Initial Site Visit
    by Holly Martin


Wednesday, July 12 2017

Thank you to Ian Browning for showing us around the inside of Birdwood Manor on behalf of the UVA Foundation and of the Birdwood grounds maintenance crew.



During the site visit we toured the house and grounds and looked into detail at a small service building to the east of the main house, which we believe to have been originally used as an outdoor kitchen.

We toured the house – attic and basement and all – looking for evidence of the original structure, as a way to better understand its structure and get some practice on observation and surveying work. In the basement, we discovered some 1970s amateur stencil work, as well as quite a lot of mold and rust. The Birdwood Mansion used to have a glassed-in porch on the rear, which was in disrepair and was removed a few years back. In the attic, we were able to see some of the original beams, woodwork, and mortise-and-tenon joinery with the original wooden pegs and plugs and numbering system used to put the whole building together, as well as some old, squared-off nails, all of which help with dating the building.

In addition to the kitchen, there are three other outbuildings associated with the mansion – an icehouse, a garage, and a smokehouse. Also on the property is a very distinctive, lighthouse-like water tower, which is documented by the Historic American Building Survey (HABS). The icehouse and the supposed kitchen had nearly identical cupolas, vents, and carved pieces on top. After surveying and crawling around the house, we went outside to look at the grounds and measure the small outbuilding we have hypothesized to be the kitchen. We did quite a lot of hand measuring and observations, looking at the brickwork – Flemish bond – we discovered that the trim work of both the outbuilding and the mansion match. We ended the day theorizing and planning for the research to come.


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