Friday, January 21, 2000
Repositioned for a New Century: One House's Story
One Carlisle house has literally been "on the move" to prepare for its third century of existence. The Green-Blood house, built in 1799 at the corner of Stearns Street and Bedford Road, was transported a year ago to its new location at 82 Lowell Road and is being lovingly renovated by its new owners, Bob and Peggy Hilton. Community interest ran high as friends and neighbors watched the preparations for the move and turned out to see the house make its way slowly around the rotary on January 7, 1999. The move itself depended upon the cooperation and assistance of all utility companies and the Carlisle Police, in addition to contractors. The house sat for several months awaiting site preparation and a new foundation, engendering much curiosity. This fall and winter, Carlisle residents have watched the house be reassembled and expanded, always with an eye to keeping its historical integrity intact.
Amos Green's house
Every old house has stories to tell, and this home is no exception. The restoration and remodeling process has yielded exciting discoveries about the house, thanks to the expertise of several local professionals working on the project. In the floorboards and the chimney bricks, as well as in the redesign of rooms, there are touches of each of the families that have owned this house. Amos Green built the dwelling for his bride, Elizabeth Blood. Amos was a third-generation Carlislean, while Elizabeth was related to the "Blood Brothers" who established Blood's Farms, an early section of present-day Carlisle, in the 1600s.
The recent move, involving extensive disassembly and reconstruction of the main chimney, brought to light information which corrected earlier assumptions about the original form of this home. Evidence supports the fact that this house was originally constructed as a "salt-box" style.
One of its most curious architectural features, the ell or "jog," was original to the building, according to Larry Sorli, Jr., the historical architect responsible for the renovation and remodeling designs. There are other existing examples of this type of jog, called a "Beverly jog." At first, the door located in the jog faced up Stearns Street. Sometime in the early 1800s, the door was moved to face Stearns Street straight on. It is believed that the roof was raised to make it a "Cape."
Amos and Elizabeth Green lived in the house most of their lives. He died at age 56 in 1828, leaving her a widow for 37 years. Her story is a sad one, as her only daughter lived but two weeks and she lost her son at 33 years of age. She is said to have suffered from insanity.
Early 20th-century blacksmith shop
There was a series of tenants and owners before the house was purchased by Thomas A. Green in 1883. A shed was added, to which the kitchen was moved. Green expanded the barn which he began to rent. In the early twentieth century it had the distinction of housing Ingwald Otterson's blacksmith shop. (Several examples of Mr. Otterson's finely crafted metalwork are in the Carlisle historical collections.)
In 1925 the house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Parisi of Waverly, who raised their four children there. They devoted loving care to the little house and its yard, planting flowering vines and tending a garden. Bob Hilton has had the privilege of speaking with their children about growing up in the house.
Hilton also has conversed with the subsequent owner, Mrs. Edna Jenney, who started restoring the house during the 1970s. She added a new kitchen to the house and replaced flooring in what was once the first kitchen. A special legacy of the Jenneys is the Carlisle pine, hand-cut by Edward Jenney, that was used for flooring in this room.
Through its two centuries, the house functioned comfortably as a small residence "hiding" some of its secrets even as its various owners expanded and remodeled it to suit their personal needs.
Bob and Peggy Hilton appreciate the house as an "unspoiled small house" reflecting the traditions of life in early New England. They were anxious not only to preserve it, but to keep it in Carlisle. Since they own a lot adjacent to their own home on Lowell Street, they had the opportunity to give it an appropriate context within the town's historic districtand give it a new lease on life as they and others labor to renovate and remodel it.
No strangers to restoration
The Hiltons are no strangers to the process of restoring old houses. The Green-Blood House will be their fifth such project. They are proud to admit that they have never lived in a house built after the start of the 20
The Hiltons shopped specifically for old doors, hinges and other architectural features for both the new and old sections of the house. In preparing to update the house functionally, they were very careful to preserve its original features and complement them wherever possible. The beams of the earliest kitchen and its fireplace paneling, dating from the 19
The addition to the house, which includes a new porch (of post and beam construction), dining room and kitchen, have been sensitively designed not to overwhelm, but to complement the original structure. Integral to Sorli's plan is a second "jog" to balance and reflect this distinctive feature of the house. Inside and outside, this house speaks of its past as it embraces the future.
Skilled team of consultants
The Hiltons have a skilled team working with them to renew this house. In addition to Sorli, they have consulted with former Carlisle residents, Blaine and Mary Cliver, who now live in the Washington area. Blaine, head of the National Historic Building Survey for the National Park Service, visited the house in November, pointing out many distinctive features and helping to date paneling in the front room. Mary, a landscape designer, will be doing the landscape plan for the property. Other names are familiar to many: Chris Fielding helped prepare the structure for the move, Nick Lunig is the roofer, and Ron Tatro, the electrician. Jic Davis and his assistant, Al Devau, are giving the house particular attention as they do both interior and exterior work, using hand tools as far as possible. Al's wood plane is itself hand-built.
Reassembling the chimney
Davis shared some of his excitement about the project as we sat at the Hiltons' dining room table in early December. The greatest challenge for him was the necessity of stabilizing the house and re-assembling the chimney. As each brick was cleaned, it had to be put carefully back in place. The chimney today is as much the "heart" of this house as when it was built. Several old bricks bear their original numbers. Some 2,500 bricks comprise the chimney which weighs 14 tons. The house itself weighed in at 40 tons. Davis did most of the preparatory work during the month before the actual move, taking apart the large central chimney.
The project brought to light an interesting footnote of historya "concealment" shoe in the chimney. An English custom brought to the colonies holds that placing a child's worn shoe in the chimney will ward off evil spirits, keeping the dwelling and its occupants safe. Just such a shoe was found in the chimney and the custom was documented by an article Peggy read in the April 1999 issue of Early American Life. It was also the configuration of the chimney that showed the house to be originally a salt-box structure.
Hiding modern technology
Discovering the original architectural elements, seeing the old lathworkall hand-cutand unraveling the mysteries of the chimney construction cannot help but inspire interest. For Davis, there is a real creative challenge as well, to "hide" the modern technology necessary to support the house. He carefully labors to provide the ambience of the old. In so doing, he captures the "spirit" of the house which he says he has felt as he works. When work first began, the house was without heat and water, so a fire in the original fireplace provided light and warmth and transported all present back to the structure's beginnings.
Charm intrinsic to its past
The owners themselves are intimately involved with the renovation work. Bob and his son Michael cleaned, by hand, each of the 2,500 chimney bricks. Bob and Peggy sanded and painted all of the new clapboards according to Davis' specifications so they would be in keeping with older ones. The Hiltons will do all of the final interior finishing work and painting. And, on any given day, granddaughter Brianna will be delighted to act as guide, explaining the work and design of the house. While the house will function as a comfortable modern living space, including its second-floor laundry, modern kitchen and ample storage areas, it retains all the charm intrinsic to its past. What of its future? The Hiltons hope to rent this cozy two-bedroom home as soon as the work is completed.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito