The design for the J-5 Cutting Horse Ranch by Stephen B. Chambers Architects’ required authentic wrought iron elements to blend with the character of the ranch, as it might have existed in Texas in the late 1800s. Texas architect, Steve Chambers paid a visit to Homestead Heritage Forge in Elm Mott, Texas, to discuss the West Texas project. Walking through the double doors of Caleb Nolen’s forge, he found a craftsman possessing the historic skill and artistry of village blacksmiths of Early Texas. Blacksmithing was once so essential in supporting agrarian community life that no town could function properly without a local blacksmith. In 2014, these skills have almost disappeared.
It was Chambers’ intent that all of the wrought iron work would be done in an authentic fashion of the late 1800s, which exhibited historic forging and connection techniques. In modern wrought iron work, two pieces of metal are connected by electric or gas welding. During the late 1800s, this was not available to local blacksmiths who employed pegged and forged connections. Chambers’ designs required these authentic historic details.
At Homestead Heritage Forge, Steve had the rare opportunity to watch blacksmiths work with a variety of tools and techniques that demonstrated the ancient skills employed in blacksmithing. As the blacksmith pumped the bellows to heat the fire in the forge, sparks flew while pieces of raw steel in the fire turned from glowing red to white hot. The blacksmith pulled the white-hot steel from the forge and placed it on an anvil, which rang with hammer blows as he shaped hot iron.
Blacksmith Caleb Nolen used his smithy skills to shape and form wrought iron into lamps, tables, fireplace tool sets, kitchen and bathroom hardware and ornamental fences for the J-5 from the designs provided by Stephen B. Chambers Architects, Inc.
The gallery below shows sketches of Chambers Architects’ designs and the finished forged items. The video below the gallery shows the blacksmith demonstrating the shaping of iron into the creative forms.
Texas Architect Stephen B. Chambers, AIA, was recently featured in a story in the Wall Street Journal, “Living Like the Ancestors.” The link to the full article is at end of this blog. Writer Nancy Keates reported that more home renovations than ever before are focusing on historical restoration. In the 1970s, this niche in the remodeling market launched a robust industry of specialty magazines and retro products, but was hit hard by the 2008 recession. In 2014, restoration is regaining strength, as home buyers renew their attraction to preserving old homes.
Preserve Family History
Josiah Daniel IV says of his restored log home, "I can feel what it was like to live like my great-great-grandfather in the 1800s in the woods.” Chambers Architects’ clients Dallas attorney Josiah Daniel and his wife, Susan, were motivated by family history to restore the log house hand-built in 1856 by his Texas ancestor, also named Josiah Daniel. "We couldn't let it go," he says. They bought the home from his cousin and had the logs disassembled and reconstructed for what is now a guesthouse at their weekend farm in Smith County, Texas. The couple enthusiastically invested time and resources into the historically accurate restoration of the 900 square-foot log home that had been in Josiah’s family for over one hundred and fifty years. That meant taking off modifications added over the years, using the same hand-hewn method of his great-great-grandfather and employing early techniques for fashioning half-dovetail notches and mortise-and-tenon joinery.
Invest in Texas Built History
Amber and Walker Ross bought a Victorian home, built between 1908 and 1914, near the Square in Granbury, Texas. The "Granbury Courthouse Square" was the first town square in Texas to be listed in the National Register. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has modeled its Main Street Program after Granbury's restoration efforts. The Texas Historical Commission designated the Bowden-Kinnon home as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. When the couple decided to restore it, they realized they needed an architect. Steve Chambers encouraged the couple to reuse what they could and try to match what they couldn’t, such as the original pine, which has far fewer knots than pine today.
Sustain the Environment
Some owners don't start out as preservationists. They admire the simple style of an early home, or its location in a historical area or preservation district. Often they become more interested in preservation after hiring an architect to restore their home and research its history. Sometimes the attraction is the thrill in finding a unique house with an unusual history. Whatever the reasons, retention of the ‘embodied energy’ already expended to construct an older home is a sustainable act. It enriches the community by re-using materials and increasing the appreciation and respect for the past.
For the Daniels, it was a desire to save a part of their family’s history. For the Rosses it was a respect for the past and an effort to preserve a prime example of their locale’s built history. But, sometimes it’s a just smart investment. While the cost of the restoration can be more than for a renovation using new materials, purchase prices of older homes are often significantly lower than what already-renovated houses cost in highly desirable neighborhoods.
