Nearly 160 years after Jacob Sloat completed construction of the mansion that he designed and named Harmony Hall, the Friends of Harmony Hall ~ Jacob Sloat House embarked upon a campaign during the winter of 2009 to raise the funds required to restore the ground floor rooms to their former glory. Thanks to the generous contributions of members, friends and the town, the floors of the magnificent double parlor, formal dining room, former library, large entry hall and the grand staircase
hallway have been expertly restored.
After spending three long years working to
uncover hidden fireplaces, windows and
staircases that were miraculously entombed by former owners behind plasterboard walls during the century that the house served as an inn, a restaurant and an adult care facility, the Friends worked with the Town of Ramapo to rip up decades of modern flooring to uncover the original, wide oak floorboards that once dominated the mansion’s interiors. The somewhat fragile condition of these
floorboards in the high-traffic areas of the central hallway, double parlor and dining room prompted the Friends to designate the restoration of the floors in those rooms as the group’s initial interior restoration target.
Funds were raised over the next 18 months
from individual donors, and through a series of small fundraising initiatives that included restoration raffles at our Sloatsburg Day and Victorian Holiday events. The final $1000 required to complete fundraising tasks was pledged by the Town of Ramapo in August 2010, allowing the restoration work to begin
in early September. Over a period of nearly
two weeks, damaged floors were sanded down until the original pine floorboards were finally
cleared of glue and other debris.
When the initial sanding had been completed, the condition of the floors throughout the main floor were carefully evaluated by members of the Friends' Restoration Committee. After more than a century of use as an inn, restaurant and adult care facility, it was clear that sections of the original flooring had been seriously damaged due to modernization of the building or, in some cases, inappropriate use of the original mansion rooms. The most serious case was the mansion library, which had served as a kitchen, causing rotting to occur in sections that were too large to replace. In those rooms where repairs could be made to damaged floors, however, boards from the fire-damaged third floor were harvested and used to repair holes and other areas of the floor that had been seriously damaged.
When repairs were completed, work began on the application of a finish that would weather the coming and going of the hundreds of visitors who enter the mansion each year. Because the building will be maintained as a cultural center rather than a museum house, it was critical that at least four layers of a suitably hard finish be applied to the floors. After each coat was applied, the finish was allowed to dry over a period of approximately two weeks before it was sanded and made ready for the next coat. The final application was applied at the end of the first week of October with instructions that the house should remain closed to foot traffic for another three weeks, creating the need to postpone this autumn's Friday Night Salon Series for two weeks in order to ensure that the newly-restored floors would not be damaged.
With the restoration of the floors completed,
we look forward to welcoming members and guests to the South Salon once again for our fall lecture series and, most particularly, for this year's Victorian Holiday celebration on December 5th, when we will be providing information to our guests regarding restoration plans for 2011.