Sunday, November 9, 2008

A New Bonnet for the Old Lady – Part I

Loyal readers, I’m finally back blogging after weeks of screaming deadlines and the unveiling of the Laura Hawkins house. Unveiling? Watch for future posts on this exciting event. I’m also slowly coming down from this country’s seismic shift in electing Barack Obama; I'm still overwhelmed by this promising gift to our country and the world.

The artifact in question from my last post was an original cupola that capped the cone roof of the Laura Hawkins house. Cupolas are dome structures covering a circular or polygonal roof. These can either be architecturally significant to the house (as lookout perches with windows) or merely ornamental like this metal one, which is more appropriately termed a turret finial.

The cupola, resting on our Chateau floor,
next to our blocked fireplace.

So how original is this cupola or finial? I’m not sure, but I’ll assume it was installed when the house was first built and miraculously saved and installed for subsequent re-roofings. This Victorian cupola is now a decrepit, rusted structure and possibly won’t survive another attempt to install it. It will be relegated to our future museum. Museum, you ask? Museum.

Here's a close up of the Cupola which I hadn't even noticed until the roofing commenced. Wouldn't an architecturally interesting copper cupola with a lightning rod be a nice replacement?

Upon examining the cupola, I wondered why this otherwise mundane artifact would have been installed as a decorative element. Sure it was shiny when new and I suppose its ceramic nodules offered a modicum of decoration. Nevertheless, Victorians did not do decorative elements in a small way. Perhaps the norm of Victorian architecture dictated this to be a standard feature, even if it did not really fulfill its original purpose as an ostentatious showpiece.

It’s Roofing Time…

I poked a couple of members of our local historical preservation society for roofing referrals and received two. Surverying the house later, my spouse was approached by a crew who’d come into the neighborhood to look over a possible demolition job. Our good friends from the Garden House B&B wanted to demolish a later addition to the Munger house they owned. The Munger house (originally owned by William A. Munger) housed the former LaBinnah Social Club for the social elite in Hannibal's heyday around 1900.

The LaBinnah Social Club (Munger House) sits almost directly across the street from the Laura Hawkins house. Note the later addition on the right of the house. This was added during the 1970's to house the then-owner's business, George's Beauty Shop.

Here is a visitor's register from when Mark Twain visited the Club in 1902...

A 1902 newsclip from the Saint Louis Globe-Democrat is attached to this register. It describes Mark Twain's visit to Hannibal and Laura Hawkins, his childhood sweetheart. Kudos and thanks to Dave Thomson for sharing this with me.

The Munger house is currently a restaurant, which after some trials and errors went from being LaBinnah to LaBinnah Bistro. This bistro specializes in grass-fed beefsteaks and cosmopolitan menu fare. More on this later.

“Hey, you looking at a new roof?” cried someone who appeared to be the foreman. My spouse looked at him quizzically, pointed to the roof and replied, “Yes?’ “Well, we’ll come over later to look at it and give you an estimate.” the foreman retorted.

Normally, an interaction like this would bring to mind those unscrupulous fly-by-nights who trick guileless souls into buying a shoddy asphalt job at a hiked-up price. In a small town like Hannibal, this folksy approach is the norm. To protect ourselves, all we had to do was ask a few locals about the person. From this we’d expect to receive a no-holds barred, full-blown report in return. How I wish I’d done this with an earlier contractor.

As it turned out, the foreman was someone I'd gone to high school with back in the 1970’s. Mike Treastor in those days was a seriously hard worker whom teachers hired for summer work. The creation of his business, Mike's Construction, LLC is a local success story, as Mike often has to turn down bids for his services in Hannibal and the Midwest region.

We agreed to a contract for both the house and the garage. Since asphalt shingles had always been used for the house, we opted for this choice again. The architectural shingles we selected (except for the cone section) are expected to last 40-50 years. The contracted work was a bit more pricey than the norm, but this was to be expected considering the dangerous pitch of the roof. "If someone falls from this roof,” explained Mike, “he’ll die!” The work commenced a few months later.

During the hot days of early summer, the workers arrived faithfully around 6am each day and carried out the awesome task…

The roofing commences on this balmy June day.
Photo compliments of the hosts of Garden House B&B and LaBinnah.

Note the awesomely steep roof pitches on this Queen Anne.
Same credits as above.

The roof cone work commenced almost right away.
Photo compliments of Pat Kerns,
our neighbor and area art teacher.

This dumpster became a coffin for rooves past.
Ditto, Garden House credit.

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