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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - October 7, 2004

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Hey, hasn't this been some great weather? Cousin Jake dropped by with some of his grandkids the other day and we all just hung out around here and had fun playing in the leaves.


It seemed that as soon as I returned from vacation, the 50/50 Auction was happening in "my" yard. It just makes Ol' Henry feel so good inside to see so many, many people here for the Auction. I love seeing people around Col. Ben's house. There was a wonderful breeze on the porch that Mary's lunch committee, and Henry, really enjoyed. A few days later, I saw Carol, Donna, Jim and Sid talking, smiling real big and laughing. That says to me that the auction was a great success! Now, that also tells me there is more money in the cookie jar for the restoration of Col. Ben's house! A big, big thanks from The Friends and Henry to those who donated items and another big thanks to those who came to bid and buy! You are great folks who continue to give us wonderful support!


There sure is a lot to catch upon around here, but it is the plastering that got my attention real quick. It covered my hidey places. Can you believe that?


Henry here has been hanging close to Keith and Jack and I have learned lots about plaster. Yeah, plaster! I heard them talking about the three coats of plaster that were used in Col. Ben's house in 1820. The first coat was a heavy plaster made of lime and sand that stuck to the brick walls. Then the second coat was put on. Can you guess what was in that plaster? Hair! Henry here is telling you it was all kinds of hair, including hog, horse and even human hair. This hair was combined with sand and lime that was used for the important second coat that made the nice straight walls and even ceilings. The final coat was a finer coat that was nice and even.


Let's talk about this hair in the plaster. Now, you all think a little and you will remember that nothing was wasted in early America and especially not on the frontier! One of the things they saved just for plastering was hair and Henry means all kinds of hair. When Col. Ben and his friends trimmed the tails and manes of their horses and when they butchered hog and other animals, they saved the bristles from them too. Also, people saved the hair they cut from their heads. Henry guesses that the guy who did the plastering may have even paid for the hair when he gathered it from the folks who saved it. There were a lot of animals around and no building booms so there was enough hair for the plasterer's needs.


Today it is a different story and there is no horse or hog hair in the plaster. Today's plaster is made of sane, cement and lime. Seems to Ol' Henry that those are some of the ingredients in concrete for sidewalks.
Henry has been keeping an eye on how Keith and Jack do this plastering. They have almost finished all the rooms in "my" house and that is a lot of plastering! When they put the first coat on they call it a scratch coat and it goes over wire mesh that is on the brick walls. This coat doesn't have to be as heavy as the first coat in the 1820s homes because it clings to the mesh, not the bricks. Then the guys scratch all over this coat with a tool, leaving grooves in the plaster. Next they put on the second coat that they call a brown coat. Henry has no idea why it's called brown. The brown coat contains some fiber instead of horse or hog hair! This second coat bonds in the scratches and fills in the voids or uneven areas. This coat is the one that provides the nice, straight walls that are then covered with the finish or hard coat, made of lime and cement - no sand - and this is the final coat we see.


Ol' Henry heard Keith telling Joe that the plaster has to dry or "cure" for 30 days before it can be painted or wallpapered. You would think this time would give everyone a chance to rest. Well folks, some of this plaster has already been finished for 30 days and has cured and that means it is ready to paint. So, Joe and Chuck will be there on Tuesdays giving the plaster a primer coat. Henry is proud to be around all these guys who work so hard on Col. Ben's house!


Now I'm hearing talk about painting the millwork and mantels and about what color paint will be used! I think it will be a few months before the painting begins, but the colors have to be chosen. As soon as I hear the paint colors I will let you know. Henry learned on vacation that in 1820 the color of paint used in houses was a whole lot different than what we use today! I am anxious to find out what colors will be used in Col. Ben's house. I did hear Joe say something about a paint analysis had been done on the original millwork in the house and that way one can tell what color everything was when Col. Ben and Lucy had it painted in 1820. I do not know what an analysis is, I am just a mouse, ya' know, but if Joe says it will tell us what color paint Col. Ben and Lucy used, I will believe him for sure!


Now, I am on my way to the garden. I wonder if Carol F., RoseMarie and Jim thought of me when they choose the seeds they planted? I know the sunflower seeds are mighty good and I will check to see if they are ready to eat! Just in case you are wondering, I am still sleeping in Keith's truck and it is a nice place to sleep. Hidey places are hard to find around here!


See ya' later,
Henry


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