in of dumbwaiter at bar
  • Installed shelving on south wall of exhibition kitchen
  • Installed pre-painted window sashes in southeast room

Next two weeks of scheduled work

  • Conduct a thorough cleanup inside now that plastering is complete, and continue daily cleanup as necessary
  • Finish painting in SE room
  • Apply whitewash to second floor rooms and west stair passage
  • Begin painting trim on second floor and west stair passage
  • Install window sashes in north room, stair passages and second floor
  • Install doors for second floor rooms
  • Install shutters on front elevation windows
  • Close-in dumbwaiter shaft in cellar
  • Continue making hardware off-site
  • Begin building the dresser for cellar kitchen off-site
  • Complete boxes for cellar kitchen to conceal ducts
  • Complete making posts and rails for east courtyard fence and begin making the pales

Photos by Peter Inker

More Plaster Questions

Well, we’ve had a few more questions about the plaster process, which Conservator of Architecture Matthew Webster was happy to answer.

Question: While I was on site this past weekend I saw some of the VA Limeworks NHL 3.5 bags around, but in some of the photos of mixing the plaster I saw other bags that looked just like a modern hydrated lime building product. Are you using both? Does the hydrated lime help the workability of the NHL? If you're mixing them, what's the ratio of the mix?

Answer: This is correct, there are two types of lime at the site. These have more to do with the different layers of plaster than with the mixes. Because we are using wire lath we wanted a stronger scratch coat. Wire lath has more flexibility than wood, which would cause cracking in the traditional plaster mix. Virginia Lime Works product NHL 3.5 (Natural Hydraulic Lime) gives us the rigid base we needed, as well as compatibility with the traditional finish coat we used. Another reason NHL 3.5 was used is the volume of material needed. Over 5,000 square feet needed to be plastered, requiring almost 1,500 gallons of plaster for the scratch coat alone. Using a rick to burn enough shell to produce that much lime was not feasible. The mix for the scratch coat was one part (dry) NHL 3.5 to two parts silica sand. A little hair was also added for additional binding strength.

The other lime you saw was hydrated lime. You can read about the process of making this lime in other entries (here), but essentially we burnt oyster shell, slacked it, and let it sit for six months to properly hydrate. The five gallon buckets at the site are used to bring the lime putty from the pits in the brickyard to the Coffeehouse site. Lime putty is used for the finish coat. We analyzed samples of plaster from the original Coffeehouse to determine the proper mix for the reconstruction: the original plaster was a mix of 45% lime putty, 45% fine sand, 7% clay, and 3% brick dust. The same proportions were used for our finish coat used in the reconstruction.

Question: Second, is the metal lathe compatible with the lime plaster? I've hung lathe on a couple of the walls that I've done in our home so far and if I could be using metal lath, that would be a real time saver.

Answer: Wire lath is compatible with lime putty, as long as it is galvanized or stainless. We use screws to attach the lath, and a rigid lime for the base coat.

September 3rd Update

We just wanted to share a quick list of work both recent and soon-to-occur at the Coffeehouse. We're getting to the home stretch!

Last three weeks of work

  • Completed metal lathe & plaster in north room (1st floor), east stairway, and the southeast room (2nd floor)
  • Completed installation of metal lathe in west stairwell, and the rest of second floor
  • Applied scratch coat of plaster in west stairway
  • Completed installing trim on the second floor
  • Installed three doors in the southeast room (1st floor)
  • Installed shelves in second floor closets
  • Began painting in southeast and north rooms (1st floor)
  • Installed door frames for all four interior doors in cellar
  • Installed horizontal wall sheathing on two walls in cellar kitchen
  • Completed installing floor tile in restroom and servery (basement)
  • Continued making hardware offsite
  • Continued work on corner cupboard offsite
  • Completed installing wood lathe on porch ceiling
  • Obtained material for the post and rails of new east courtyard fence

Next two weeks of scheduled work

  • Continue cleanup inside, and provide protection during plastering for trim, mantels, etc...
  • Complete plastering and whitewash of west stairwell and south room (2nd floor)
  • Apply scratch coat of plaster in north room and closet on second floor (last room!)
  • Begin plastering porch ceiling
  • Install window sashes in southeast and north rooms (1st floor)
  • Install doors in north room (1st floor)
  • Apply final coat of paint on trim in southeast and prime and paint trim in north room (1st floor)
  • Close-in dumbwaiter shaft
  • Continue making hardware and complete corner cupboard offsite
  • Begin making posts and rails for east courtyard fence

Photos by Joshua Muse

August 14th Update

First, we wanted to mention that the Coffeehouse webcam is up and running again. Thanks to Project Manager Clyde Kestner, the camera is now located just to the west of the porch, and shows the preparation work being done in order to plaster the porch ceiling.

And, as usual, we’re sharing a quick list of some of the work that has recently been completed on the coffeehouse, along with work that will be done in the coming weeks.

Last three weeks of work

  • Installed metal lathe and plaster on ceiling of southwest room and applied whitewash
  • Completed installation of metal lathe in north room, adjacent closets and east stairway
  • Applied scratch coat of plaster in north room, adjacent closets and east stairway
  • Completed installation of west stair
  • Completed installing trim on first floor
  • Continued installing trim on second floor
  • Installed shelves in first floor closets
  • Completed installation of supports for hung ceiling in servery and restroom area
  • Began installing floor tile in restroom and servery
  • Continued making hardware offsite
  • Fabricated window sashes for cellar windows
  • Continued work on corner cupboard offsite
  • Completed installing trim at porch ceiling and began installing wood lathe on ceiling

Next two weeks of scheduled work

  • Continue cleanup inside and provide protection for trim, mantels, etc. as required
  • Complete plastering north center room and closets, and apply whitewash
  • Complete installation of trim and mantels on second floor
  • Obtain inspections of framing and electrical on second floor
  • Complete installation of metal lathe in west stairway
  • Install metal lathe in second floor rooms
  • Begin plastering west stairway and second floor
  • Install window sashes in southeast and southwest rooms
  • Apply primer coat of paint on trim in southeast and southwest rooms
  • Complete installation of wood lathe on porch ceiling
  • Complete installation of coffee bar and close-in of dumbwaiter shaft
  • Complete floor tile in servery and restroom
  • Continue making hardware and complete corner cupboard offsite
  • Willie complete drawings for cellar exhibition kitchen shelving/boxes to conceal ducts
  • Obtain material and begin making posts and rails for east courtyard fence at Great Hopes Plantation

Photos by Peter Inker and Joshua Muse

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