Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hofwyl-Broadfield Visitors Will Observe, and Then Fix; They're Part of a UGa Field Study at the Historic Site, Studying the Philosophy of Whether to Update the Site's Construction

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hofwyl-Broadfield Visitors Will Observe, and Then Fix; They're Part of a UGa Field Study at the Historic Site, Studying the Philosophy of Whether to Update the Site's Construction

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY DICKSON

BRUNSWICK - Tim Walsh squatted at the edge of one of the historic buildings at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation State Historic Site and broke off a piece.

Normally, that would get a visitor in trouble, but Walsh is leading a group of University of Georgia students in a field study in which they fix as well as study.

As he examined the classic board-and-batten construction, Walsh demonstrated to a half-dozen students how the skirting had rotted and how only a thick coating of white paint was holding it together.

As he spoke to the students, Walsh got into history, preservation and the philosophy of whether to update construction materials and methods at historic sites.

As for divining the history, Walsh said journal or diary entries can provide a wealth of information, such as "This summer we built the slave quarters.'' But the boards themselves can speak. Saw marks, for example, can give a clue as to when a structure was built if a preservationist knows when a particular kind of saw came into use, he said.

"Every board, every shingle, every brick is going to tell you a story,'' he said.

But Nathan Mountjoy, a graduate student in archaeology, asked if Walsh would change the way a historic structure is built.

"Just because it's old doesn't mean it's good,'' Walsh said.

Old techniques sometimes channeled water into the wrong places, and newer methods could help preserve a building longer, he said.

Sometimes, though, you keep doing things the old way because it may be a unique example necessary for telling a story, Walsh said.

The most important element is "to have the least impact on the fabric,'' he said.

The students followed that instruction in gingerly prying a couple of pieces of loose clapboard off the antebellum plantation house. In modern construction, the board would be replaced, but the aim was to remove it intact and secure it again.

Lindsay Daniel, working on another team, sketched the exterior of the two-story house as she and others measured the elevation. …

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