Rapp Houses Restoration Blog

The George Rapp House, pictured, and the Frederick Rapp House are being restored on the interior.

The George Rapp House, pictured, and the Frederick Rapp House are being restored on the interior.

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Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

The interior of the Rapp Houses were restored between 2013 and 2014.  The houses finally reopened for tours in November 2014.  Read more about the restoration in the blog posts that were written during the restoration.

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Open for Tours!

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration, Uncategorized | 0 comments

How exciting!  The Rapp Houses are finally open for tours once again.  Reviews are glowing!  Time to come out to Old Economy Village again and see the magnificent changes.  Just to give you a glimpse of what you might see, look at the pictures below.  But, we don’t want to give too much away, because you have to come and see for yourself! See this and much more on tour this grand opening weekend, November 8th and 9th from 10 until 5 on Saturday and 12 until 5 on Sunday or during other regular hours.   For other posts please see the main blog...

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The Rapp Houses are Making Headlines

Posted by on Nov 6, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

The Rapp Houses are receiving a great deal of attention these days.  The contractors are all done with their work, and the staff and volunteers at the site are putting the finishing touches on the two connected buildings.  The grand opening is this Saturday and Sunday, November 8 & 9 from 10 until 5 on Saturday and 12 until 5 on Sunday. The opening of the houses have received attention from local newspapers.  See below to read the articles. Beaver County Times article & video Pittsburgh Post Gazette Pittsburgh Tribune Review   For other posts please see the main blog...

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Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

This past week saw all of the large furnishings moving into the Rapp Houses.  Brian Howard of Carlisle, PA and his crew did the hard moving job.  Also this week, White Marsh Interiors installed curtains and bed hangings in George and Frederick Rapp’s bedrooms.  Thanks to Bert Laudenslager and David Sell for their beautiful work! I am very sorry to say that my photos this week all got accidently deleted, and we can’t see all of these diligent works in progress.  However, you can see the results of their work below.  This week the George Rapp House gets its last carpet installed and two floor cloths are being installed in two hallways.  Guides are currently being trained.  This is getting exciting!!!   For other posts please see the main blog...

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The Carpet is Beautiful!

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

This week four of six rooms and two staircases received carpeting.  The room carpets are facsimiles of original ingrain carpet from the Old Economy Village collection produced by the Langhorne Carpet Company of Penndel, Pennsylvania.  The stair carpets were woven by Family Heirloom Weavers of Red Lion, Pennsylvania.  Two more carpets are still at the mill and are slated to be installed at the end of October. Ingrain carpets were woven in strips and sewn together by hand in the first half of the nineteenth century.  The patterns had to be matched carefully.  And yes, they had wall to wall carpeting then.   For other posts please see the main blog...

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Artifacts are moving in

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

  The staff at Old Economy Village has recently begun to move the historical artifacts back into the Rapp Houses.  Packing and removal of artifacts began in the summer of 2012. The house was closed in December 2012 when the large artifacts were removed.  The curator has started with the small items, and the large items will be moved back in a couple of weeks.  Next week the carpets start to be installed.  We’re getting closer to opening!!!   For other posts please see the main blog...

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The wallpaper is done!

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

We can hardly believe it ourselves, but yes, the wallpaper is done!  The wallpaper reproduction project began in 2002, and now, 12 years later, we are proud to show off the results.  And I might add that what you are going to see is BEAUTIFUL, especially to those with an early 19th century eye (wink, wink)!  These papers were all reproduced from original wallpapers that were pulled off of the walls during the 1960s restoration or that are on band boxes in the collection.  Some of the borders are from the Adelphi line of papers because there weren’t enough borders in the collection.  We would like to thank all of the folks at LCA Associates, Laura McCoy Designs, Inc., Adelphi Paper Hangings, LLC, and Historical Wallpapering Specialties for all of their endless hours and amazing abilities to bring this project to fruition. Sneak peek at what’s to come:  artifacts are moving into the houses and carpeting is coming very soon! See other blog posts about the wallpaper in the Rapp Houses: Wallpaper!!! More to Come Updates and Discoveries The Case of a Missing Staircase Changes are Happening! Work on the Rapp Houses until now   For other posts please see the main blog...

