Monday, March 18, 2019

Haish Company Billhead Receipt

This billhead/letterhead was an Ebay find. The sale listing did not provide much information, but it's interesting to see an order for "The Haish Mfg. Co., Manufacturers of The 'Eli' Steel Barb Fence Wire, Stretchers, Staples and Nails."

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Haish mansion model restoration underway

Cameron Simpson, NIU student, restoring the Jacob Haish mansion model. | Photo provided by Cameron Simpson
I've posted about the model of the Jacob Haish mansion before: It was a project by a former Northern Illinois University student, W. Joseph Zack, and provides a great representation of a beautiful building that no longer exists. Its condition has worsened over the years, so I was ecstatic to find out that a current NIU student has tasked herself with the big project of restoring it. 

I interviewed Cameron Simpson, the mastermind behind this restoration project, and her responses are below. I'm looking forward to seeing the model once this project is complete. 

Simpson is also blogging about the progress of this project, and you can follow her journey here

Jessi: How did you get involved with this project? 
Cameron: When I first arrived at NIU, I contacted the Glidden Homestead about possibly volunteering with them in some capacity. I went to chat with Rob Glover ... It was the week before the Memories of the Jacob Haish Mansion event, and Cindy Ditzler from the Regional History Center was dropping off the Haish model for use in the event while I was there. I’d had some dollhouse-building experience in the past, and the model was in extraordinarily rough shape, so I just asked Cindy and Rob if I might be able to stabilize it. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen, but Cindy said yes and I ran with it. 

Jessi: Why did you decide to take on this project? 
Cameron: I decided to take on the Haish house project for a couple of reasons. I am in the honors program at NIU and one of their requirements is that students take part in co-curricular “experiential learning” which can take a variety of forms. Since the Haish house project is pretty involved, and I’m interested in public history-related careers, I decided it would align well with my experiential learning requirement as well as my own interests. 

Jessi: What are you currently working on? 
Cameron: As of late February and early March, I am replacing some lost window glass along the top of the gazebo, and reattaching one of the porches that has fallen off. The gazebo has had some pretty significant moisture damage over the years, so adding a new, thicker set of windows will hopefully reinforce it significantly so I will not have to completely replace the top of the gazebo. As for the porches, there are two in bad shape. One has had the roof and columns fall off with the base remaining attached, and the other has lost the base and columns while the roof remains in place. I’m working with the latter first, since the weight of the roof piece is actually pulling the wall downward. Due to the way each column broke off the base, I have been able to replace them with a pretty significant degree of precision. I am 90% certain where each column went, and in what orientation. In the next couple of months I will be working with the other porch, the porte-cochere (which is the overhang which stretches between the house and the gazebo), and creating a base for the whole model to sit on within its case. 

Jessi: What has been most difficult about this project? 
Cameron: Despite my experience with dollhouse-making, the most challenging part of this whole process has been that I came in with a base level of knowledge at just about zero. I’m not an artist, and I had a limited understanding of a) the quantity of work that this project would take and b) the techniques and materials I would need to execute the stabilization. I was very fortunate that I was surrounded by people who could answer those questions for me and the Regional History Center was willing to purchase the things I needed, but I’ve had to proceed very slowly and carefully in order to make sure I’m not leaving anything in worse shape than I’ve found it. 
Details of the mansion model | Photo provided by Cameron Simpson
Jessi: What has been most enjoyable? 
Cameron: When I first saw the model, it was just a collection of related pieces more than anything. After 40+ hours working with it, the most exciting part has always been finding out where something actually goes. There have been a few times where a piece has been totally mysterious to me, but the feeling when I finally figure out what it is can’t be beat. For instance, there was a strip of sandpaper floating around my supplies for nearly two months, but while I was trying to figure out how to affix the tower back onto the main structure of the model I realized that the sandpaper filled a gap between the wall of the tower and the main part of the mansion! There was a matching piece on the other side that I hadn’t even recognized until I looked for it. 

Jessi: What is the final goal of the project? 
Cameron: Whereas in a museum you might see paintings or furniture that look flawless, that is not our goal with the Haish model. Our goal is to stabilize the model so it can be displayed in the Founders Gallery within the Founders Memorial Library, not necessarily a full restoration to its 1981 glory. For instance, I will not be repainting any areas where paint has flaked off or discolored. The Regional History Center has decided that my work should tell the visual story of the model as well as the Haish mansion. 

Jessi: What have you learned about Haish along the way? 
Cameron: My primary occupation has been with the physical structure of Haish’s house rather than his biography, but nevertheless in the process of my work I’ve realized how important Haish is to this community. I’ve attended events about Jacob Haish and spoken to people who have an unexpectedly vested interest in my work. 

Jessi: Anything else you'd like to add? 
Cameron: This project has given me all kinds of weird and wonderful experiences. The most pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moment was almost certainly when I went to speak with a conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago. I got the idea in my head that I would call the Art Institute and ask to speak with someone who could answer my questions about how, exactly, I would do this big and scary project. I ended up calling and they put me in contact with the conservator of the Thorne Miniature Rooms, who invited me to come visit her back in October. I got a tour of her studio, as well as the larger conservation studio within the Art Institute. Everyone I met was very helpful and gave me some great procedural and material recommendations.

Details of the mansion model | Photo provided by Cameron Simpson