Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Roof with a view

No, this roofing craftsman was not wasting time Tuesday atop the capped Puckerbrush chimney. He was waiting for an associate, running an errand nearby, to hand up more cedar shingles to be nailed into place.

Puckerbrush School has been getting a new roof during these last cold days of November, not as simple a process as it might seem when a small building is involved. Conventional roofers would have slapped shingles on in half a day and been done. But because this is an historic building and the shingles are cedar, replicating original equipment, it's a complicated project.

Shawn Pierschbacher and his crew began work during warmer days immediately before Thanksgiving when sweatshirts were sufficient. That's no longer the case after the arrival of cold temperatures and biting winds on Friday.

Shawn has handled earlier wood shingling projects on the Lucas County Historical Society Museum campus, which is why he's handling this one, too.

We're funding the project in part with a $3,000 REAP/HRDP historic school house grant awarded earlier this year by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. That means all work has to conform to U.S. Department of the Interior standards and every step of the project has been cleared by Iowa preservation officials.

The first step, of course, was to remove old shingles --- one side of the roof at a time. Then new sheeting went down, then a fibrous spacer layer (wood shingles nailed directly to sheeting will rot without that spacer, which allows them to breathe), then individual shingles have been carefully selected, placed and hand-nailed into place.

Puckerbrush is the most historic among the very few remaining rural school houses in Lucas County. The building was completed in time for the fall term of classes during 1874 in Ottercreek Township, northwest of Lucas. It's also been known as Hazel Dell and Pleasant Ridge, but has been called Puckerbrush since the 1880s.

Nearly a century later, during the spring of 1963, Puckerbrush was the last of Lucas County's rural schools to close as the district consolidation process concluded. Its final scholars were Kathy, Mike and Linda Patterson, Steve and Janice Haltom, Denny and David Rosenberger, Ed Osenbaugh, Betty Black, Gene Pettinger and Ronnie Penick.

During 1968, the Lucas County Historical Society bought the building for $1 and moved it to the Lucas County Historical Society campus in Chariton. We think the roof that's being replaced now was installed as part of the restoration process undertaken at that time. That's 44 years for a roof. Not bad. Hopefully, this one will last as long.

Puckerbrush also has significance for my family. It was the first rural school taught by my grandfather, William Ambrose Miller, during the 1890s. Somewhere around here, I've got his hand-written list of Puckerbrush scholars that term. Need to find that and get it to the museum.


Norm Prince said...

Morning Frank,
Interesting story about the re-roofing of the school. Several questions came to mind as I was reading the story and one pertains to the fibrous spacer layer you mentioned. Is this different than roof felt ? Growing up in the west we had a house with cedar shakes and had it redone once but I do not recall the material they put down prior to the shakes. I also wondered if you have done a past article with interior pictures of the school house, as I believe that would be of interest also.

Frank D. Myers said...

"Breather" would be a more accurate description than "spacer," which implies thin wood strips used as nailers that would accomplish roughly the same purpose. There's a product out there called "Cedar Breather" that looks like what's being used. The moisture problem seems to result from plywood sheeting. Early roofs were planked, which allowed some air flow, and the thin wood spacers were used, too. A couple of interior photos were posted in conjunction with museum events. I'll try to figure out where they're at.