extensive repository of 19th century chicago workers cottage building materials housed in bldg. 51 museum archive

images of the 19th century balloon frame "specimen" library for use with "deconstructing chicago" book. a massive repository of cataloged sill plates, tree nails, tie rod anchors, brick, lath, joists, hardware, square nails, studs from demolished cottages is safely housed in the bldg. 51 museum archive. 

examples of 19th century chicago workers cottage building materials documented in studio. 

one of many "systems" i've recreated based on photographs taken while deconstructing/documenting the materials and methods used to erect 19th century wood-framed workers cottages over the past five years. this "system" begins with the ever-present round cedar post, which was used in bulk to relocate (with the help of teams of oxen) and raise cottages. there are newspaper accounts of people going about there daily household chores while there cottages zig-zag across the streets of chicago. oversized sill plates and/or girts - interlocked using mortise and tenon joinery and reinforced with faceted wood pegs - rested on cedar posts on the first floor, while studs supported them on the second. the slots along the sides of the beams were made for floor joists. hand-drills (with auger bits) and hatchets were used to chisel out these pockets. the blocks of "insulation" (consisting of brick, plaster, wood shavings, shingles, and lath) are always found resting against the beams between the studs or stud cavities. newspaper, pamphlets, business cards, and other ephemera found in the insulation greatly assists in dating the house. the studs (either 2x4, 3x4, or 3x3) are found mortised into the beams. rarely do i find studs toenailed with square nails. quite frankly, studs are the only framing component that's truly "dimensional" in the context of the "balloon frame." note: nearly all of the wood i've extracted from cottage demolitions is white pine, harvested from minnesota, wisconsin, or michigan.

a few photographs from an exhibit - a collaboration between bldg. 51 and chicago's clarke house - showcasing salvaged remnants from 19th century chicago workers cottages, with some rebuilt as "systems" used to demonstrate how materials and methods were used to construct this type of structure. 

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