The week of March 14-18 saw significant progress on the restoration planning and work at the Joseph Bates home in Fairhaven, MA. Historic architect Carl Stearns and historic preservationist Ted Bartlett worked with Stan Hickerson in preparing to begin the restoration of the 18th century home. Significant amounts of 20th century materials were removed to reveal much of the old fabric of the timber-frame house. New modern bathrooms recently added in the rear of the building allowed for the removal of the circa 1930 bath in the original block of the house. With tub, sink, tile and “new” wall removed, that section of the old house took shape again, and what a transformation! The space was contiguous with the central chimney revealing old plastered ceilings and walls. and plenty of hand-riven lath. The little room would have, in its day, provided a cozy sleeping room for a couple of boys, complete with a little window overlooking the harbor - possibly Joseph’s boyhood bedroom.
In the parlor, a nearly six-foot wide brick fireplace hides behind the small iron fireplace now in the room. Above the larger original fireplace is a handsome panelled over-mantle - all reminding us of the days of Joseph’s childhood. The fireplace was narrowed along with the parlor itself sometime around 1830 - the work possibly being done by Bates after his retirement from the sea.
Ted Bartlett uncovers the hidden paneled over-mantle.
Half the paneled over-mantle uncovered. Note the plank wall to the right.
The north wall of the now narrower parlor appeared to have been moved, probably narrowing the parlor by about four feet. After removing vinyl wallpaper, plaster and drywall, the old plank wall was visible. Vertically placed beaded tongue-and-groove planks, approximately one inch thick and twelve inches wide make up the wall. Several layers of wallpaper were attached, and going down through the layers we found wallpaper appearing to come from the early 19th century. The paint and wallpaper in the house will be examined by an expert in the near future. It was typical in 18th century homes to only lath and plaster the exterior walls, leaving the interior ones to be simple planks.
The old kitchen fireplace appears to have gone through some significant changes in the last 100 years, but careful study will help us authentically recreate it. Thought will be given to the target period for the restoration of the home, and it may be that parts will be restored to Joseph’s boyhood years and parts to the time when he temporarily moved back into the home about 1828. The newer parts of the home, added after the Bates sold it to Anne Dillingham Hathaway, will be used for volunteer housing and office space.
We look forward in a couple of years to a beautifully restored home in which we can share the inspiring story of Captain Joseph Bates, “the Apostle of the Sabbath.”
If you would like to help sponsor this restoration please click here to donate.