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More to come

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Here at Old Economy Village the restoration of the Rapp Houses has come to a slight pause, but in other parts of the country, people are working very diligently on preparing furnishings for the houses.  Adelphi Paper Hangings in Sharon Springs, New York is busily block printing the remainder of the wallpaper for the George Rapp House.  Langhorne Carpet Company in Penndel, Pennsylvania is weaving three carpets for both houses.  And Riley May Restoration of Columbia, Tennessee is painting two wall to wall floor cloths for two hallways. Once these items are completed and arrive at Old Economy, we’ll start to see more going on at the Rapp Houses again. There are quite a few things that need to happen at Old Economy Village for the restoration.  We need to paint some small floor cloths, re-string some Venetian blinds, find some period roller blinds, make some curtains, locate some antique cook stoves, determine UV protection for the windows, and make some items in the wood shop.  Some of this may require finding funding sources.  There are some bigger things on the to-do list that will probably have to happen after the houses reopen to the public.  These are conservation of historical artifacts and creation of an exhibit for one wing of the George Rapp House. We are very excited to have the Rapp Houses reopen to the public in the near future.   There might be some gaps in posts on the blog while everything is in production, but we will definitely keep you tuned about what is going on.  For now, let’s look at some more pictures of the wallpaper that has been installed and the new porch addition.   For other posts please see the main blog...

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Posted by on Jun 19, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Yes, the wallpaper is finally being hung in the Rapp Houses!  Everyone is so excited to see it, because we’ve waited and worked on this for YEARS!  We are still in the production phase for three wallpapers, so more will come probably in September.  But for now, take a peak at the new look of the Rapp Houses with wallpaper!     For other posts please see the main blog...

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Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

It has been eight long weeks since the last post (sorry about that – I’ve been extremely busy putting together two exhibits: Two Centuries of Music at Economy and A Style of Their Own: Clothing and Textiles of the Harmony Society – two must-sees!)  An update about the Rapp Houses restoration is LONG overdue. The construction portion of the project has been completed (for the most part) as of June 6th, except for a little project that we added.  We are adding another part of the back porch to the garden side of the George Rapp House to create some handicap accessibility.  But otherwise, the plastering, woodwork, painting, electrical work, and floor refinishing are complete!  We’re very excited about this.  Progress! And this week the wallpaper started to go up.  Things will definitely start to look different in the houses once the wallpaper is installed.  More glimpses to come! But for now, take a peek at these pictures:   For other posts please see the main blog...

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The Plastering Is Done (for now)

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

It’s a little bit of a slow time for photographs inside the Rapp Houses right now.  The plaster work is done for now.  We’re looking at a little bit more plastering before this project is complete.  The painters are still painting inside the houses.  Carpentry and electrical work also continues. Old Economy Village will be receiving almost all of the wallpaper next week in preparation for installation starting in mid-June.  Three more wallpapers are still in the design and production stage.  The carpets for 6 rooms are also in the design and production stage. Soon some floors will be refinished, which will give a bright new look to many rooms – a finish which is more authentic to the 1820s to 1840s time period of the restoration. For other posts please see the main blog...

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Who lived in the Rapp Houses?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

