Original Suite Plans Discovered, Plus A Progress Update
Due to some persistent sleuthing on the part of Carl Jay, Chief Preservationist for Shawmut construction, the original plans for FDR suite were discovered this past May at the offices of Harvard Real Estate. The drawings, shown below, had been misplaced for years due to a cataloging error, but turned up just in time: Adams, along with four other Houses, has been receiving major systems and safety upgrades this summer, and these plans were critical to preserving the historic fabric during the renovations. The plans also provided a critical piece of missing historical information: the red globes with a hatchmark through the center indicate the positions of the lost lost wall sconces, which probably looked like the one at the right, photographed just down the hall in the Vanderbilt Suite in 1899. Note that the fixture is dual gas and electric, with bulb below, and gas flame above. Westmorly was one of the first dormitory buildings electrified at Harvard, at a time when electricity was not at all a sure thing. Within a few years, electricity had proven itself vastly superior to gas, and such fixtures quickly disappeared. In the case of the FDR suite, no evidence currently exists to mark the sconce locations (though presumably capped gas pipes may still exist behind the walls) so the discovery of the plans greatly assists our efforts.
In terms of the physical restoration of the Suite, some minor repairs and fixes were accomplished this summer during the course of the systems upgrades, but the major restoration work to the wood, walls and bathroom remain incomplete, due primarily to lack of funds, but also due to a potential need to complete an architectural survey before any further changes are made. Jack Waite, the well-known preservationist architect who restored FDR’s Top Cottage for the National Park Service, and who visited the Suite this summer, has strongly advocated the need for such a survey. The problem? Again, the cost, estimated at 30-40K. We at the Project are currently reviewing options with the University, potential funders, and our historical board, to determine how best to proceed. In the meantime, we’ve decided to begin collecting the materials required to decorate the rooms, so that once funds become available, we can furnish and open the Suite fairly quickly. That quest will be the subject of future posts.