Monday, March 21, 2011

Build a better brick house

If you've never really looked at a brick wall, you may never have noticed the mortar holding it together. But that mortar is key: it's the bond keeping the bricks -- and therefore the wall itself -- in place. Using the wrong mortar or not replacing old, cracked mortar can damage the building.

The process of replacing mortar is call tuckpointing. It's an extremely important task -- if the mortar in a brick wall is cracked, water can seep through into the walls, and then down come the bricks. We want the house to last for another century, so we take our time to do the tuckpointing right.

The Gardner House Team mixes its own mortar, similar to the kind the original builder would have used. A more modern, cement-based mortar would actually cause damage to the building. In fact, some of the mortar we've taken out was doing just that.

Before you can add new mortar, you first have to get rid of the old. Tony is carefully using a chisel to chip it out.

The next step is to tuck the new mortar in with a tool called a pointing trowel. That's what Adam is doing here.

After that, all that's left is to smooth over your work and let it dry.

With the all-brick construction of the Gardner House, students have spent hours painstakingly removing the old mortar and replacing it with new -- and there's plenty of work yet to do. When you come to April's open house, take a close look at the walls and see the work they've done!

Photos by Amanda Hardeman

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The Gardner House is an early 19th century brick hall-and-parlor house located on the Upper Green River Biological Preserve. The Flemish bond house is one of the oldest homes in Hart County and, despite the care taken by owners over the years, at the beginning of the 21st century, its age was definitely showing.

This historic house has now become a restoration project for Western Kentucky University's Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology, providing hands-on training in historic preservation to WKU students. Since 2003, students have been active in researching and documenting the structure. The first step was a student project to develop a Cultural Resource Management Plan and nominate the structure to the National Register of Historic Places. Students, directed by Tonya Taylor, then "mothballed" the structure to prevent further deterioration. Subsequent student projects, directed for two years by Taylor and then by James Miller (pictured here), have included replacing mortar in the house, adding new gutters, replacing the roof, and repairing and replacing historic windows. Though the restoration is not yet complete, many hours of work by several classes has made quite a difference.

The Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology is pleased to invite the public to view the process of preserving this priceless piece of Hart County history. An open house will be held on April 29 and 30 from 10-4 each day and will include tours of the house, live music, and exhibits focusing on preservation and Hart County Life.

All members of the public are welcome, including school groups, but appointments are required. To reserve your place, please email with the time you'd like to stop by. Directions will be provided.

Please stop back by for updates and more information on the Gardner House!

Photo by Amanda Hardeman

Community Open House

Thanks for stopping by the Gardner Historic House blog! If you'd like to visit the actual house, now's your chance.

The Gardner House will be open to the public THIS SATURDAY, September 27, 2014 from 9:00am to 3:00pm. SEE YOU THERE! For more information, go to

We look forward to seeing you there!