Thursday, July 21, 2011

Volunteer Day This Saturday!

Come out and join the Witchott Re-Construction Crew this Saturday July 23!
Meet us at 9:30 am in the Visitor's Center at Historic St. Mary's City and become a part of the re-construction team. No special skills are needed, we'll teach you everything you need to know- and of course lunch will be provided.
For more information, contact HSMC Volunteer Coordinator Anne Forrest at 240-895-4977
We hope to see you there!

**The museum is also accepting donations of cedar trees between 2 1/4" and 5 1/4" in diameter and 18' to 30' in length as well as deer pelts**
Contact Coby Treadway at 240-895-4992 or if you have materials to share.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Woodland Indian Hamlet Volunteer Day!

On Saturday July 9, 2011 a number of volunteers came out to the Woodland Indian Hamlet at Historic St. Mary's City to assist in the witchott re-construction effort.
Coby and his team welcomed the additional help of the ten motivated volunteers as the construction of the witchott could finally begin.

Coby explains the construction of the witchott to volunteers and visitors using a model
Volunteers and the re-construction crew worked together to remove the arches from the frame and carry them to the site.

 The arches are then moved into place, set in the foundation replacing the original markers.
 The bases of the posts are buried 1 foot under the foundation, encased in pvc pipe and packed with dirt and gravel.
 As the team worked through the pre-prepared poles more volunteers stripped bark from additional cedar saplings to be used later as the construction progresses.
 Volunteers gather around to learn how to use their tools to strip away bark from the saplings.
Deputy Director Jennifer Legates works along side the re-construction crew and volunteers
 With hatchets, knives, and blades in hand, volunteers get to work preparing a pile of saplings.

 With the help of our volunteers, 12 "golden arches" were erected throughout the day and the framework of the witchott began to take shape.

Historic St. Mary's City and the Witchott Re-construction Crew would like to thank volunteers Lee Magnuson, Keith Perkins, David Rotman, Barbara Disenbacher, Bill Rush, Billy Rush, Carolyn Corbin, Regina Faden, Jennifer Legates, and Anne Forest for all their hard work.

Our next Woodland Indian Hamlet Volunteer Day will take place July 23, 2011. Come out and take part in the Re-construction Project!

The Arch Experiment

In order to create the sloping arched structure of the witchott, Coby and his team experimented with various techniques to bend the cedar poles. The witchott's frame must be able to withstand time and the elements as well as vistor traffic and the weight of the phragmite mats which will cover the outside of the house. Therefore, the poles must be carefully and precisely arched.

Coby and the re-construction crew tested different methods for bending the poles into perfect arches. First, they placed two poles in the foundation and attempted to bend them toward eachother, tying the tops of the saplings together.
However, this method did not create the desired arch shape for the poles, making the arches too narrow and pointed for the dome-like frame.

Ruling out the first method, Coby and the team went back to the drawing board. They then decided to arch the poles before erecting them by bending them in a nesting jig.
The team worked together to wedge the poles between a series of posts arranged to mold the saplings into rounded arches.
Each arch consists of two poles meeting at the top.
 The crew carefully bends the two poles toward eachother so as not to fracture the saplings.
The ends of the poles are then tied together with twine in several places to ensure a smooth arch. They will later tether the poles together with raw-hide to secure the shape of the arches.
The arched poles are stacked on top of one another in the frame, the added pressure of the smaller poles on top further molding the larger poles on the bottom into the desired arch shape.
Once enough arches have been made, the team will remove them from the frame and begin installing them in the foundation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Preparing the Poles

 The team gathered red cedar saplings which will be converted into poles to constuct the frame of the witchott. Before any of the saplings can be used the bark must be removed to prevent deterioration of the poles by insects.
 The team used knives, hatchets, machetes, and various other implements to strip away the bark.The crew continued to work rain or shine preparing the saplings to make up the framework of the witchott.

 Once enough saplings are collected and stripped, the ends of the poles are burned to further protect the foundation of the structure from deterioration. The next step for Coby and his team will be to experiment with different ways to bend the poles into arches for the outermost structure of the witchott.

Building from the Ground Up

 Now that the foundation is layed, the Re-Construction crew begin to mark the arrangement of the structure's poles.
 Stakes are driven into the foundation, indicating where the cedar beams of the new witchott will be positioned.
 The outermost poles will be tethered together forming broad arches to compose the frame of the witchott. To support the weight and pressure of the heavy cedar beams as well as keep the poles in place, the crew installs pvc piping roughly 1 foot into the foundation. 
 The site now ready for the crew to begin building!

Laying the Foundation

Now that the site has been cleared, the crew gets to work setting the foundation for the new witchott.
The foundation of the current witchott was constructed with concrete so as to withstand the traffic of visitors to the site. Concrete, however, proved to be less beneficial over time than previously expected. The concrete trapped rain water under the witchott's foundation, causing the structure to now become unstable from decay.

The new witchott, instead, will rest on a foundation of packed clay which will allow rain water to filter out naturally and protect the structure from damage and exposure.

 (feat. Ernie Stones leveling with the tractor phot courtesy of Sean Kerchner)
Before the clay is added, the crew spreads a layer of gravel over the site to create a sturdy foundation.
 (feat. Corey Savage. photo courtesy of Sean Kerchner)
 (feat. Steve Blank photo courtesy of Sean Kerchner)

A plastic tarp is layed over the foundation to contain the freshly-layed gravel before the clay is added.         

Breaking Ground

Following making the initial markings on the new witchott site, Coby and the construction crew at Historic St. Mary's City broke ground to begin the construction process.

Using the posts previously implanted to mark the dimensions of the foundation, the tractor plows through the unsteady overgrowth to create an even foundation.

 To protect the structure of the witchott, the foundation must be level. The crew continues to clear the site to ensure a level foundation.

 Once the site is cleared and the foundation is prepared, Coby and his crew can continue to lay the floor of the witchott for construction.

The First Steps of the
Witchott Re-Construction Project

On May 24, Hamlet site supervisor, Coby Treadway, assisted by Sam Pratt took to the field before the site opened for visitors to mark the dimensions of the new witchott.
(fore. 5 sticks marking the circumference of the new witchott; back. Current witchott)

(Coby uses a machete to cut the sticks down to size before marking the foundation)
Coby and Sam use long sticks to mark the circumference of the witchott using their feet and best judgment to measure the distance between the poles. They will later use standard measuring equipment to verify the measurements.
Coby and Sam planted 5 sticks to mark the basic dimensions for the witchott to define the area that will become the foundation. Once the foundation is laid, Coby and his team will use a hand drawn blue print to assist them in placing 60 poles around the site to create the frame of the longhouse as well as 33 interior poles to construct the basic layout of the witchott.

Coby and Sam confirm the initial measurements to prepare the site for excavation and the laying of the foundation.
The first markings have been made for the new witchott! Follow along and watch every step of the re-construction process unfold!