We’ve taken a 2-week break while 2 exhibits have been taking up all of my time.  Harmonizing at Economy: Two Centuries of Music opened at the end of March in the Visitor Center lobby, and Their Own Style: Clothing and Textiles of the Harmony Society is set to open Thursday, May 8th at 7 PM in the changing exhibit gallery.  Faces and Places: Photographs of Economy will be ending Sunday, April 20th. While the plastering, painting, carpentry, and electrical work continue at the Rapp Houses, I thought we’d take a look at who lived in the houses throughout time. Much of what we know about who lived in the houses comes from the census data, the most early of which for these buildings is 1830.  The census combines the George and Frederick Rapp Houses into one structure. The Obvious We know the obvious people that lived there from the time the houses were completed in 1826-28 until their deaths: Harmonist leader George Rapp (1757-1847), his wife Christina (1756-1830), his daughter Rosina (1786-1849), his adopted son Frederick (1775-1834), his daughter-in-law Johanna (1787-1873), and his granddaughter Gertrude (1808-1889).  None of the censuses indicate that George’s sister  Maria Barbara Rapp (1765-1844) lived there. The Not So Obvious The 1830 and 1840 censuses tell us that George Fleckhammer (1783-1843) lived there.  Fleckhammer was George Rapp’s steward of the house and caretaker of the garden, as well as a stone mason. 1840 Everyone listed above except for Frederick, who died in 1834, lived in the houses in 1840.  Jacob Henrici (1804-1892) also moved into the house before he became trustee.  He shows up in the 1840 census at the age of 35.  Fleckhammer died in 1843.  By the time of George Rapp’s death in 1847, Florian Keppler (1796-1851) had moved in.  Keppler was a coachman and probably replaced Fleckhammer.  Rosina Rapp died in 1849. 1850 In 1850 the houses were the home of Johanna and Gertrude Rapp, Jacob Henrici, and Florian Keppler, who died in 1851.  The 1850 census tells us that John Stahl (1776-1856) and Gertrude’s friend Paulina Speidel (1809-1870) had also moved into the house.  Stahl was on the Board of Elders and a farm supervisor. 1860 By 1860, the houses held the two Rapps, Henrici, Speidel, as well as Romelius Langenbacher (a.k.a. R.L. Baker – then Head Trustee, 1793-1868), his sister Catharina Langenbacher (1800-1874), Christoph Keppler (Florian’s brother, 1800-1876), and Johanna Rapp’s sister Elisabetha Diem (1790-1863).  That decade, Diem died in 1863 and R. L. Baker died in 1868. 1870 The 1870 census shows that the two Rapps, Henrici (then Head Trustee), Speidel (who died in 1870), Christoph Keppler, and Catharina Langenbacher lived there, as well as Jonathan Lenz (Junior Trustee, 1807-1890), and non-Harmonists Joseph (aged 18) and Rosina Loeffler (aged 14).  Johanna Rapp died in 1873, Langenbacher in 1874, and Keppler in 1876. 1880 In 1880 Gertrude Rapp, Jacob Henrici, Jonathan Lenz lived in the houses, and non-Harmonists John (aged 69) and Carolina Jaeger, Minnie (aged 26) and Gottlob Killenger (aged 23), and Christian Loeffler (aged 20).  These later folks were probably hired workers of the Society.  Gertrude died in 1889 and Lenz died in 1890. 1890 Unfortunately the 1890 census was destroyed, but we can make a conjecture about who lived in the houses.  Jacob Henrici lived there until...

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Odds and Ends

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

This week in the Rapp Houses the plasterers have still been hard at work, the painters have been painting several rooms, some masonry was repaired, and more carpentry was completed.  We also received a carpet pattern and the artwork for some wallpaper. Whenever I walk around Old Economy Village, I’m always looking for those odd little things that might go unnoticed.  I wonder and try to figure out what they were used for.  Let’s take a little look at some of the odd but interesting little things that we’ve been discovering.   Wooden Mollies? These two small pieces of wood were found in the south east corner of the George Rapp Formal Parlor (a.k.a. Trustees’ Room).  Were they something the Harmonists did to be able to hang a heavy picture, like we do when we put a molly in the wall?  (A molly is an anchor with an expandable sleeve that slides into a hole drilled into the wall. A screw is then screwed into the sleeve, causing the anchor to bend, expand, spread and grip against the inside of the drywall.)  Or were they just plugs for holes in the wall? Two Items found in One Room In the room that was most recently interpreted as Jacob Henrici’s office, and what will soon be interpreted as George Rapp’s bedroom, we knew about, but recently discovered again, two items on the woodwork. Was it a closet? In George Rapp’s family dining room, there have recently been some changes to the room, which we have seen in a previous post.  Namely, there was a door that was moved to the other side of the fireplace, and a wall was straightened.  While on the February 12th Behind the Scenes Tour, a visitor commented that it looked like there would have been a closet to the right side of the fireplace.  I think our guest may have been right.  What do you think?  See below to see the space talked about and the Trustees’ Room which has a closet to the right of the fireplace.  There is also a closet in George Rapp’s (new) bedroom and Frederick Rapp’s office. For other posts please see the main blog...

