National Park Service funds restoration of windows at historic Brice House in Annapolis – Capital Gazette

Sometimes, when historic preservation experts need to rebuild a wall, a large grant helps them open 73 windows.

Historic Annapolis, the nonprofit organization that operates several state-owned historic homes downtown, celebrates receiving a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service to help fund a 22-storey restoration project million dollars at Brice House.

The money will be used to create reproductions of the original window frames, sashes and shutters of the colonial-era mansion, completed in 1774. Only two original sashes remain – interior frames that can be lifted and held up glass panels. With the grant, a carpenter with special skills will recreate frames so that eventually all 73 windows in the mansion will be historically accurate and functional.

“We have a lot on our plate,” said Michael K. Day, senior vice president of capital projects at Historic Annapolis, which manages the restoration. The state purchased Brice House in 2014 from the International Masonry Institute and allowed the nonprofit to begin restoring the house two years later. Initial projects included the reproduction of oyster shell mortar to repair the masonry and the peeling of two centuries of paint from the ballroom’s ornate plaster cornices.

“We had put window restoration on the back burner,” Day said.

Currently the window panes and frames are a mishmash, with a mix of original and replacement 1950s frame. Along the exterior of the East Street facade, some frames are painted white, d others in brick red. All need a little TLC. Historic Annapolis has yet to sign the paperwork, Day said, but if all goes according to plan, the federal grant should arrive in October, allowing a carpenter who has already built a prototype frame to return to work on the Windows.

The money comes at a crucial time for the Brice House project. Work is behind schedule and over budget, thanks to pandemic delays and unexpected masonry issues uncovered late last year, Day said.

Contractors spent most of last fall rebuilding the roof of the mansion’s west wing, known as the coachhouse. But when they put the roof back in place, the west wall suddenly started to crumble; the outer brick fell, the inner brick fell. It turns out that when the shed was converted from apartments to a corporate-style conference room four decades ago, the interior and exterior bricks were stacked next to each other rather than joined together. The entire wall – none of which was original – had to be replaced.

“The work they did 250 years ago was great. What they did in the 1980s and some 1990s was not,” Day said of the masonry at Brice House. The shed walls now need to be rebuilt and stabilized before work on the roof can resume.

“It wasn’t quite planned, and it kind of set us back a bit,” Day said.

The money for the Brice House project comes from a mix of private, state and federal funding. It was Kaelynn Bedsworth, development associate at Historic Annapolis, who discovered that the mansion would qualify for a new National Park Service initiative called the Semiquincentennial Grant Program honoring historic sites linked to the founding of the nation in 1776.

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The guidelines required properties to be owned by both the state and the National Register of Historic Places.

“It was perfect for us,” Day said.

The Park Service has funded 17 projects in 12 states. Other sites receiving $500,000 grants include Old Fort Niagara, which was built by the French in western New York in 1729, and the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society in Thurmont, which will use its money to preserve the 18th century buildings and modernizing the museum’s HVAC system. of the Ironworker.

“National Parks and National Park Service programs serve to tell an authentic and comprehensive story, provide opportunities to explore the legacies that affect us today, and contribute to healing and understanding,” said the director of the NPS, Chuck Sams, in a press release announcing the grants. “Through the Semi-Quintennial Grant Program, we support projects that highlight the many places and stories that have helped shape the American experience.”

Although local planter, lawyer, and politician James Brice is less well known than other former residents of historic Annapolis homes, such as William Paca and Thomas Carroll, his home remains architecturally significant. The five-part Georgian mansion was one of the grandest and most elegant in Colonial Annapolis. Brice also happened to be a meticulous archivist. Work began on April 14, 1767, with the laying of a first stone marked “Le Commencement”. Thanks to its well-preserved records, the restoration team knows that construction took seven years, 326,000 bricks and 90,800 cypress shingles.

Once work on the west wing is complete, the team will focus on moving the HVAC mechanical equipment from the east wing to a new semi-subterranean outbuilding. This will allow interpreters to restore the kitchen and slave quarters of Brice House’s east wing and provide visitors with a stark reminder of how slaves lived and worked in antebellum Annapolis.

The money for this project comes from a state appropriation of $3 million, Day said. And I hope Maryland lawmakers provide the same level of funding for fiscal year 2024. The team restoring Brice House has a “to do list that never goes away,” Day said, but he thinks they are still on track to celebrate the half-quincentenary in 2026. .

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