Bricks will start coming down Thursday at the Kaminski House Museum, but only as a step in rebuilding the historic site’s exterior to help preserve its future.
A formal brick removal ceremony at 4 p.m. will mark the first step in a project to repair a damaging moisture problem between the brick facade added in the 1940s over much of the clapboard siding. The home, built in about 1769, was willed to the city of Georgetown by its final resident, Julia Pyatt Kaminski, who died in 1972. After many years of operating a house museum, the city handed management to the Friends of the Kaminski House on July 1, 2013.
The group’s chairwoman, Elaine Waddell, shared the scope of the project, for which heavy homework with consultations and research was invested.
Question | How long has this endeavor been in the planning stage?
Answer | We’ve been working on this for a long time, probably about three years. Several years ago, the Friends became concerned because the interior of the house seemed to be deteriorating, so we had a consultation with a structural engineer and an architect. The outcome of that was the conclusion that the brick facade put on in the late 1940s was kind of like an envelope, holding the moisture in. ... So we set about a series of plans and consultations with various firms – architectural and engineering – and decided to get that brick taken care of.
We went to the architectural review board in Georgetown ... so we have their approval and blessing. Money for this project is coming from grants from Santee Cooper, S.C. Department of Archives and History, and the North Eastern Strategic Alliance.
Q. | How much of the house’s condition of concern is affected by the brick?
A. | It’s from the Front Street side, where you come into the house, and it’s the complete back of the house, wrapping around to the other side. It’s a lot of brick. When the brick is removed, there will obviously need to to be some immediate repairs, perhaps around windows and doors. ... We don’t know what condition the clapboard is in.
Q. | What “guesstimate” for a time frame might this venture take?
A. | To get the bricks down is not very long at all. ... We’re going to try to preserve as much of the bricks as we can, with plans for storage, the bricks that we can reuse for something. The estimated “guesstimate” is a month to six weeks; we’re not exactly sure. The crews will start removing bricks at the top, next to the roof line. We hope it can be a methodical process; we’re just keeping our fingers crossed.
Q. | What will the formal ceremony Thursday afternoon mean beyond the brick itself?
A. | The ceremony ... is really to mark the fact that at last, we have the monies in hand, the approval we need, and a good construction company on board, and Michael Walker, of Tych & Walker Architects in Murrells Inlet, who is the architect ... our supervisor for the job. We feel like it’s a cause for celebration to finally reach this stage, and we want to thank everyone involved to get us here.
Q. | How is the home’s history covered for visitors?
A. | When we walk people through the stages of the house, we have photos of what the house looked like. ... We think that Harold and Julia Pyatt Kaminski, the last people to own the house, were adding the facade because when other houses were being built in that time period, in the 1940s, with the brick ... we think they liked that look. So they put up this brick facade. It was very stylish, and at that time, very handsome. ...
We’re taking the exterior of the house to a time when the Kaminskis bought it, so we’re moving back an era. Mrs. Kaminski was very specific in her will in that the house and contents be kept ... as a museum, as a memory of her husband and her mother-in-law. Nothing in the will states that we can’t make improvements to the house and the lawn. ... This is the beginning of the best way to preserve it.
Q. | What might come next on the checklist in taking good care of the site?
A. | After we get the bricks off and make the necessary repairs ... we will start a capital campaign to raise the funds to replace the HVAC system with a museum quality system so the temperature inside the house can be regulated more easily, and then work on cosmetic repairs, such as peeling paint and small cracks, and unfortunately, mildew. It’s an ongoing process.
Q. | Anything else special on a wish list?
A. | We’re looking at helping to start a performance guild. ... We would like to partner with other groups or live arts groups where we could all do something together.
Q. | How many people make up the Friends of Kaminski House, and what other ways does the group reach out?
A. | We have 175 members, and we want to improve that. We have a membership form. When people visit, we hope they will be as excited as we are about the house and join. ...
Also, we encourage people to go see Brookgreen Gardens and other museums in the Georgetown area. We also have a new Gullah museum in Georgetown. We want people to come to Georgetown ... and enjoy it and see all that there is to offer.