Regional Historic Millwork

nathan-elevation1-jpgPre US Civil War buildings have a particular look, something that makes you look twice to make sure that you are seeing what you think you are seeing. The reason for this is that there was little standardization of millwork, wood moldings and window sash before that time, and soon after the Civil War was instituted a very durable and widespread system that endured into the 1960’s and which continues on in some ways into the present time. Our eyes have therefore been trained to expect a certain scale and form which has held somewhat standard from the Victorian period through the Modern. What one sees in the older buildings is what appears to be unique or “different” forms and scales in the details, the window muntins, molding depths. Of course, these buildings were not literally unique, but were rather regional, and expressions of “schools” of carpenters who approached the work each with their own traditions, tastes, and profiles of knives with which to form the millwork. As one drives from town to town in early settled parts of Connecticut, one can see these local preferences expressed with molding variations. Restoration carpenter Stephen C. Marshall is long familiar with these traditions as practiced in Fairfield County, New Haven County and Litchfield County, especially as this applies to the reproduction of wood window sash. Even without seeing the building, he knows that because a building is in New London, that he likely has the knife he needs to cut the muntins, because he has worked on other buildings from that era, in that town, but that that same knife won’t likely do him much good in Hartford.

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