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Entry Restoration
Oleander Street, Baton Rouge
March 2010

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  • We see heartbreakingly sloppy work too often  but this is worse than usual.
  • This top-heavy fellow is ready restoration.
  • Modillions above the fanlight, stripped and ready for hand sanding.
  • The pediment after sanding, filling, and one round of primer.
  • Thanks to our eager volunteers for standing up the reassembled casing.
  • Jackson adds the final pieces of replacement trim.
We see heartbreakingly sloppy work too often  but this is worse than usual.1 This top-heavy fellow is ready restoration.2 Modillions above the fanlight, stripped and ready for hand sanding.3 The pediment after sanding, filling, and one round of primer.4 Thanks to our eager volunteers for standing up the reassembled casing.5 Jackson adds the final pieces of replacement trim.6
 

This charming house on the National Register of Historic Places is currently the lovingly cared for home of Heather and John and their two sons. Built ca. 1940, the house boasts original plumbing fixtures, built-in cabinets and library, and a wonderful collection of period-appropriate furnishings. One part of the house, however, wasn’t to John and Heather’s satisfaction: the prominent entryway. Fluted pilasters surround an unusually proportioned door below a classic fanlight. A flamboyantly custom-made pediment crowns the entry.

Notwithstanding the respect such craftsmanship deserves, this tour de force had suffered at the hands of a careless renovator. All of its flat surfaces and trim details were badly gouged by a power sanding disk; the knob and lockset were cobbled together with miscellaneous pieces and nuts; the lead flashing was torn and leaking; the pilasters’ bottoms and base trim were decayed to pieces.

We undertook to restore the entryway to something like its original condition. Learning to understand the unconventional builder’s intentions and fashioning the unique pieces of trim to match parts gone missing were rewarding challenges. The biggest obstacle was the size of this unit. After a rather precarious detachment from its home of seven decades and some disassembly, we delivered the door and casing to The Bank Architectural Antiques in New Orleans. Several spells in their potent paint-stripping chemicals left us with numerous pieces of mostly bare and moderately fuzzy cypress. (Cypress, being a loose-grained softwood will separate into fibrous splinters if overexposed to paint stripper.)

Then we painstakingly sanded, smoothed, filled blemishes, primed everything, and added the new pieces we had crafted, including new fluted pilasters. Once all the pieces were ready, we organized a work party, assembled the casing in the yard, then stood it into place. With some new weatherproofing and a glistening new coat of paint, the entryway is once again a piece of architectural art Heather and John can be proud to own.

 

 

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