For most of my time here at the Chancognie House, work has focused on restoration – bringing various parts of the house, such as the second-floor piazza archways, pictured below, back to their original appearance.
Recently, as you may have noticed from my posts on Instagram and Facebook, I embarked on a renovation project here that involved tearing down a 1988 addition to the original house. I am replacing that with an addition that will put the property back into its original historical context to the extent possible under current building and zoning codes.
The property here has a unique layout – in contrast to the long narrow lots in much of the historic district, the lot here is closer to a square. On the more typical narrow rectangular lots, the main house fronts the street and in the case of single houses like the Chancognie House, the narrow end of the house faces the street with the outbuildings – kitchen house, stable, privy and other dependencies built directly behind the house. But with the square lot shape, that layout was impossible here, so the buildings have always been in an L-shape with the narrow end of the main house fronting the street and the outbuildings perpendicular to the house.
All the original outbuildings here have been lost over time and unfortunately, visual evidence of them is scant. The image at the top of this post, taken c.1940 by John Mead Howells in the collection of The Gibbes Museum is one of the few images of what research has shown was likely the original kitchen house (more about that soon). The kitchen house, pictured on the right in the photo at the top (an early 20th century addition stands between the kitchen house and the original house), was demolished in 1970.
With evidence lacking above ground, the search for information went below ground. The impetus for starting archaeological work here was not to recover countless fascinating objects (which I certainly have), but to learn more about the outbuildings that once stood on the property. I hoped to learn more about a bathing house that once stood on the property – see my earlier blog post here. Even though the outbuildings are gone, there is a significant amount of archaeological evidence that firmly establishes the original layout of this property. We have made quite a few new discoveries during the renovation project – I am working to interpret this new information and will share it with you as I try to figure out exactly what it all means!