Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN–Part 3

I’m doing better. I’m posting only a week after the last visit to the house.

I visited the project site last Saturday (2 previous posts will give newcomers information on the project) and found the men hard at work as usual. David Collier, the project manager, was there, so we were able to discuss some of the ideas that various folk have had about how we could interpret the house in an educational environment that includes a wide range of historical subjects as well as audiences [Video of house here.].

David Collier shows off the new shakes (shingles) for the roof.

David Collier shows off the new shakes (shingles) for the roof.

The main roof was on the second section of the house and preparations being made to add the cedar shakes that will

Roofing continues on the Asbury-Babb House near Lebanon, TN

cover the entire roof. Said shakes had arrived a day or so before and David explained their construction to me, also pointing out the areas where the logs were different because the old ones had rotted away and the new ones had to be done in as close to original manner as possible (a major delay in the reconstruction.) [Video here.]

The spaces between logs will be filled with a mixture that includes clay and straw.

He also explained the “chinking” process by which

we will fill the spaces between the logs.

We are currently looking for a good, relatively nearby, source of clay of the type that would have been available to the original builders.

As always, my “video” footage was just simply the clicking of the switch to let the camera run while I looked, we talked, (okay, mostly I talked, unless David was educating me as to the process,) and therefore the sound is not well balanced nor are any of the niceties one expects with edited footage present. At least David was aware enough to occasionally ask if I was filming and then point me at something. I think David will have a very good presentation style when the time comes to do educational programs for the process (note: I am volunteering him, but have not asked him) that will accompany Linda Collier’s (his wife and curator of the A-B House) presentations on the history of the home.

For those of you who are a bit more worried about the quality of the images, never fear. There are much better footage and images out there, and they will be presented at a later date.

The home site is not ready for unauthorized visitors. Bethlehem Church, however, does not consider visitors unauthorized. Please drop by and visit them for worship. They are located at 2102 Lebanon Road (US HWY 70) at the corner of Bethlehem Rd. (Map.) their number is 615-449-3234

Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN–Part 2

First, I apologize for the delay in this second installment on the process and progress of the reconstruction of the Asbury-Babb House in Lebanon, TN. Shortly after my last visit I had several major personal issues that required my undivided attention. I am sure that all who are interested in this project would be willing to cut me a bit of slack, so I will not go into the details at this time.

I was quite pleased at the progress made by on the house when I visited on 16 July, nearly a month ago. The second story was up on the two-story side, the rafters fully in place and roofing underway on the other side.

2-story portion of house

Two-Story Portion of Asbury Babb House Before Roofing

1 story portion of house

Single-Story Portion of Asbury-Babb House With Roofing Underway

If one did not know that this was a reconstruction of a historic building, one might think that it was just a standard construction project, although not as elaborate as others in the area.

men working on roof

The Reassembly Team Working on Roof of Asbury-Babb House

Roofing was underway on the single-story while I was there, and most of the logs and other sundry materials were cleared away as they had already been incorporated back into the house.

The Area Beyond the Trees is a Private Residence. The Clear Area in the Fore-Ground is the Churchyard, Once Covered With Logs

Although modern tools were used for many parts of the work, and many neighbors and business folk have gladly lent their equipment, time and talent to this project, it was fascinating to watch the parts of the work done in a more traditional style. One of our primary workers (I apologize for letting his name slip my mind at the moment, but hopefully it will come back to me to replace this notation before too many have read this) gave me a rundown on some of the tools that were used and also on some of our log expert’s other old tools.

The rundown included showing how specific tools were used to cut and shape the logs and rafters for

Demonstration of Tools From Era of Asbury-Babb House. Hopefully the House Will be Used for a Variety of Education Techniques and Subjects

specific purposes, (techniques used to prepare the logs that had to be replaced,) as well as a demonstration of the used of a specific adz used to make wooden bowls (video here.) Although this last was not of use in the building of the home per se, it foreshadows  future demonstrations for school children, tourists, visitors, or other interested parties.

I was also shown some of the reproduction work being done to replace damaged attributes of the original house, including “beads” in the rafters. The intention is to restore the house as closely as possible to “original” state, while not losing sight of the fact that it represents the history of the following 200 years as well. (Video showing discussion of both, here.)

Detail of Interior of Asbury-Babb House Showing "Bead" Work During Reconstruction

The work proceeds well, as I said, and I have been informed that the team has received input from restoration people working at the Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson, into a way to produce and apply the shakes for the roof. Chinking, internal work, and a variety of details remain to be taken care of, but the heavy lifting is mostly out of the way. Although it will be awhile yet before things have progressed to the point of doing tours again, not to mention coordinating with other institutions to provide an educational experience regarding Tennessee, Lebanon, Methodist, or general frontier history, as a trained public historian I can say I am pleased with how much progress has been made in the heat, not to mention the other, more severe weather we endured earlier in the year.

A Primary Team Member Takes a Break in the Heat

I hope to visit the site again very soon, and give further updates. I am starting a new job (besides my unpaid lay-ministry of historical and communication work) that will change my schedule somewhat, but I hope it will increase rather than decrease my ability to visit, and maybe I will be able to better connect those who wish to learn about Methodist and Lebanon history with the completed project. In the meantime, to those businessmen and women, neighbors, and folk from a distance who have just heard about the project and offered their good wishes, we want you to know that we do appreciate your contributions. We will extend more formal thanks as the project comes to a close (we do have a contact list, never fear,) but the team has informed me that they are grateful and could not have gotten this far without you. Just the same, the project is not finished, so keep it, the team, and the rest of us in your thoughts and prayers.

