Historic Preservation students, in collaboration with the Town of Bladensburg, the Aman Memorial Trust and local preservation professionals will soon begin on a two-year project that will document and restore a unique feature of Bostwick House: a late 18th-century buttress, put in place to support the house’s south wall. The project, which will be carried out in two phases, will also include the restoration of the front porch. It is the last of three significant projects to repair the exterior envelope of the 18th-century home in Bladensburg, known to many as the second home to UMD’s historic preservation program.
What makes Bostwick’s buttress unique is its existence in the first place. Buttresses, which are architectural structures used to support exterior walls, are not usually seen on homes of this era in the U.S.; in fact, architectural historians at the Historic American Buildings Survey and Colonial Williamsburg suggest that it may be one of a kind.
"The Bostwick buttress is really one of a kind, based on conversations with colleagues across the country,” said Historic Preservation Program Director Don Linebaugh. “While church and public buildings often were designed with buttresses to support long wall spans, this buttress was a later addition intended to prop up a wall that was poorly designed and executed and beginning to fail."
The buttress damage was a portion of the extensive destruction sustained by Bostwick after a series of “significant natural events” rocked the greater Washington area six years ago; a damaging earthquake in 2011 fractured the main house chimneys, followed by the one-two punch of a hurricane and derecho in 2012, which damaged the roof of the main house and obliterated the roof of the buttress, blowing it clear from the house into a backyard tree. Time and the elements have accelerated the deterioration; the interior of the buttress is now fully exposed to weather and the east side recently collapsed, pressing the timeline for restoration. Repairs to the main house chimneys took place in 2013, followed by the replacement of the main house roof and restoration of 75% of Bostwick’s windows in 2015.
While the Town of Bladensburg finalizes plans and permits, students helped to clean up and organize materials of the collapsed east wall. Once the permits are in place, Linebaugh will work with students and professional colleagues to deconstruct and document the buttress before embarking on restoration and rebuilding efforts.
The porch restoration will be completed in conjunction with the buttress work. Both projects will be open to public view. Once complete, Bostwick will be able to re-open as a community resource for events and activities.
"We are very excited to include a public aspect to this work," explained Linebaugh. "This type of 'process tour' of ongoing restoration work is very popular and will draw new visitors to the site, and provide an opportunity for our students to engage the public and explain the ongoing project."
Photos and information on this project at Bostwick will be regularly posted at the home’s website - http://bostwickhouse.weebly.com/.