In 1900, Charles Goodhue drew this sketch from the memory of an elderly parishioner. This is one of the only remaining images that depict the building from this era. Fortunately, evidence within the building has proven this sketch to be remarkably accurate.
From the beginning of our involvement in the project, we have been looking forward to restoring the tripartite arched fan to the pediment. We were unsure whether any evidence for it remained, and if the fan existed at all, whether we would be able to reproduce it accurately. Much of the pediment had been changed, with three newer openings cut into the sheathing, and one window inserted directly into the space where the fan would have been.
When stripping the pediment of its last remaining shingles, we found a series of tiny holes outlining a tripartite arch, with two sides flanking the central window, and a central arch likely to have had its apex somewhere in the top half of the window opening. These holes had the pattern of flashing nails, small nails that were closely set in order to hold up heavy lead flashing. It seems that the fan drawn in the Goodhue sketch was not a fully permeable louvered fan, but a decorative adornment that likely had a smaller central opening that vented the attic through the lower, central panel of the arch. We will never know for sure, because the addition of a 20th century window obliterated the central section of sheathing.
We used a cabinet and furniture maker in Sheepscot to reproduce the fan using a CNC machine. Along with the Committee to Restore the Abyssinian, we decided to use a non-traditional method of construction because the fan will not be used to vent the attic, and traditionally arched louvers are notoriously difficult to flash and maintain.
The new fan was flashed in a custom copper cap by The Heritage Company of Waterboro, Maine. We work with Victor Wright, a fourth generation slate and copper roofing specialist, for virtually all our flashing needs; from soldering entire copper tile roofs, to custom trim flashing such as we needed for this project.
When we went to pick up the fan, it took four of Victor’s employees to load it safely into the truck. We were able to muckle the fan out of the truck and between the staging and the front of the church, and assumed that if two of us could carry it, surely we would be able to lift it into position using ropes and our body weight. We secured two ropes to the ledger carrying the fan, and threaded them over staging ledgers at the top of the tower. We pulled on the ropes and nothing happened. Then we hung on each of our ropes and the fan still didn’t move. Last we both hung on one rope, attached to one side of the fan, and not one corner would budge. In the end, we needed a winch, attached to the back of Arron’s truck, to lift the fan into position, and we were happy for this safer solution. Once we had the fan in position, we used timberlocks to secure the fan to the studs behind the pediment. Click on the photos below for more information: