Facebook

Brilliant Man Turns 184-Year-Old Ruins Into Something Most Homeowners Would Kill For

Subscribe Share on Facebook

Get The Best Stories Delivered Daily Right To Your Inbox

Like us on Facebook

Share

Two centuries can do a lot of damage to any property, even if it was originally well-constructed. Weather is a big factor in harming an old structure, but if there isn’t anyone working on the upkeep over the years, the building can easily fall into disrepair. But if someone comes along who is willing to restore it, a historic property can transform to its former glory.

That’s what happened when Imgur user BlacksmithSam set out to restore a small building near his family home, which were both constructed by a man named Ephram Woodworth in the early 1800s.

The restoration would take a whole lot of ingenuity, as BlacksmithSam couldn’t afford to rebuild this house exactly the way it was created originally. Making matters worse? The building was missing not only an entire wall, but its roof!

The house below was originally constructed in 1833 by Ephram Woodworth. After learning that the government was building a roadway between Milwaukee and Green Bay, he claimed unused land for this small building, which he lived in while planning a larger place for his family.

smithy1BlacksmithSam / imgur

Nearly two centuries later, the larger property houses new residents: Imgur user BlacksmithSam and his wife. In March of 2016, BlacksmithSam decided to restore Ephram’s first property to its former state to use as a workshop.

smithy2BlacksmithSam / imgur

After BlacksmithSam started working on the small house, Ephram’s living descendent surprised him with a visit to show her appreciation for his dedication to the structure’s restoration. While there, she shared that Ephram used the house as a workshop, too, and as a summer kitchen.


The community architectural board loved the idea, though they agreed with the city that it was a crazy plan. Who would want to put all that work into this run-down house? But BlacksmithSam saw things differently.

smithy3BlacksmithSam / imgur

He wrote on Imgur, “How can you just level out 184 years of history?” He couldn’t bear to see it torn down or continue sitting there unused.

Before he did anything else, BlacksmithSam had to level out the floor. He started with a gravel foundation, then spread out three layers of a concrete and mortar mixture on top.

smithy4BlacksmithSam / imgur

Ephram’s descendant told him that the property was often used as a trading area for Native American tribes. They would gather in the summer to meet with white settlers and to hold ceremonies and meetings amongst themselves. When it wasn’t used, Ephram’s children and grandchildren would play on the property.


Inclement weather was unavoidable, and it slowed down the project considerably. Every time it rained, BlacksmithSam lost more mortar and would have to redo the walls all over again.

smithy5BlacksmithSam / imgur

The floor’s finishing layer had to be low in chert and high in fiber to ensure that it would not be porous and could handle high-impact contact. Why these specifications? BlacksmithSam joked, “Check the user name.”

smithy6BlacksmithSam / imgur

Since BlacksmithSam planned to use this house as his blacksmithing workspace, it was imperative that the floor was able to absorb the impact without cracking or becoming damaged in case heavy objects fell on the ground.

BlacksmithSam spent months chiseling and tuck-pointing the walls. He also repaired the cracked and missing mortar in order for the stone to be waterproof and sealed against the outside elements.

smithy7BlacksmithSam / imgur

In order to tuck-point the walls, BlacksmithSam applied the mortar using a pie-shaped tool called a pointing trowel. He forced the mortar into the vertical joints, and removed excess in order to align the new mixture with existing mortar. He used a brick jointer to keep everything smooth and uniform. After the vertical joints were all done, BlacksmithSam moved on to the horizontal ones.


By August 2016, all the walls were finished and it was time to move on to digging and pouring the foundation of the missing wall.

smithy8BlacksmithSam / imgur

BlacksmithSam wrote that, sometime in the 1980s or ’90s, someone removed the fourth wall to use the stone for a flower garden in the front yard. He decided to use those same stones to restore the wall!

BlacksmithSam used a one-way moisture sealant on the walls to keep all moisture from seeping into the house. It took 16 yards of concrete to fill up the foundation. That’s a whole lot of concrete!

smithy9BlacksmithSam / imgur

It was too expensive for BlacksmithSam to build the fourth wall exactly as it had originally been built, and the city would not allow it either way. Instead, he planned to make it look just like the other walls later on. First, he’d have to build the wall with these concrete blocks.

smithy10BlacksmithSam / imgur

In order to produce enough mortar and concrete for this job, BlacksmithSam had two mixers constantly working in the background. They couldn’t work fast enough!

smithy11BlacksmithSam / imgur

To match the two walls next to his new one, BlacksmithSam’s mason had to measure and hand-cut each block individually.

smithy12BlacksmithSam / imgur


BlacksmithSam wanted to match the original mortar mixture perfectly with the rest of the house. So he sent samples of the mortar to the University of Wisconsin, where its chemical makeup was analyzed.

smithy13BlacksmithSam / imgur

From there, BlacksmithSam was able to mix the mortar just like Ephram did all those years ago. It looked darker than the rest of the house, but in two years or so, it will all match up perfectly.

BlacksmithSam and his crew could only build up the wall a few feet at a time, or else it would come tumbling down on them and they’d have to start over. BlacksmithSam called it a “labor of love.”

smithy14BlacksmithSam / imgur

This gives us some idea of how slow-going construction must have been for Ephram in the 1800s, who didn’t have the same tools that BlacksmithSam did at his disposal in 2016.

They had to repeat this process on the inside of the house, too! It must have felt like it was taking forever, but it was this method that would eventually make the restoration a success.

smithy15BlacksmithSam / imgur

Finally, BlacksmithSam and his team finished the fourth wall. It looked like it had never been taken down in the first place! The next big task was figuring out how to recreate the roof…

smithy16BlacksmithSam / imgur

BlacksmithSam found some photos of the building from the 1960s. With the leaves already off the trees, this would have to be one fast reconstruction. The crew aimed to design the roof as closely as possible to its original state.

smithy17BlacksmithSam / imgur


Using nothing but cedar wood, the team successfully finished the roof before 2016’s first snowfall. After months and months of hard labor, the biggest parts of the house were finished! Lastly, the house needed new doors.

smithy19BlacksmithSam / imgur

BlacksmithSam used cedar for the new doors as well, and by the first snowfall, everything was done. The house was completely restored to its original glory!

smithy20BlacksmithSam / imgur

BlacksmithSam could start using the inside for his workshop right away. He planned to move things around as he worked in the space, but at least he was all moved in and ready to start his next project.

smithy21BlacksmithSam / imgur


Here is BlacksmithSam with his dog, Penny. Both are happy as can be to eat some pork chops and enjoy the wonderful restoration that BlacksmithSam worked hard on for most of 2016!

smithy22BlacksmithSam / imgur

The restoration of this 19th-century house was no easy feat. The city and architectural board thought BlacksmithSam was nuts for taking on such a large-scale project, but it seemed like he pulled it off with flying colors. Now he can use his creation for many more projects in the future!

Share this blacksmith’s journey with your friends below!

Get great stories like this right to your inbox

x

Get stories like this right to your inbox!

Close, I am already signed up for the newsletter