An Imgurian named BlacksmithSam and his wife purchased the property with this old house in March of 2016. The house that was built in 1833 looked very poorly, but Sam had big plans for it, as he had always dreamt about a smithy of his own. So, after rebuilding a wall from a scratch and building a whole new roof, making new doors and installing his equipment, everything was ready and the results are more than exciting!
This is how it looked when BlacksmithSam and his wife purchased the property in March of 2016.
Sure, it looked rundown and rough, but they saw potential. Sam had a dream for the past 20 years, of having his own smithy, and this structure was just the place to make that dream a reality. He had a plan, and he was going to make it happen.
Shortly after moving in, he started his project.
When the plans of what Sam wanted to do with the place were presented to the city, they were told that they were out of their minds. A structure like this should be razed and reduced to rubble – that they were better off starting fresh. Except you can’t just bulldoze 184 years of history, so they pressed on.
The architectural board for the community, on the other hand, loved the plan.
Step one was to put in a floor up to modern code, so they dug out the 3 layers of old concrete and mortar, and laid a nice gravel foundation.
Except the problem with an restoration of a centuries old structure is battling the elements. Every time it rained, the structure slightly crumbled and lost mortar from the walls.
Even though the building had stood for over 200 years, it was rapidly deteriorating.
Finally, they were ready to lay the new floor – a low chert, fibre rich, high impact concrete for some serious blacksmithing.
The finished floor. At this point, Sam shared this little story:
“After we started the repairs, the great, great, whatever grand daughter of Ephram stopped by. She still lived in the area! She had all kinds of stories she had heard as a girl about this place that she then shared with us. After he moved into the other house, this was his workshop (interesting) and his summer kitchen. She told us the property served as a summer camp for the Native American tribes in the area. Each summer, they would gather here to trade with each other and the whiteman, have a powwow and ceremonies, and then go their separate ways for the rest of the year. She told us about her childhood and playing in the old building and on the property. She is very old and was so happy to share the stories and to see the place being repaired.”
No greater endorsement than that.
Next, they had to chisel out as much of the old mortar as they could and tuck point new mortar into the joints, thus sealing and strengthening the walls. This took a few months and at this point it was August.
Next they started digging and pouring the foundation for the missing wall. As a point of irony, back in the 1980’s or 90’s, the previous owners of the house had knocked that wall down, to use the stones around a flower garden in the front yard. Talk about a desecration. Lucky enough, the stones were still viable, so Sam was going to use them to rebuild the front wall.
Here’s a close-up of the sealed walls. They lose some of that rough stone and mortar look they had in earlier photos, but now they won’t degrade anymore. You can also see is nice, deep foundation for the front wall.
According to Sam, using 16 yards of concrete for the foundation is a little bit of overkill, but it’s worth it for his baby.
Regretfully, the city or his wallet wouldn’t let him build the missing wall the same way as the other 3, with just stone and mortar, but he had a neat idea.
Here’s a look at the wall, made out of concrete block. They also had 2 mixers going constantly for all the mortar and concrete they were using.
Sam gives a lot of tribute to his mason. To match the existing peak on the other wall was an insane process of measuring and hand cutting each block to get it to match exactly.
That’s insane. Having helped some family with bricklaying and masonry in my younger days, this isn’t an easy task and a dying art.
Now, onto the stone. Due to the fact that Sam wanted this to look as authentic as possible, he took it the extra step and sent a sample of the mortar to the University of Wisconsin to get it analyzed for its chemical makeup, so they can match the new mortar to it, exactly.
It looked dark when they first applied it, but it’ll lighten up in about a year or 2 to match.
Due to the fact that they were cladding a concrete wall with stone and slow-drying mortar, they could only work a few feet at a time, or else it’d all come down.
But it was a labour of love, so it was totally worth the wait.
Of course, the inside was done as well. Looks pretty good so far.
Finally, the wall was complete. Shit, I wouldn’t know it wasn’t the original one.
Finally, they were ready for a roof. He found some photos of the building from the 60’s and he designed the roof to match the original roofline.
The roof was made out of cedar, then shingled.
The last job was to add in some doors made of cedar and the project was complete. Just in time too.
Inside, he set up all of his blacksmithing equipment.