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A Room of Mystery

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

The plasterers, painters, electrician, and carpenter are still hard at work at the Rapp Houses.  While we’re waiting for more changes to report about, let’s talk about a room of mystery in the Rapp Houses. There are so many rooms in the Rapp Houses whose 19th century function is not known.  Of course what a room was used for may have changed over time too.  There is one room (marked in yellow above) in the George Rapp House that is a little bit different than all of the others in several ways.  This room has most recently been interpreted as George Rapp’s bedroom.  (We don’t know exactly which room of the house was his bedroom.)  We know that the look of this room changed in the 1870s or 1880s when an addition was built onto the west side of what we call the Steward’s wing – the north wing of the George Rapp House.  At this time a hallway was built onto the east side of the room to provide access from the addition to the main hallway.  Any other changes to the room are currently unknown.  Let’s look at some of the differences in this room that are not seen elsewhere in the house. This room of mystery seems to have been used for utilitarian purposes, purposes which needed to be kept hidden and locked up due to the bars on the windows.  We are going to be interpreting it as George Rapp’s office when the house re-opens for tours.  This is a viable purpose for the room.  But perhaps after George Rapp died in 1847, the room was changed to keep things locked up. There was a clue found in the research files at Old Economy Village recently.  About 1892 there was a man by the name of Cyrus Reed Teed who knew about the Harmony Society and their belief that Christ was coming in their lifetime, and they were the chosen people to help build the new Jerusalem.  Supposedly, Teed wanted to arrive at Economy wearing “George Rapp’s sacred robe” which he knew to be locked up in a special room in the Rapp House with other items the Society wanted to keep.  He thought that if he showed up wearing it, the Harmonists would fall down to worship him, believing he was the Second Coming, and give him all of their money.  It is a very interesting story, which you can read about in the early 1890s newspaper article Teed Shows A Robe (exact date and newspaper source unknown). Could this room of mystery have been the place where the Harmonists kept their treasured items?  We may never know, but it definitely makes you wonder… For other posts please see the main blog...

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It’s starting to look a little more finished!

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Okay, okay – the project is NOT finished yet, but how exciting it is to see the Rapp Houses getting finishing plaster, paint, and a “new” door in place!  We have MANY more months to go until we can say that it is finished.  Let’s see what’s new.   For other posts please see the main blog page.

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Updates and Discoveries

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Thanks, Mary, for last week’s blog!  That was nice.  Now let’s see what’s going on in the Rapp Houses most recently. The painters have arrived!  This week they are prepping the woodwork for paint. And you might be able to guess this one – more PLASTERING!  Yep, you got it.  Those plasterers are still very hard at work getting the walls and ceilings up to par.  We don’t want any 180+ year old plaster to be falling down any time soon (or at all).  We’ve heard that they are finished with demolition of failing plaster, and believe me, there is a LOT of original plaster left in the house for anyone that may have been worried about it.  And the new plaster is quickly covering up all of our recent discoveries. Speaking of recent discoveries, let’s take a look at some of the latest ones, including updates on the staircase and chimney that we discovered. More old wallpaper found   Another chimney, removed a long time ago In the post two weeks ago “A new and unexpected discovery” we saw the discovery of two blocks in the ceiling of the Frederick Rapp kitchen.  We have now determined that there used to be a chimney at this location.  We just don’t know if it was used for a fireplace or a stove.  All photographs of the Frederick Rapp House do not show any evidence of the chimney, so it must have been removed before the 1880s.  See the pictures below for more evidence. More evidence of the curved staircase in the George Rapp dining room In January 17th’s post “The Case of a Missing Staircase” we saw all of the evidence (until then) of the curved staircase that used to be on the north end of George Rapp’s formal dining room.  Well, we’ve found more evidence.  (BTW, if you’re trying to imagine how this staircase would have looked, it was not actually IN the dining room.  It shared a wall with the dining room.  Access to the staircase was from the hallway.) For other posts please see the main blog...