We welcome your comments. Please note that comments are filtered only to keep the site free of spam. For that reason, there could be a small interlude before a comment is posted as it is checked for authenticity. Content is not filtered, unless it is of a nature that falls under the obviously unjustified personal attack category. We reserve the right to remove words traditionally accepted as profanity, and will note that this has been done.

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, and posts this blog from that point of view.  A trained professional historian, he holds a Masters in History and is a Certified Archivist, working in the public and academic sector in addition to his work with the church. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, and with practice focusing on religious history, oral history, and user advocacy. His primary area of historical expertise is the creation, preservation, perpetuation, dissemination, and use of information and technology, as well as religious history. He can be reached at archivist@tnumc.org. He also blogs at other sites (his own and as guest or designated blogger,) under both his own name and pseudonyms.

Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN

The Asbury-Babb House

The Asbury-Babb House as it looked in late Dec. 2003

The Asbury-Babb house, long associated with the last known place where Francis Asbury, the senior bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, formally preached is rapidly rising again in Lebanon, TN. (Well, rapidly is a relative term, as much of the work on this historic log home must be done by hand, and the hands of specially trained and qualified people at that. Still, it is progressing much more rapidly than has been possible until recently.) The log home was the owned by the prominent Babb family and was used by circuit-riding preachers when they came by. Asbury stayed there when he presided over the Tennessee Annual Conference shortly before his death. He was headed for other conferences when he died, but never reached them. He was ill during the Tennessee Conference, held at Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Church (currently Bethlehem UMC, located directly in front of the present site of the home.) Some circuit riders reported that he preached and confirmed from the upstairs window of the home. Accounts vary a bit, but it is known that he stayed in the home during the conference and was taken there while ill. It was from there that he departed the last annual conference he ever attended.

The Babb home was moved from its original site a few hundred yards up the hill behind the church to its present location in the 1970s. Recognizing its historical significance to the history of both the church and the area (Methodism played an important role in the settling of the West, the Babbs were prominent in the area, and the home had unusual, if not unique, architectural features) the Tennessee Conference made it a historic site and transferred the management of the property to the Conference Commission of Archives and History (CAH).
The CAH administered it as a museum, where artifacts were displayed and history was interpreted to visitors by a volunteer curator/docent. Because the building had been occupied until the 1950s, it had some modern features. Electricity had been added and it was also used on occasion as a meeting place. Unfortunately, the building deteriorated during lean budget times. Experts were consulted regarding the historical value and preservation needs of the structure as far back as 2004, but it was not until fairly recently that the funds were found to restore the building.

The manner of the restoration was the subject of much discussion, as history professionals know often occurs in such cases. The decision finally agreed upon was to disassemble the home, marking and saving the logs, treating the materials, and then reassembling them with an eye to trying to be as true to the original design as possible. It was known upfront that compromises would have to be made, but as the home was not in its “original” state at the time of the dis-assembly, and indeed had not been for over a century, this was not, in the end, a big issue. Once the structure is completely reassembled, it may be a part not only of the interpretation of the early frontier life, but of the changing nature of the region, the church, and even of the process by which we choose to preserve and present history. It has the potential to be a great asset to the church and the community.

Michael Gavin, log structure specialist

Michael Gavin, log structure specialist, evaluating structure in 2004.

Michael Gavin, characteristics of house

Michael Gavin, log structure specialist, speaks of characteristics of house in 2004.

The Asbury-Babb restoration process has been long. Besides financial issues, there have been the inevitable delays in the different phases of the project caused by bureaucracy as decisions were made through various formal processes. (The CAH is, after all, a commission of the church; full disclosure, I am a member) as well as those attributable to weather, the health of the contractor, and the fact that volunteers were being used for much of the unskilled work. Local people and businesses contributed work, equipment, or gave discounted rates for a variety of things, which helped get the job done, but such processes take time to arrange and often require adjusting the work to fit the schedule of the contributor.

All that being said, the walls are rising and the rafters will soon be in place. We anticipate the frame, minus the chinking, roof, and some details, will be completed by the fall. I went to Lebanon to see the progress today (28 June 2010) and was astounded at the progress made. I hope to visit more often and post updates here.

Log home specialist hand-shapes logs

Mark, a log home specialist, hand-shapes logs during re-assembly

Re-assembly1

Re-assembly of Asbury-Babb House moving right along

David Collier has been the CAH’s project manager for this, at least officially. His wife, Linda, is the curator of the home, as well as a member of the Tennessee Conference Historical Society and the CAH (it is she that has been baking the brownies for the Historical Society luncheon at Annual Conference, I understand) and so they are pretty much a team. Two for the price of one. They have sought out, or been sought out by, a myriad of volunteers and experts over the past couple of years. After we have a chance to get “thank yous” to those folks, we will have to record the story of the house for posterity. Larry Marshall is presently the chair of the CAH, although the project predates his tenure.

In the meantime, if you have any comments on the project, please let us know. Several proposals have been made regarding the home and its use both for the benefit of the church and the community in the coming years.
Check back for updates.

[Unedited video of trip on Youtube, here. Quality poor, but gives some idea of where things are- Jim]

Jim

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