E. Arthur Davenport House Restoration Update

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flwright
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Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2005 6:32 pm
Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

Post by flwright »

Although I cannot recall the name of the exact brand we used, there are readily available wood conditioning products on the market that can be applied to woods like poplar to even out the absorption of the stain. We recently stained some birch (which can be equally difficult to stain) with and without the wood conditioner and the difference in the finish was staggering. I am uncertain of the long term effects that the conditioner may or may not have on the finish, particularly in a sensitive restoration like the Davenport, but it may warrant some experiments. Just a thought...
Morgan

pharding
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Location: River Forest, Illinois
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Post by pharding »

We used wood conditioner which made a big difference.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Tim
Posts: 329
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:52 pm

Post by Tim »

Paul

It has been a while since you have posted on your project.

Are you fully settled in?

What is left?

If I recall, you mentioned potentially producing a book on the matter. Is this your intention?

Are you fully recovered?

We'll be going to the zoo this week to see the lights. If you see a minivan full of gawkers driving by, that will be us.

Thank you.

pharding
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Location: River Forest, Illinois
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Post by pharding »

We moved in on October 31 of this year. The house is heavenly to live in. Feel free to contact me. pharding at harding dot com. You and your family are welcome to tour the house.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

pharding
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Location: River Forest, Illinois
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Post by pharding »

What is left? The interior of the house is complete except for painting, reproduction light fixtures, and minor detailing of the woodwork. On the exterior we are going to do wood shingles and stucco next summer. Next fall we are going to the front terrace. In 2013 we are going to do the garage with attached fitness room, driveway, landscaping and geothermal system. Then we will sponsor a big party for Wright Chat members to celebrate the completion of the restoration.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Tim
Posts: 329
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:52 pm

Post by Tim »

Hi Paul,

We passed by your house the other day... looking good.

What's going on now at the house? What's next? Do you have any regrets?
Do you expect at some point to write/publish a book on the house and your efforts?

(I've always enjoyed the firsthand accounts by those on this site.)

Thanks!

pharding
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Location: River Forest, Illinois
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Post by pharding »

Hello Tim

Thank you for your interest in the Davenport House Restoration. Here is an update.

The most challenging aspect of the Davenport Restoration, and there have been many, is undoubtedly determining the original stain color and implementing it on Poplar wood trim. Initially based upon physical evidence we believed the original color to be a deeper brown stain not unlike Glassner. We went down that path, before we discovered an earlier aged original stain example. What happened on Davenport is that the original stain color and wood became darker with time. This is common. The wood oxidized and repeated coats of shellac darkened the appearance substantially and the wood was restained and refinished on top of those layers at least two times over the 103 years prior to our ownership of the house. So after tests and numerous samples we initially went down the path of a dark stain before we found an original sample. Originally the wood stain on the Davenport House was a variant of a golden ocher stain with adaptations made for Poplar.

In my opinion we weren't the first to go down the wrong path. Fortunately we discovered our mistake before going too far. Many Frank Lloyd Wright Houses that have been well maintained or restored have ended up with stained woodwork that is darker to much darker than the original. This includes some high profile projects with otherwise fine restoration architects. In my professional opinion the greatest shortcoming of restored Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie Houses is the lack of fidelity to the original finish systems. Those systems were incredibly delicate and difficult to replicate. This includes the wood trim, wood floors and plaster finish systems. There is 1940’s correspondence from Frank Lloyd Wright encouraging the homeowner to recognize the beautiful and delicate quality of the original Pre-Prairie and Prairie finishes and not to change them. The challenges are that the finish systems are quite thin, delicate, they change over time, and that what you see now is not what it was over 105 years ago. In my opinion there is insufficient appreciation for them by homeowners, restoration architects, so called historic painters, the ever present in Oak Park Frank Lloyd Restoration Contractor/pseudo Restoration Architect. It is time consuming and expensive to retain a knowledgeable restoration architect, historic surfaces consultant, pay for laboratory testing, and pay for research and mock-ups to replicate the original finish systems. Plus across the US original unrestored finishes are incredibly rare. Well intentioned Wright homeowners just routinely obliterate the stuff and it is lost forever.

On Davenport we patiently did a tremendous amount of original research, produced many tests and mock-ups to reverse engineer the original stain technique. The budget and time for this was unlimited. This included visits to many public and private FLW Prairie Houses across the US to better understand and benchmark our research. We consulted with fine historic finish consultants, experts on various components that go into historic finish systems, to reverse engineer the stain finish system for Davenport. I also read everything that FLW wrote on the topic of interior finishes. We had incredible challenges in working with Poplar which is the softest hardwood and is no longer stained. Plus in some places we were forced to insert new Poplar trim with existing 112 year Poplar trim. We developed a superb system for both existing and new wood trim after many trial and error tests. On the ground floor of the house the system has been implemented and the wood has been stained, awaiting 2 coats of varnish and stain touch ups. We did a mock-up years ago on the plaster finish system that was successful. We will implement a round of tests and mockups with a different product that will yield the appearance of the original and is more durable. By May of 2014 we anticipate that the interior of the house will be fully restored with wonderful fidelity to the 1901 Frank Lloyd Wright as built E. Arthur Davenport House. Next summer we will build a new garage, front terrace, driveway with underground utilities, including geothermal piping.

I have undertaken the restoration of the Davenport house as laboratory for historic preservation strategies and techniques for Frank Lloyd Wright Houses because I find it all endlessly fascinating. A client would never let me spend the money and time to do this level of research, We look forward to completing the restoration of the Davenport House and applying our expertise to future Wright restoration projects.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

Paul, what is your assessment of the restoration of the Dana interior finishes? Seeing it less than a year after it was finished, I thought the wood was too dark and the plaster too intense.

pharding
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Location: River Forest, Illinois
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Post by pharding »

The wood stain is too dark in my opinion. The paint may be close, but there are better ways to test today and better approaches. In my opinion the wood stain has the greatest room for improvement.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

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