Hire Restoration Professionals
Historic restorations require specialized design skills, labor techniques and materials. An architect, who is familiar with historic restoration and craftsmen who can produce authentic results, is essential. For the Daniels’ guesthouse, there were no photos on which to base the original design. Dallas-based architect Stephen Chambers was able to figure out the home’s original structure by examining the logs, researching similar designs and using clues in the house itself, such as pegs to join the logs. Then two small, shed-like additions for a kitchen and bathroom were added, providing modern amenities.
The results of using historical restoration professionals speak for themselves. The Daniels received the Stewardship Award from Preservation Texas for the restoration of this 1856 Dog Trot log home.
To read the full article in the Wall Street Journal, click on the link in the name of the publication.
An integral part of our curriculum as an architecture student were the ancient builders, buildings and construction techniques of the Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman and other early civilizations. Many years after my days in college, I was able to travel to see some of these architectural wonders, experiencing their scale and magnitude in situ. I am awed at the endurance of the Roman arches.
While arches have existed for roughly 4,000 years, the Romans were the first to effectively employ their use in the construction of bridges, monuments and buildings. The ingenious arch design allows the weight of structures to be evenly distributed along various supports, preventing massive buildings like the Roman Colosseum from crumbling under their own weight. Early engineers improved on arches by flattening the shape to create a segmental arch, repeating them at various intervals. This allowed for the construction of stronger supports in bridges and aqueducts, lending to their ability to create longer spans.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Boone Pickens and master builder Tommy Ford Construction on the Mesa Vista Ranch project that included a bridge and aqueduct, both supported by stone arch construction. The structural design was provided by Pete Hennessey, P.E. who recommended that the project use historic construction techniques that remain relevant today. The bridge and aqueduct are supported by stone arch construction, similar to those built in early civilizations. These types of projects are only possible when all of the professionals involved work successfully as a team from the planning stages and forward into the project. Video of efforts for water and wildlife conservation on Mesa Vista Ranch can be seen below.
The endurance of the Roman arch testifies to the versatility of ancient craftsmen and the continuing purity of their design well into the 21st century.
Below are sketches by Texas architect, Steve Chambers, of early arches and centering (shoring) techniques from the Roman and Gothic periods. Also pictured are examples of modern arches and modern centering done by Tommy Ford Construction at Mesa Vista Ranch. The black and white photo is of the 1911 Monroe Street bridge construction in Spokane, Washington.
Video about Mesa Vista water and wildlife conservation
TEXAS ARCHITECT, STEVE CHAMBERS, COLLABORATES WITH GOODCHILD RESTORATION ON THE DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF A BED AND TABLE FOR THE J-5 RANCH IN WEATHERFORD, TEXAS
The J-5 is a world-class Cutting Horse Ranch in Parker County, a region often called the "Cutting Horse Capitol of the World." The owner and his daughter are cutting horse competitors. Dallas Architect, Steve Chambers of Chambers Architects integrated three antique buildings into the design of the ranch home: a Revolutionary War-era Scots barn from Schenectady County, New York, and two log homes from the 1800s. The rehabilitation of the antique structures was completed at Heritage Restorations in Waco, Texas and constructed into the home by English Heritage Homes of Texas. “Marriage marks" can still be seen on the timber connections of 1770s antique barn.
As with the other phases of the design and construction of the J-5 Ranch, the team of architect, interior designer and client collaborated to create ‘bespoke’ furniture design for the home. Unlike factory made furniture, bespoke design defines and encompasses everything that is unique and individual about the client, in addition to echoing the architecture and historical references of the home. Daniel and his wife, Francesca, are residents of Geneva Switzerland and chose Parker County as the site for the J-5. Once the conceptual drawings provided by Chambers Architects of the furniture were approved, the process for the selection of a craftsman to complete the design began.
Peter Goodchild was selected for the fabrication of the wood pieces because of his appreciation for un-retouched surfaces, patination, minimalist restoration and knowledge of authentic historic furniture making. Peter is descended from three generations of furniture designers and makers in England. His signature aesthetic is to stay as close as possible to historic references, whether he is making Elizabethan or Early Texas style furniture. From remaking horsehair bedding in England at the turn of the 20th century to receiving Royal Commissions, this small family business has a storied history. When King George V died in 1936, leaving the throne to Edward VIII, Edward married Wallis Simpson. The couple moved into the hunting lodge called Fort Belvedere, where Edward signed his abdication papers. Peter’s grandfather refinished all of their furniture, loose covers, carpets and curtains. The Goodchild family shop is located in South Ascot, where the movie industry in the UK often films motions pictures. On one occasion, Gregory Peck called on the Goodchilds to repair a leather seat in his Rolls Royce.
