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Preserving an Architectural Landmark: An Update from the South Mountain Heritage Society

October 14, 2015

Frederick County Museums Historic Preservation

Preserving an Architectural Landmark: An Update from the South Mountain Heritage Society

This post was originally published on Shared History, the blog of the South Mountain Heritage Society. Thanks to Jody Brumage for sharing his update with the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.

The South Mountain Heritage Society (SMHS) works to serve our community in many ways, serving as a local repository for historical documents, photographs, and artifacts, hosting community meetings and events, and bringing visitors into town to explore our important and fascinating history. A major part of our work is also to preserve the historic Resurrection Reformed Church, the 186-year old structure we call home. Over the past two years, this work has been greatly aided by a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) which was awarded in the summer of 2014. Now, one and a half years later, we have wrapped up our final project using this grant. In appreciation to MHAA for their support as well as the generous donors who have helped SMHS meet its matching requirements, we would like to provide a brief review of the projects completed. 

Porch Floor Replacement .jpgPortico Floor Restoration
The first project completed after we received our grant from MHAA was to restore the flooring at the front door to the museum. As the main entrance used by visitors to the museum, it was vital to have the floor boards replaced as the existing floor had begun to rot. The project was completed within a few weeks and provided a much safer as well as aesthetically pleasing entrance to the museum. Later grant project work also restored another element of the portico.

Drainage Correction_01.jpgDrainage Ditch 
SMHS' location on a downward-sloping lot presents a challenge when it comes to properly diverting rain drainage away from the building. In order to prevent water from laying against the clapboards on the 1894 wing at the back of SMHS (the part of the building which houses our exhibit room and archives), the earth was excavated back from the wooden siding and a gravel-lined ditch placed to help divert the drainage. A future project will be planned to repair and repaint the clapboards which were damaged from the poor water drainage.

Restoration of the East Windows East Windows_01.jpg
There are eight massive lancet windows which open into the historic sanctuary of the old Resurrection Reformed Church, four on each side. Dating from the renovations of 1860, these windows have survived the Civil War and a century and a half of weathering and other damage. Inspection of the windows on the east side of the building, which receives the most direct effect of the weather, revealed several loose panes and rotting of the sills and muntins. The restoration of these windows included the re-glazing of the displaced panes, the replacement of one pane which had been broken, and scraping and painting of the wooden parts of the windows. To further protect these integral parts of our historic building, an outer storm-window covering was added to each of the windows, carefully designed to align to the existing muntins in order to reduce the visual impact of the new outer windows. 

Re Plastering.JPGReplastering the Interior East Wall
With the work on the east windows completed, our next project involved the replastering of the interior of the east wall which had been damaged by the water leaking through the rotted sills and loose panes of the windows. This project was saved to the end of the grant work in order to ensure that the repairs made to the windows had isolated our water problem. Once we were assured that the leaking had stopped, work started on fixing the bubbled and flaking patches of the wall. At the same time, the woodwork along the wall, window sills and baseboards were repaired and repainted. 

Repainting the Belfry and Pediment 
The last major project to be completed with our MHAA grant was the repainting of the most recognizable part of our building, the Queen-Anne styled belfry. Added to the church during renovations in 1896 and enclosing a 700-pound bell, the belfry is one of the most iconic images of Burkittsville's skyline and appears on the town seal and flag. Last painted during restoration of the church in 2000-2002, the wooden parts of the front pediment and the belfry were in need of fresh paint. This work was completed by the end of this summer following the scraping of old paint and application of a new coat. 

Make plans to visit the South Mountain Heritage Society in Burkittsville during one of their special events this fall: the used book sale (Saturdays in October), the Spook Hill Cider and Wine 4 Mile Run (October 24), Yuletide Artisan Market (November 21-22), and Museums by Candlelight (December 12). Be sure to stop by Gathland State Park, part of the South Mountain State Battlefield, while you're in the area. 

Jody Brumage

Contributing Author: Jody Brumage

Jody Brumage is the Archivist for the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University and also serves as Historian and Curator of the South Mountain Heritage Society in Burkittsville, Maryland. In his role at SMHS, Jody manages the museum's collections and exhibits,... Read More