The historic renovation of the Brattonsville Brick House is ongoing in York County, South Carolina. Work on the home, which is located in McConnells, began with the roof in December 2013. An exact match for the dwelling's original Thomas Jefferson Tinplate Roof could not be made, but an acceptable substitute was found through the specification of facsimile plates made of stainless steel from Contrarian Metal Resources.
The building is believed to have been built in 1843 for Dr. John Simpson Bratton, Sr. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Brattonsville Historic District, which was created in 1971. The restoration team has worked to be true to the original design and materials and through investigation of historical records and technology; including microscopic paint analysis, the origins of products originally used for construction have been determined and are being recreated and replicated with modern materials. Restoring the Brattonsville Brick House to its former glory from the 1850’s to the 1870’s was the goal as it played a key role in the community and in our nation’s history at that time. The building has served as a store, a post office, a home and as an academy.
The guidelines for a historic restoration were established by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, commonly referred to as the Secretary of Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and are designed to Preserve, Rehabilitate, Restore or Reconstruct a historic building.
The Bratton Brick House is not like buildings found commonly in this area of South Carolina at the time it was built, but rather resembles buildings built at the time in Virginia. During the early investigation of the building, it was thought that a standing seam roof had been used originally, but the nailing patterns were not consistent with that type of roof.
D. Shawn Beckwith, Preservation Coordinator/Restoration Specialist of Historic Brattonsville, explained that the Pavilions of the Academical Village, designed by Thomas Jefferson constructed at the University of Virginia before 1826, had tinplate roofs that did not require soldering but rather consisted of thin wrought iron sheets dipped in tin, the edge of each plate was fitted into the fold of the plate, folded over and nailed to the wood roof sheathing. Jefferson used this roof system on his homes, Monticello and Poplar Forest, as well.
Martin Meek, FAIA, who drew the as-built drawings for the project, steered Beckwith to a book “Metals in America’s Historic Buildings,” published by the National Parks Service. In this book it states:
“Tin roofs, as they were commonly called, were noncombustible, lightweight, and durable. When kept well painted, tinplate roofs often lasted 50-100 years or longer" ... "for the first third of the 19th Century, tinned iron roofs were constructed from plates measuring a standard 10 inches by approximately 14 inches. In the 1830’s plates 20 inches by 14 inches became available.” (The nailing pattern measured 20 X14 inches for the brick house.) “Standing seam tinplate roofs did not come into common use until the Civil War era. Tinplates were soldered together with flat seams to form long strips, which were joined to other strips by standing seams.”
Investigation of an original tinplate showed that it had a coating of tinner’s red; a form of paint. The standard replacement for a tinplate roof is Terne or Terne-Coated Stainless. The major producer of this product was not fabricating that product during construction and an alternative needed to be found.
“The Museum did not want to install a copper roof, an acceptable substitute even with painting, because it would add conjecture to being as authentic as possible for the Historic Brattonsville mission statement,” explained Beckwith.
The contract was awarded to Centennial Preservation Group, LLC, who subcontracted the roofing installation to The Century Slate Company. Mike Tenoever, CEO of Century Slate, through the submittal process, proposed using InvariMatte stainless steel from Contrarian Metal Resources as a substitute for the inability to procure TCSII specified in the contract documents.
InvariMatte stainless steel was also selected for the counter and drip flashings for the wooden section of the building because from a stewardship viewpoint it was the best solution to have all the metal the same. InvariMatte stainless steel is compatible with the pressure treated Life Pine™ wood shakes.
The Brick House roof is unique; the original brick section is metal, then around 1850 an addition made of wood was added which had a pine shake roof. Installing the new roofing system required removing the five v crimp metal down to the existing roof deck, installing new plywood decking over existing decking, then ice and water under-shield, and then pressure treated wood shakes by Life Pine™ or individually custom made metal shingles made of InvariMatte. This allows the roof to be reversible, a requirement for the preservation standards and a new solid roof system that complies with modern building codes. The metal was primed then painted tinner’s red using Rapidri® paints to recreate the original tinner’s red found during the investigation of the building’s origins.
Tenoever explained that without an actual roof to use as a template it was necessary to determine how to balance modern construction methods and materials with historical methods and materials. “The owner is pleased with the results and by using InvariMatte Type 316 Stainless Steel as the fabrication of the shingle we have selected a material that will last longer than any other material out on the market,” he added.
Photographs courtesy of © D. Shawn Beckwith