In addition to antique furnishings imported exclusively from England, Goodchild's can create and build unique furniture designs to fit specialized requirements. The workshop offers a full range of restoration and conservation services. Peter Goodchild, is the company president and third generation period furniture restorer and builder.
In the mid-nineteenth century, furniture making in Texas flourished as an art form. Most furniture craftsmen began as cabinetmakers. Two important influences on Texas cabinetmaking were the Anglo-American and German traditions. Texas furniture arts were driven by early Texans’ desire for refinement, gentility and marquetry work. The unavailability of factory-produced furniture due to limited transportation before the arrival of the railroads made custom furniture a necessity. A well-known Swiss German furniture craftsman, Johann Umland, lived in the southeast Texas Hill Country. The bed for the J-5 Ranch master bedroom is based on design created in walnut by Mr. Umland for a Swiss family, the Amslers from Cat Springs, Texas. It is featured in the book, Texas Furniture, Volume 2 by Lonn Taylor and David B. Warren.
Phases of design and fabrication of the master bed for the J-5 Ranch:
1. Research on period furniture
2. Sketches, selection and approval of the design
3. Dimensions and drawings for the furniture maker
4. Creation of a model from cardboard and chipboard to perfect the scale and dimensions
5. Selection of the walnut to be used
6. Decisions on grain and where to place the figured wood
7. Approval of the model
8. Cutting and carving of walnut pieces.
9. Assembly and refinement of the design and carving
10. Selection of color, finishes and patination.
11. Approval of color and finishes on wood samples
12. Application of stains, wax, and finish
13. Delivery to site
14. Assembly onsite
The gallery of photographs below demonstrates the steps that Chambers Architects took to collaborate with the client and furniture maker to develop the design and fabrication of the wood furniture. A future article will detail the fabrication of the wrought iron furniture with blacksmith Caleb Nolen at the Heritage Forge near Elm Mott Texas.
Chambers Architects Visits the Neufeld Collection of Tribal Treasures of Nagaland
When we go to Santa Fe in the summer, we try to catch up with Harry and Tiala Neufeld, ethnographic collectors and dealers who live in Philadelphia. We knew they had a love story nourished by a mutual passion for art the first time we started to converse with them about their work to preserve the design and cultural artifacts of Nagaland.
Through the Neufelds, Texas architect, Steve Chambers became deeply attracted to the art, design, aesthetics, and culture of Nagaland. We care about all dying cultures and, in ten years, there may be nothing remaining of this illustrative society, whose tribes occupy a mountainous state in the northeastern part of India. The Naga culture’s adornment is unsurpassed in terms of individuality and artistry. The breadth of diversity, volume, quality, symmetry and detail are unusual in tribes who possess only primitive tools with which to make their art. It takes strong traditions and dedication to specific design principles to produce textiles, body adornment, costuming, jewelry and basketry of enduring quality and design. With their stripes, grids and zigzagging lines that produce rhythmic geometric patterns, the textiles could have been designed by any number of mid-20th-century Modernists like Anni Albers, or by many of the contemporary artists today. Whimsical hats and headgear fashioned with extensions of spiked and hanging Hornbill feathers, hair and brightly colored materials remind us of the art of the surrealists. Story continues after gallery below.
STEVE CHAMBERS, TEXAS ARCHITECT, VISITS COLLECTIONS THAT TELL STORIES
As part of its corporate mission, Chambers Architects works to preserve culture and history. And to highlight through our blog the people we meet who have the same enthusiasm. This is the second article in a series about an individual intent on historic preservation. Jim Gordon didn’t start out to create a history museum with firearms. In fact, his story is not about firearms at all, but about the history of the people who inhabited this country: Native Americans, lawmen, explorers, Union and Confederate soldiers, ranchers, settlers, Spanish, Mexican, and English. And how they found themselves struggling for something, against all odds, on the frontiers of North America. How he collects and preserves things is more important than any one of the physical objects. His private collection completes an understanding of his country. Story continued in link below gallery...
The gallery below: photos of the extensive collection of paraphernalia from the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the gear and journals of explorer and travel writer, George Frederick Ruxton, who wrote about America's expansion during the policy of Manifest Destiny; a Bowie knife owned by a Mexican General who fought at the Alamo; firearms and military equipment from the French and Indian Wars; the gear of Western trappers, traders, and ranchers; curator Jeff Hengesbaugh; Native American and Spanish Colonial artifacts; an extensive collection of Red Ryder BB guns and collectible toys.