Author and artist Eric Sloane (1905-1985) photographed outside of the newly built Noah Blake cabin, probably late summer of 1974. It appears that Eric has in his right hand several riven wooden shingles. After a period of about a decade of being shuttered to public visitation, the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum undertook a 4 year project of completely rebuilding the cabin, using as a template the cabin as drawn by Eric in his 1962 “Dairy of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805”. You can read more about the cabin, and the book that inspired it here: www.friendsoftheericsloanemuseum.org/cabin
Come celebrate with us on July 2, 2022. Admission is free. We will have live music, demonstrations, gust speakers, tours, food, and more. Looking forward to seeing you at the Eric Sloane Museum! For additional information, please call Andrew at the museum – 860- 927-3849.
Two of the nicest gentlemen you would care to meet. On the left is Andrew Rowand, who has done an incredible amount of work as the Site Manager for the museum. Andrew is incredibly hard working, has fantastic ideas, and is very knowledgeable about Eric Sloane, the museum, and many, many historic crafts and trades. He has been a great partner! On the right is John Pennings, my successor in every meaning of the word. John is a natural leader, and is very skilled and knowledgeable in more things than I can even remember. Thank you, John, for serving as our board president. We’re surveying the lean-to shed and listening to Andrew’s needs for an enclosed space dedicated to education…it looks as if this will be the next major project that the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum will undertake in support of our mission to assist the museum. We will keep you posted!
A big thank you to Scott Sheldon and John Pennings of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum and museum head Andrew Rowand for all their incredible work on the Noah Blake cabin yesterday! My special thanks to Andrew for going the extra mile in helping me to install the brand new hands-on simple machines exhibit in the cabin. Visitors young and old can now experiment with simple machines and understand fully how they can provide a mechanical advantage.
Thinking over this evening all I have to take to the Eric Sloane Museum to do some spring maintenance on the recently rebuilt Noah Blake cabin. If you haven’t read Eric Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy, may I humbly suggest that it is time that you did.
“Smoke Houses” by Eric Sloane, N.A.. This charmer is from Eric’s 1966 book “An Age of Barns”. The book was a first for Eric Sloane in many ways, but the two most significant were that it was his first “coffee table” sized book, and it was arguably his first real tour de force in large, fully rendered pen and ink illustration. As evident here, Eric could turn a seemingly mundane aspect of early American vernacular architecture (anything from outhouses to smoke houses!) into a fascinating, entertaining, educational, and charming drawing. Interestingly, Eric almost always created illustrations to size, meaning that he had a good idea of how much space on a page he would have on a finished, published book, and worked his drawings to that size. One of the aspects of illustrations I love from An Age of Barns is that they are all large, much larger than the finished space they occupy in the published book. Whether Eric was ensuring that the published drawings retained a higher level of detail – or if the original idea was to print An Ag of Barns in a larger size (or both) – his pen and ink illustrations created for the book are magnificent. Note also the incorporation of a lined and signed mat.
Over the course of his career, Eric Sloane painted many murals. Quite a few were in private homes, many others were in corporate settings. These photographs were taken by Wil Mauch in 1999/2000 of a Sloane mural in the headquarters of the now defunct International Silver Company in Meriden, Connecticut.
Photos from Wil Mauch’s Aware: A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane. You can learn more about this most fascinating of American, as well as order the Aware biography with proceeds going to the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum, by visiting www.weatherhillfarm.com.
In the summer of 2016, Barb Russ of the Eric Sloane Museum was made aware of an estimate to have the Noah Blake Outhouse refurbished, the low estimate coming in at over $7,500. Friends board founder and president James ‘Wil’ Mauch conferred with Barb and with Catherine Labadia of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development concerning the willingness of the state to have the Friends assume responsibility for the outhouse, and it was agreed that Wil would either restore or replicate the outhouse based upon an assessment of the structure.
The underside of the Noah Blake outhouse revealed the substantial degradation of the bottom support structure. Much of the wood showed signs of wood destroying insect infestation.
The initial intent was to repair the outhouse following the recommendations set forth by the architectural firm hired by the state of Connecticut to provide building assessments for structures at the Eric Sloane Museum of Kent. Unfortunately, the outhouse was more substantively degraded than it appeared in situ. After a thorough condition assessment, it was determined that it would have been very difficult and not cost effective to repair the outhouse following the plan set forth in the architectural overview document. It was far more cost effective to replace the outhouse, with the added benefit that the outhouse would be more in keeping historically with what Eric Sloane envisioned in Diary of An Early American Boy.
Interior framing of the Noah Blake outhouse, showing modern dimensional lumber and framing nails.
Detail of the framing used in the Noah Blake outhouse
Unfortunately, most of the sawn lumber was rotted and displayed obvious signs of having been cut with a circular blade. Ironically, Sloane himself wrote of the invention of the circular saw by a Quaker woman in 1825. Others have pointed to an earlier date for the invention, but either historical possibility makes it difficult to believe that an outhouse supposedly standing in 1805 would be clad in boards that were cut by a circular saw.
The approach taken in the reconstruction of the Noah Blake outhouse was one that placed the outhouse in context with both what Eric drew in his illustrations for the Diary book, as well as what was happening historically in the Kent area c. 1805. Both suggested heavier timber framed construction, blacksmith forged nails, period door hinges, split shingle roof shakes, and lumber dressed to reflect ways of working wood in the period.
The discussions and research that informed the approach of the outhouse was considered when discussing the refurbishment of the Noah Blake cabin. The cabin, it turned out, presented many of the exact same challenges as the outhouse, with an added and important twist…