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Preservation work has begun on the portico! The goal of the project is to complete the final phase of a multi-year project to protect and preserve the exterior of Drayton Hall.
As a first step, the crew from Richard Marks Restorations arrived last week to investigate possible water damage in the infrastructure of the portico. They began by removing a section of cornice and roof boards along the north wall of the portico’s first floor ceiling. When they did, they found clear evidence of rot in the wood below, which means water is somehow leaking through the upper deck of the portico. Their next step will be to determine the best technique to correct the leaks and to remove the rotten wood.
This work has provided an inside view of the portico’s structure, and reveals a story of changes made over time. Just this small opening shows us three different generations of paint on a fascia board. The white paint is from the twentieth century, the bluish-green paint above is from the late-nineteenth century Victorian styling added after the Civil War, and the beige color at the top may be the original paint applied to the exterior woodwork. The way these layers were covered shows that it is likely the ceiling of the portico was lowered a few inches over the centuries.
Looking inside the structure, we can see that the original floor joists were removed from the east wall of the house. The pockets that once held the joists were then filled with brick bats and cement. The Draytons used cement and concrete in other repairs in the early decades of the 20th century. So, the use of cement here tells us that those joists were removed during that time period, likely as part of other major portico repairs undertaken in the 1930s.
The next step of this project is to complete repairs to the infrastructure of the portico. Craftsmen will also try to remove the latex paint (which traps moisture) from the limestone columns and replace it with a lime-based whitewash (which allows the stone to breathe).
The project also includes the rehabilitation of the windows. All failing paint will be removed from window sills, headers, and jambs. Where rot is identified it will be removed and repaired; broken window panes will be replaced as needed.
The work is expected to continue through the end of the year and offers a great opportunity to see preservation in action! This is just one of several projects we have slated for this fall. Funding for portions of the project have been provided by the Historic Sites Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the South Carolina Budget and Control Board. If you would like to contribute to the preservation of the portico and the windows, please consider making a donation through the Drayton Hall website.