Salvaging a Hero’s Home

By Eliot Lothrop  |  Journal of Light Construction

ast summer, I joined a team of local design professionals and volunteers tasked with salvaging and relocating a historic home in Milton, Vt. The small, unassuming farmhouse (built circa 1840) was once owned by Civil War hero and Vermont native George Jerrison Stannard.

The author’s company, Building Heritage, was tasked with documenting, carefully dismantling, and storing the historic farmhouse for a later restoration on a new site. The restored General Stannard House is to serve as a key location on the newly-formed “Vermont in the Civil War Heritage Trail”. Here, author Eliot Lothrop (right) talks with project volunteer, Alex Fenton, (left) on site. Dan Lee of Building Heritage begins removing the home’s wide board sheathing from a personnel lift.

Tim HealeyThe author’s company, Building Heritage, was tasked with documenting, carefully dismantling, and storing the historic farmhouse for a later restoration on a new site. The restored General Stannard House is to serve as a key location on the newly-formed “Vermont in the Civil War Heritage Trail”. Here, author Eliot Lothrop (right) talks with project volunteer, Alex Fenton, (left) on site. Dan Lee of Building Heritage begins removing the home’s wide board sheathing from a personnel lift.

Stannard, a general in the Union army, is renowned for helping to blunt Pickett’s Charge at the battle of Gettysburg. On July 3, 1863, he ordered a series of pivot maneuvers and provided withering flanking fire to repulse the Confederate assault. According to his biographer, George Maharay, “If Gettysburg provides the climax of the war, then the climax of the climax, the central moment of our history, must be Pickett’s Charge. Had Pickett’s Charge succeeded and the war ended, North and South might have become two nations. That didn’t happen and the Union was preserved.”

Later in the war, Stannard was wounded and had his right arm amputated. He resigned from the Army in 1866 and purchased the Milton farmhouse. Stannard later moved to Washington, D.C., where he became the Doorkeeper of the United States House of Representatives; a position he held until his death on June 6, 1886.

Stannard, shown here (photo, left), is renowned for helping thwart Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Later in the war, he was wounded and lost his right arm in the Battle of Fort Harrison on September 30, 1864. Stannard’s home circa 1880s (photo, above right) and the late 1980s (photo, below right). The home sat vacant since 1988, its barn burned in a fire department training exercise the same year.

Left, public domain; Right top and Bottom, courtesy Milton Historical SocietyStannard, shown here (photo, left), is renowned for helping thwart Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Later in the war, he was wounded and lost his right arm in the Battle of Fort Harrison on September 30, 1864. Stannard’s home circa 1880s (photo, above right) and the late 1980s (photo, below right). The home sat vacant since 1988, its barn burned in a fire department training exercise the same year.

Despite years of neglect, much of the home was worth preserving. Starting last April, we began the process of salvaging as much of the original house as possible, which was tricky given that it had been heavily remodeled twice, once in the 1890s and again in the 1930s.

Although the roof was covered by four layers of asphalt shingles, two tarps and two layers of underlayment paper, it still leaked, causing the bulk of the damage to the home’s structure. Here, the roof sheathing and shingles are removed in small sections from the lift.

Tim HealeyAlthough the roof was covered by four layers of asphalt shingles, two tarps and two layers of underlayment paper, it still leaked, causing the bulk of the damage to the home’s structure. Here, the roof sheathing and shingles are removed in small sections from the lift.

We tagged all the timber framing with coded hand-stamped tin discs, nailing them to beams, posts, studs, and rafters (we later documented their locations on a set of drawings). Then, with the help of a telehandler and personnel lift, we started dismantling the building.

The home’s wide board sheathing was salvageable. The doors and windows, though not all original, were also saved (in general, we could tell what was circa 1900 and newer, but it was difficult to tell what items, such as interior moldings, etc., dated to Stannard’s time). In the end, we salvaged about half of the home’s original structural frame.

The salvaged pieces have been stored and are waiting to be incorporated into the home’s restoration on a new site. The ultimate project goal is to have the house reconstructed by October 20, 2020, which will be General Stannard’s 200th birthday. Visit generalstannardhouse.org for more information about the project.

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