PRESERVATION OF THE CASE/DVOOR WAGON HOUSE
Preserved by Restoration Technologies
Case/Dvoor wagon house before restoration
The deterioration of a 19th-century wagon house raised concern about its future at the historic, Flemington-area Case/Dvoor Farm, owned by the Hunterdon Land Trust.
To preserve and restore the building seemed imperative. But its national landmark status dictated professional assessment to assist the Land Trust in determining its fate. The wagon house is one building among a cluster of 19th-century and early 20th-century barns and out buildings and a substantial 1798 stone farmhouse on the 40-acre farm, all of which are listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
Two professionals were engaged to evaluate the wagon house: Chris Pickell, an architect sensitive to historic preservation, and Adam Wengryn, a Belvidere, New Jersey contractor passionate about historic barn and house restorations and the art of traditional timber framing.
Both Pickell and Wengryn have worked together on several historic projects: Pickell as principal of Pickell Architecture in Flemington and Wengryn as owner of Restoration Technologies.
A Land Trust member noted that observing Adam and Chris as they discussed the wagon house was like watching two old-world clock makers comparing notes on clocks they had worked on over their many years in business.
Pickell Architecture documented the structure, prepared construction drawings and determined the building still had life and was worth restoring. Once drawings were complete Restoration Technologies evaluated the scope of work and prepared a budget.
Pickell’s and Wengryn’s inspection revealed that parts of the wagon house had been constructed at different times. One part had been a house, which had been relocated to the site. That was just the start of architectural forensics that revealed more of the wagon house's history. Their thorough study of the wagon house gave the Land Trust a strong "go-ahead," and the cooperation between the two men was key in completing the complicated and appropriate restoration.
Both decided it best to dismantle the wagon house for repairs because the stone foundation needed extensive repairs and many timbers were damaged or missing. "In best restoration practice," Wengryn noted, "dismantling makes repairs more cost -effective and preserves more of the original materials."
Interior of the wagon house before restoration
"As the structure was dismantled," Wengryn remembers, "we kept learning more about its history. The locations of long removed windows, doors, chair rails and staircases were indicated by ghostly markings. Recycled materials and the types of materials used indicated that the northern portion of the structure had been a newer addition to the relocated frame house. This was perplexing as the newer northern portion was above the older portion of the foundation.
Dismantling the wagon house (south and east sides in view)
Icehouse storage (at the north end of foundation0) before it was excavated
During excavation for foundation repairs, discoveries continued. There were remains of a porch stoop on the east side and full depth basement under the northern portion, which had been thought to be only a crawl space. Excavation yielded artifacts such as old milk cans, bottles, ice tongs and other decayed debris. The uncovering of wrought iron anchors within and at the base of the stone walls of the basement meant that the walls were once lined with wood, which led to the conclusion this portion of the foundation must have been an icehouse or some other form of cold storage. This assumption was later confirmed by the discovery of an old map indicating that this structure was indeed an icehouse. An icehouse is consistent with historical research of the Case farm commissioned by the Land Trust. The study indicated that the 19th-Century farm was a substantial dairy and cheese-making operation. One area in the basement of the stone farmhouse appears to have been have been designed for cheese making.
The stone foundation walls of the wagon house were repaired and rebuilt, adding enough extra height to get the sill plates above grade to prevent future deterioration. Drainage was installed to re-route water, which had caused past foundation damage.
The timber frame was repaired. Rotten timbers were either repaired or replaced. "Repairs are always preferred if possible," Wengryn notes. "Repairs were completed by meticulously splicing 'new' materials into the originals so that they could be saved and continue to tell the structure's history." The dimensions of missing timbers were calculated and replacement pieces fabricated.
The timber frame went back up on the restored foundation strong and square, ready for another 150 or more years. After the frame was complete the structure was sheathed. Siding, roofing, flooring, doors, and windows were installed. Some of the original siding was reused along with siding (cut to match and donated by a member of the Land Trust). A new cedar shake roof was installed to match what was there originally.
"As each piece of the structure's finish went back on," Wengryn remembers, "like a child getting dressed for church service, the old wagon house came to life again. Its new life is not as a wagon house but as classroom and gathering-space for the farmers market. But sensitive restoration preserving the old materials still tells the story of what came before: a reminder of the agrarian past it once had."
The wagon house is the first completely restored structure for the Hunterdon Land Trust. Assistance was provided by Hunterdon County, the State of New Jersey Historic Trust, and many Land Trust volunteers.
Wagon house interior after restoration
Exterior of the wagon house after restoration (east and north sides in view)
Exterior of the wagon house after restoration (south and east sides in view)
OUR MISSION: The Hunterdon Land Trust preserves the integrity of the rural landscapes in the Hunterdon County region by protecting and enhancing natural resources, and the cultural landscape of the historic Dvoor Farm, for public enjoyment and education.
The Trust preserves and stewards land, safeguarding the foundation of a sustainable community. Its work protects clean air and water and promotes a local food system. Preserved land also provides outdoor recreation and habitat for wildlife.
The Hunterdon Land Trust has helped protect more than 8,900 acres of forest, fields and farms. It owns and manages nature preserves throughout Hunterdon County. The Trust has owned and managed the Case/Dvoor farm since 1999.
The Trust works with landowners who wish to permanently protect the ecological, agricultural, scenic, historic or recreational qualities of their land. It helps landowners identify the best options to meet their conservation goals and financial needs and then assists them through the process of preservation.
The Hunterdon Land Trust works in partnership with municipal, county and state governments as well as other nonprofit organizations to acquire and manage environmentally sensitive properties and farmland. As an owner of property and as monitor of conservation easements, the Trust is a steward of the land, responsible for ensuring the properties under its management remain undeveloped with their natural resources protected.