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Meet the blogger, Sarah

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Since Saturday, February 22 is National Curator Day, Old Economy Village’s blogger will not be writing her weekly blog.  Instead, this blog is being written by Mary DeMars, Marketing and Development Associate and it is going to be about the blogger, Sarah.  Sarah Buffington is Old Economy Village’s Curator.   Sarah’s job is complex.  Visitors to Old Economy Village will see her exhibits and researchers will meet with her for assistance.  A lot of the job of being a Curator is to be behind the scenes.  Sarah’s responsibilities include, making exhibits, assisting researchers, taking care of the collections, cataloguing new acquisitions, handling loans to Old Economy Village and items that are loaned out from Old Economy Village, cleaning artifacts (which include the buildings), making sure the archives are in order and accessible, creating the archival database online, helping with events, working on the Rapp Houses restoration, continuing to move the collections that are stored upstairs to the collection storage rooms in the Visitor Center, and much more. Sarah grew up not interested in history.  Family trips were usually going to Civil War battlefields and Sarah said she didn’t get it.  It wasn’t until an eighth grade field trip to Greenfield Village that she got it.  Sarah only remembers the Daggot Farm (1760 house) and a woman cooking or doing something in the back room and a guy walked in asking if this woman needed any firewood.  That memory has stayed with her.  It was after that field trip that Sarah began Civil War reenacting.  She loved learning history by doing.  It was a way to learn different perspectives.  Sarah went to Michigan State University and received her Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design and Textiles with an emphasis in history, which they don’t offer anymore.  She said that she took every opportunity to learn something new.  While at MSU she worked in the clothing collection of the College of Home Economics.  She also worked at the MSU Museum in the curatorial department, folk arts division, and exhibits division.  She also was the costume manager for MSU.  After college she became a seamstress for Greenfield Village.  She met her husband, Scot while working on a Civil War film on Antietam.  She moved to the Western Pennsylvania region to be closer to Scot and worked at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.  While living here she volunteered for an event at Old Economy Village.  Scot met, then-Site Administrator, Mary Ann Landis and told her about Sarah.  Mary Ann told Sarah to take the Civil Service exam and Sarah passed was hired.  Sarah has worked at Old Economy Village since June of 2002.  Sarah’s interests in history have expanded since working at Old Economy Village.  “I am a jack of all trades,” she said.  “I am now interested in red ware pottery, furniture, the archives, and of course textiles.”  Something interesting about Sarah is that she loves historic cookbooks.  She has a crazy collection at home and enjoys learning about historic ways of cooking. Sarah’s one true love will always be textiles and is eagerly creating an exhibit on textiles that is scheduled to open Mother’s Day weekend.  Sarah said that she is excited for this exhibit because people rarely see textiles on exhibit.  They are so sensitive and are easily damaged.  The rule of...

