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Old Fashioned House-raising

Historic Arkansas Museum - Sunday, March 01, 2015

Nails? Who needs 'em?

It takes a village to raise a house. Many people helped raise the smokehouse on June 28.

Did you ever see Seven Brides for Seven Brothersor The Witness? Both films featured barn-raisings which rely on a traditional construction method called timber framing. Timber framing involves mortise and tenon joinery that is pegged for a secured fit rather than nailed. The museum recently had its own house-raising minus the singing and dancing of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. However, workers and guests were treated to 19th-century fiddle tunes played by George West.

The smokehouse-raising on June 28 was a dramatic highpoint of Michael Langford uses a Timber Framer's Drill Press to ready the beams for the Smokehouse-raising.Historic Arkansas Museum’s multi-faceted Brownlee Backyard project. The Brownlee Backyard project has included archival research, archeology, demolition, construction and now, centuries-old timber framing methods—all in an effort to recreate the backyard of the 1840s Brownlee House on the museum’s grounds. The backyard will be a 19th-century urban, “working” backyard with a detached kitchen and smokehouse (both reconstructed on their original foundations), a swept dirt yard with a raised bed kitchen garden, a chicken coop, appropriate fencing and a privy.

George West fiddles while the Smokehouse goes up.Through traditional and sonographic archeology, the museum discovered the original foundation of the smokehouse located in the Brownlee Backyard. During the work this summer, even more of the 1800s brickwork was uncovered.

With the help of general contractor VR Smith and Sons, timber framer Michael Langford raised the smokehouse in the visual culmination of the Brownlee Backyard project. The house-raising was the finale of weeks of preparation by Langford who had used traditional and modern carpentry techniques to effectively create the pieces of the smokehouse that were fitted together like a large puzzle. The result can be seen now on the grounds on the museum, visible from the museum's atrium.Many thanks to the Natural and Cultural Resources Council for making this project possible.