Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
Most of the very old houses and barns in New Jersey and Long Island were made of hewn timber.
Trees are felled in the woods and cut square with a broadax.
One may see the marks of the broadax on the sides of the timbers.
With the march of the City out through Hollis and Queens and Springfield I have witnessed the tearing down of many old houses and barns.
Many of these old houses are made of hewn timbers, even the rafters. The laths were made by hand and the nails wrought by hand.
We had such a hewn timber barn on our place at Metuchen.
The timbers are cut to length. They are tenoned and mortised and pinned together with heavy oak pins while lying on the ground.
When the sill is in place on the foundation these frames for the sides and interior supports are raised into place by large gangs of men.
I witnessed one such raising in 1876 when Mr. David Cottrell's house was built across the street from our house at the west end of Metuchen.
A crowd of men with long poles having sharp spikes fixed in the ends raised the heavy frames into place just as we see men raising telephone poles nowadays.
At such a "raising" the carpenters and some of their helpers are paid, but the other helpers are volunteers compensated by the free hard cider and plentiful eats. These "raisings" in the old days were made the occasions of great jollifications.
Nowadays barns and houses are put up one timber at a time and nailed as put up.
When I was surveying in the mountains near Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey I ran across an old man who was hewing timbers for railroad ties.
He told me that he had been cutting railroad ties on that mountain side for twenty years.
A broadax is an ax with a very broad blade and a short handle.
It is used for flattening the sides of timbers. A saw or an ordinary ax is used for cross-cutting.
The space between the outside clapboards and the plaster wall in many old houses is filled in with brick. This is better than nothing. The diagonal sheathing with the building paper is said to be better insulation.
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Lasted updated 6/8/99 by Jim Halpin.