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A new and unexpected discovery

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Just yesterday we did a whole bunch of head scratching in the Frederick Rapp House.  The room that was until recently interpreted as Frederick Rapp’s dining room, and what will be interpreted as his kitchen, brought forth a mystery.  This room is in the south western corner of the Frederick Rapp House, overlooking the beautiful (but at the moment snow-covered) garden. Before restoration began, we found out that the east wall of the room, which borders the hallway, was thicker than the same wall in the next room (the utility closet/pantry).  It was about two times the thickness.  We determined at the time that it was a brick wall, and that it was probably thicker to protect the rest of the house from the heat of the kitchen.  We found out yesterday that it was indeed a brick wall, but we found out more.  The plaster had become unattached in many places, and will be repaired in this restoration.  See the following pictures to look at what we found. So what is it?  Another thing that we found that is not very easy to see in photographs is that at some point the wall was thickened.  It is entirely brick on the hallway side, but it is brick only on the lower part of the room side of the wall.  The rest is constructed with posts and lath. Evidence found today in the second floor and the attic may tell us that there was indeed a fireplace on that wall at some point.  The 180+ year old Rapp Houses are full of mysteries!   For other posts please see the main blog...

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Mark the timbers!

Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Well, you might have guessed it.  There’s more plaster work being done in the Rapp Houses.  So while we’re waiting for that to finish up, let’s take a look at some other things that we’ve noticed.  And remember to sign up for the Behind the Scenes Tour on February 12, 2014 from 6 PM until 9 PM. A few weeks ago (see Changes are happening!, posted January 10, 2014), you might have seen some of the Roman numeral marking of the wood in what is becoming Frederick Rapp’s kitchen and pantry.  We’ve since discovered a whole bunch more of this marking.  The Harmonists (or anyone else in the 1820s, for that matter) didn’t have Sears and Roebuck housing or modern prefabricated construction.  They had their own form of prefabricated construction.  They cut all of the pieces to construct a wall or a door or a window (or whatever) in one place, disassembled it, and constructed it in place in the new building.  Because everything wasn’t standard, but was made to fit each individual location, they marked each part of the construction with Roman numerals.  Each stud was numbered consecutively in order of placement, each cross piece between studs was numbered consecutively, each door frame was numbered in an orderly fashion, consecutively.  You get the point.  Good German order. The way that they marked the wood was with a chisel or axe, making a straight mark.  They would have a non-Roman numeral mark also to indicate which section of a wall, or which door frame, etc.  See below for some of the places we’ve found.   Pantry Door The next two photographs are from the doorway between Frederick Rapp’s kitchen and pantry.  (The third part of the doorway was not uncovered during this construction work.)  Someone that is into runes and archaic medieval symbolism might notice that there is a “hooked X” on this door frame.  Although this may have some merit, we believe that this was a way of marking “XV” for the 15th item to be marked, using less chisel marks by sharing a line.   George Rapp’s West Parlor Wall (ie. the Trustees Room) The following photographs show the cross pieces (from right to left, as they are numbered in ascending order) between the studs of the west wall of the George Rapp Parlor.  The first two photos show a brick wall, whereas the others do not, because this was the area of the wall that supported the staircase that is no longer in the dining room (room 117) just beyond this wall.  (See The case of a missing staircase posted January 17, 2014)  For those of you who have been to Old Economy, these photographs were taken looking towards the garden, with Church Street at your back. There is a doorway between the above section and the one in the next photograph.  The doorway, although taking up 2 spaces of studding, seems to have taken up one space of marking, being \ IIIV.  The door frame was not taken apart to see if that numbering is on it.   South Wall of the Central Hallway The previous pictures showed wood that was pretty smooth, and you could see the Roman numerals very well.  The next photographs show a much rougher finish on the wood, not allowing...

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A Pause in the Blog

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Rapp Houses Restoration | 0 comments

Tis the season for colds and such…  Sorry for the delay, but know that there is a lot going on in the Rapp Houses, including more plastering!  Tune in next week for more information, and don’t forget to register for the Behind The Scenes Tour on February 12th that takes people through the Rapp Houses as restoration continues.  Also see artifact storage spaces at the Visitor Center.  People will have a chance to see the four original architectural drawings of the George Rapp House and many other drawings, as well as textiles that are being reproduced for the restoration, and clocks in storage.  A wine and cheese reception follows the tours.  Times are 6:00 – 9:00 PM.  Don’t wait to register!  Contact Elaine Voss to register. For other posts please see the main blog...

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