Historic Hampshire County, WV
West Virginia's Oldest County


Ridgedale Restoration

Restoring the George W. Washington Home

Part II

signatures in brick mortor

A Stately Lady Gets Restored

One of the unusual features of the George W. Washington home is the fact that the residents and some guests wrote their names in the mortor of the brick walls. This is a very unique record associated with the house and one that the restorers are trying hard to preserve. This photo shows the signature of Sallie Washington, October 4, 1897.

white modillions in living room
This photo of the front main room shows the large windows that reach to the floor giving much light to the house and a wonderful view of the surrounding riverbottom and mountains. These windows open upward far enough that one can walk outside through them. We will see the mechanism that allows this later in this page.

modillions installed

The stacks of white painted wood blocks on the floor are modillions or brackets. They can be seen to the left in their proper position under the soffits with a decorative molding around them. The number of them stacked on the floor gives some indication of the extent of the restoration work that is being performed on this lovely old home.

top of window frame allowing glass to slide up into wall

This photograph is of the top of the window frames in the room shown above. No. 1 is the top of the inside of the window frame. No. 2 is the jamb of the window frame. No. 4 is the plywood installed on the outside of the window to protect the house while the glass is removed for restoration. There is a pole poking the small board marked No. 3; this is the top of the frame that moves out of the way so the lower sash can slide up into the lintel or wall above the window leaving enough space for one to walk out through the raised window.

recessed electrical conduit



Installing electrical wiring in a house built before the Civil War is a daunting problem. The restoration project is installing all the modern conveniences in this house. The wiring is all placed in conduit and the conduit is recessed into the walls. This requires a very labor intensive task of cutting out the plaster to a depth allowing the conduit to fit and the replastering to be flush with the original walls. When completed one would think that the wiring was an original installation.


stair well
 We had shown in an earlier photograph the graceful curved staircase of the house. Here we show it as it looks during restoration with all the treads covered in order to protect them. They will be uncovered and refinished after the other work is done.

repaired rafters & nailers

In this photo we see the rafters of the house around one of the many chimneys. Note the walnut header in front of the chimney. Note how it is notched into the rafter on either side of the chimney as the original was. Walnut, now an expensive wood, was used because it is relatively rot resistant. The lighter wood for the rafters and roof nailers or sheathing is fir and poplar. If you look carefully to the left of the chimney and immediately to the right and at the right edge of the photo you will see dark narrow vertical blocks inserted in the brick walls; these are the walnut outriggers that support the trough for the built-in or recessed gutters that can be seen later below.

widow's walk

This is a picture of the "widow's walk" around the cupula on the top of the house.  From here the master of the estate could supervise work in the flat fields of the floodplain around the house. The balusters are original.

railing post capThis is a new copper cap to the railing round the widow's walk. Below it one can see one of the chimneys that has been repointed and the new copper roof with the recessed gutter. Below is a detail of the chimney that is "pencilled" with a mixture of lime and rabbit's hide glue to whiten the mortar. The other detail (shown below right) is a new copper cricket that diverts rain water around the chimneys on the uphill side.

chimney capInside the nearby workshop is one of the new copper and stainless steel chimney caps.  These have been custom fabricated and will protect the chimneys from the weather. There will be screen added to keep birds out.

new roof with recessed gutters

recessed gutter detailHere we see details of the unusual recessed gutter.  Instead of hanging the gutter below the bottom edge of the roof, the gutter is recessed just above the gutter bottom edge. The red arrows in the top photo show the location of the gutter. The arrows in the lower photos show a joint in the gutter covered with weatherproof tape and on the left side the copper bridge on the lower roof is an expansion joint which is used because copper contracts and expands with temperature.

intricate detail on column
 There are many intricate details that remain to be cleaned and restored. This picture shows the lovely lines of a spindle and detailed post of the front porch.

rotted soffit
 Another detail that will require much work is the restoration (much replacement) of the soffit supports around the porches of the house. These are more intricate than the ones on the roof and will take more labor to restore.

All the work, Mike Shawnot only physical repair and replacement but also the administrative work of researching building details and writing grants, is being supervised by the new owners of Ridgedale, Mike and Carol Shaw who are living in temporary quarters in nearby Romney. As you can see, Mike is a "hand-on" type whose ruff look may belie his love of old houses and his extensive knowledge of their details. We wish him and his wife the best of luck with this "labor of love." 

Contractors on the job include the following:

  • Mountaineer Homebuilders-rafter and sheathing, built- in gutters, scaffolding installation
  • Dwyer Restoration-plastering, fascia and soffit, windows, interior woodwork
  • McBride Electric-all electrical work(in conduit)
  • Embrey Roofing-copper roof and downspouts
  • Twigg Roofing-copper roof
  • Dwayne Kisamore-repointing

The house restoration on a spring evening

We see here the lovely lady encased in a cocoon of scaffolding. One of the next major steps is to repoint the mortar to secure the walls and make them weatherproof. If cracks in the mortar are not fixed rain and snow will seep in and continue to erode away the mortar. This repointing will be done with just what was used originally - a mixture of sand and lime with no portland cement.

Go to Part III (October 2007)


Return to the Ridgedale main page.

2007 Charles C. Hall.
updated: 10/30/07