Stories from the Land Trust House: Surprises in the Crawlspace

Did you know that our 1865 schoolhouse has a crawlspace below its wooden floor? Since this is where the building is supported, we knew we had to inspect it as we started our assessment of the building, but we couldn’t find any access! No hatch, no opening in the granite foundation. We eventually devised a non-destructive solution and when we got down there, we had two surprises.

One was this plastic ukelele – in good condition. How on earth did it get there? Who put it there, when, and why? If anyone has any clues, please tell us!

The second surprise was more consequential. Though thankfully, the wooden support beams and joists were sound, the chimney base was tilting at a 30 degree angle and was detached from the stack! How on earth – and when – had this happened? We have no idea, but we knew the stability of the chimney was threatened and the situation had to be remedied.

The first challenge was figuring out how to do this. With the help of architect Rick Wies and struc-tural engineer Charles Brown, we created a plan, but then we had to find someone to carry it out.

See before and after photos.

Crawlspaces are called crawlspaces for a reason; that’s how one gets around in them – on hands and knees. This makes them unappealing enough to work in, but ours was extra uninviting in that the substrate was rock rubble, muck, and even some standing water. Several contractors took one look and politely declined the job, but contractor Gary Lyon and mason Antonio DaSilva came to the rescue and soon enough, the situation was rectified.

This was an expensive proposition, with the problem being discovered too late to be included in the plan for our $200,000 grant application from the State Historic Preservation Office.

Read more about the renovation efforts here. If you would like to help support this effort or any other parts of the ambitious rehabilitation project for our beloved Land Trust House, please click below or send your donation to Branford Land Trust, P.O. Box 254, Branford, CT 06405. Thank you!