Historic Coggeshall farmhouse gets a new roof

Though historically accurate, the new roof is designed to last a little longer

By Kristen Ray
Posted 2/10/19

The Coggeshall Farm Museum may be closed for the season but the site has been bustling with activity for weeks. Since early January, workers have been diligently attending to the historic farmhouse, …

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Historic Coggeshall farmhouse gets a new roof

Though historically accurate, the new roof is designed to last a little longer

Posted

The Coggeshall Farm Museum may be closed for the season but the site has been bustling with activity for weeks. Since early January, workers have been diligently attending to the historic farmhouse, meticulously replacing its signature red cedar shake roof as they strive to preserve the heritage of one of Bristol’s oldest remaining assets.

Built in the mid-eighteenth century, the modest one-and-a-half story structure, resting on 48 acres of coastal farmland, serves as a representation of what life was like for a working colonial family during the Federalist Era.

“It’s a different kind of historical piece of history that people don’t always see,” said architect Andrea Baranyk of Northeast Collaborative Architects.

After escaping demolition in 1968 due to the efforts of the Bristol Historical Society, the farmhouse has since joined the 30 other buildings, structures and sites making up the Poppasquash Farms Historic District, designated historically significant by the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Operating today as a “living museum,” it is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, hosting workshops and events throughout the year.

In order to showcase this part of Bristol’s early history for generations to come, Coggeshall has regularly needed to provide upkeep for the house, from the replacement in-kind of the original double-hung windows to the reconstruction and restoration of the main chimney and hearths. About two years ago, when leaks had started to form and subsequent damage was apparent, board members realized it was crucial they tend to the roof next, last replaced in the 1980s by a farm manager who had split the cedar shakes himself. 

“It was not built to last,” said President Steve Lake.

With the help of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, Northeast Collaborative Architects prepared a Historic Structures Report for Coggeshall to go off of. While the goal is typically to restore and repair first, it was determined that, with nearly a quarter of the roof’s shingles deemed unusable, a full replacement would have to take effect. 

Once funding was secured and Charles E. Millard contracting was brought on board, construction officially began at the start of this year. Under the supervision of the state historical society’s Roberta Randall, contractors have been working under strict guidelines to ensure the new roof accurately represents that particular time period in history.

“This is part of how America started. We are not resistant to it, we embrace it,” said Board of Trustees member James Yess.

There has, however, been some room for flexibility; while forgoing more modern protective materials like black felt roofing paper and cedar breather, contractors were granted permission to use newer, longer-lasting galvanized square cut nails as opposed to traditional hand-forged ones. When everything is said and done, the new roof should have at least a two-decade lifespan.

Construction of the roof is expected to be completed by March. Expenses were covered in full by the state historical commission, Champlin Foundation, 1772 Foundation and the Felicia Fund.

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