On May 22nd, happy to leave a week and a half of New England’s straight rain and gray, I hopped a plane to Virginia for my first AiP trip and my first historic preservation experience ever: a week-long window restoration project.
In Gloucester, I was welcomed not only by the warmth of the (relative) south but also the warmth of The Fairfield Foundation family and its willing volunteers. Our work started out with a bit of a bump: our window expert and project leader Phil Mark was unexpectedly unable to join us. We were left to our own devices, but we hopped the hurdle thanks to Thane and Dave’s keen memories, archaeologists’ elbow grease, and know-how.
Our mission for the week was window glazing at the Edge Hill Service Station. The service station, built on land owned by Virginia’s first African-American lawyer, was known as one of the nicest — ideal for resting and refueling one’s car as well as oneself. Interestingly, while the men’s restroom was accessible from the building’s interior, the ladies’ restroom was accessible only from the exterior, sparing women the messy mechanics of the garage space.
This week, though, the ladies were spared none of the mess! Everyone worked on the three main windows, each with 15 panes of glass kept in place by decades-old putty and layers of paint. We tried our best to keep the original panes in tact, but often our need to be less than delicate with the gunk around the glass ended in shatters. Still, we were able to save 10 or 12 of the originals.
While our goal was to remove all of the panes, clean the windows and install new panes, the stubborn putty of the original windows did not yield to our wills (or our chisels!) as easily as we’d hoped. In the five days, we weren’t able to complete the installation of new panes. We did get a whole row of five done, though!
And that there’s installation left to be done just means that there is more opportunity for the community to get involved in the service station’s new life early on. As evidenced by the many visitors that stopped by between Monday and Friday – both expected and unexpected – the interest is definitely there. If you’re nearby Gloucester, keep tuned into The Fairfield Foundation (through their website or their facebook page) for opportunities to drop in and lend a hand!
The Fairfield Foundation, whose focus is archaeology, chose the Edge Hill Service Station for its significance in terms of Gloucester’s history and its prominence on Gloucester’s present-day Main Street. The Foundation is repurposing the space for a myriad of uses — from storage for its archaeological finds to public education activities and events.