Mark the timbers!

//Mark the timbers!

Mark the timbers!

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.

103 closet Roman numerals

Marked X/  |  // or perhaps XV | //


Marked X/  // or perhaps XV  //


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.


\ I


\ II




\ IIII – yes they marked it this way instead of IV for the Arabic numeral 4.


\ V


\ IV – now something interesting happened.  The Roman numeral for the Arabic numeral 6 is VI.  This continues the rest of the way across the wall.  One might think the pieces of wood are upside down, but then “V” would be upside down too.


This piece of wood was either reduced in size or replaced. It should have been marked \ IIV in keeping with the way they numbered the wall.

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.




\ X


\ IX






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 the Roman numerals to be seen as well.  They are definitely there though on the left side of the horizontal supports.  These photos show the south wall of George Rapp’s central hallway between the parlor (Trustees room) door on the left and the dining room on the right.  The photos start with the left side and finish with the right side.


The marks appear to be under the plaster.


More numbers under the mud, but there appears to be a V.


Still more numbers under the mud.


This might be IIIV upside down.


This one also appears to be either an upside down IIIV or IIV. There is another thing to note here. In this photograph you can see on the right where the new wall was added to the existing wall when the staircase was removed from the dining room space. The horizontal wood supports don’t line up, and the new support is not marked with a Roman numeral. You can also see the builders pencil mark at the top of the left support to mark where the pieces needed to be placed.

Perhaps we have not uncovered all of the building practices of the Harmony Society, but we have definitely made some observances that leave us wanting to know more.

For other posts please see the main blog page.


By | 2022-09-13T10:08:04-04:00 February 7th, 2014|Rapp Houses Restoration|0 Comments

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