Pearl S. Buck House restora­tions en­ter fi­nal stage

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - SPORTSROUNDUP - By Bob Keeler

Pearl S. Buck’s clothes have been bagged up.

Shelved books at the home of the Pulitzer and No­bel prize-win­ning writer in Hill­town are cov­ered with plas­tic. Fur­ni­ture is be­ing cov­ered and moved around to PDNH ZDy IRU WHH fiQDO VWDJHV of what has been a mul­ti­year restora­tion project.

“They’re ba­si­cally work­ing from the out­side in and QRZ WHHVH DUH WHH fiQLVHing touches,” said Donna Rhodes, cu­ra­tor of the Pearl S. Buck House.

Re­main­ing work in­cludes WHLQJV VXFH DV SDLQWLQJ, flRRUing, alarm sys­tems, up­grad­ing the heat­ing sys­tems and rewiring the en­tire home.

Buck, who died in 1973, lived at the home with her sec­ond hus­band, Richard Walsh, be­tween 1935 and 1960, when Walsh died.

The ear­li­est por­tion of it was built in about 1740, with ma­jor ad­di­tions about 1825 and again in 1935 through 1938, Rhodes said.

“7HH HRXVH UHDOOy UHflHFWV 300 years of Bucks County’s ar­chi­tec­ture,” she said.

All the stone for the dif­fer­ent parts of the house came from the same quarry, she said.

“It’s seam­lessly blended,” she said.

What makes

the Buck home par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing is that all of the orig­i­nal items are still there, she said.

“There are no props in the house,” Rhodes said. “Th­ese are all things the fam­ily used ev­ery day.”

7HH WLPH IUDPH UHflHFWHG by the house is 1938 through 1948, she said.

“That’s when the farm was thriv­ing,” Rhodes said. “The chil­dren were here grow­ing up.”

Buck and Walsh were also work­ing at the home at the time, she said.

Dances were held for re­turn­ing veter­ans at the home and dur­ing the war years, the farm was self-sus­tain­ing, she said.

Buck built an ice skat­ing rink in the com­mu­nity and lo­cal peo­ple were among the early sup­port­ers of her pro­grams to sup­port spon­sor­ships and adop­tions for multi-cul­tural chil­dren, a some­what rad­i­cal idea at the time, Rhodes said.

“This is a snap­shot into the his­tory of our area and the coun­try as well,” Rhodes said.

“It’s a real pic­ture of not just the home, but the com­mu­nity as well,” she said. “Ev­ery­body was wel­come here. It was an open area for the en­tire com­mu­nity.”

When Buck died, she left the house to the or­ga­ni­za­tion that she had founded to con­tinue her work with multi-cul­tural chil­dren, Janet Mintzer, pres­i­dent and CEO of Pearl S. Buck In­ter­na­tional, said.

While that work con­tin­ued, there wasn’t ini­tially much done to main­tain or re­store the house, she said.

“When I came here as CEO, the house was in pretty bad shape,” Mintzer said.

There were ques­tions of whether the house and the or­ga­ni­za­tion should be op­er­ated sep­a­rately.

In the end, it was de­cided the house is a rare trea­sure that helps do Buck’s work, Mintzer said.

“This house is a won­der­ful his­toric home, but, also, Pearl Buck stood for help­ing ed­u­cate the west­ern world about the Asian cul­ture,” Mintzer said. “We should use this house as a way to ed­u­cate the chil­dren about not only Pearl Buck and the value of be­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian and help­ing oth­ers, but the value of un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing cul­tural dif­fer­ences.”

An as­sess­ment to help de­cide what should be done with the house also showed the im­por­tance of keep­ing it open, she said.

“When the con­sul­tants came in, they told us that there’s about 2,500 na­tional his­toric land­marks in the United States, but they told us only 300 of them are about a woman’s con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety,” Mintzer said, “and of those 300 that are about a woman, there’s only 10 in the coun­try that have an in­tact col­lec­tion — that means ev­ery­thing in the home was really used by that woman — and that Pearl Buck is one of those 10 houses.”

7HH fiUVW SHDVH RI WHH home preser­va­tion, which cost a lit­tle less than $1 mil­lion, was com­pleted in Au­gust 2007, she said. Phase II ended in 2010.

WLWH WHH fiQDO DOPRVW $1.6 mil­lion phase, the to­tal costs will be $2.8 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a Preser­va­tion With A Pur­pose cap­i­tal cam­paign up­date printed in 2012.

The work was done in phases be­cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion didn’t have the fund­ing to do it all at once, Mintzer said. A study was done to pri­or­i­tize the needs and what VHRXOG EH GRQH fiUVW, VHH said.

Do­na­tions to the work have in­cluded a $780,000 Re­de­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Cap­i­tal Pro­gram Grant from the state government.

Work in the com­pleted phases in­cluded elim­i­nat­ing ZDWHU LQ­fiOWUDWLRQ WHURXJH UHSDLUV WR URR­fiQJ, ZLQGRZV and doors and re-point­ing the ex­te­rior of the house, fol­lowed by re­in­forc­ing and adding beams.

“When Pearl Buck lived there, she kept mak­ing the rooms big­ger, wi­den­ing WHHP, ZHLFH ZDV 2., fiQH, the way she did it for res­i­den­tial use,” Mintzer said, “but when we have the pub­lic in and we have higher num­bers of peo­ple in the rooms at one time, it didn’t meet the re­quire­ments for be­ing a pub­lic visi­ta­tion place, so that’s why we had to im­prove the struc­tural sup­ports.”

Slate roof re­pairs, chim­ney cap­pings and other parts RI WHH fiQDO SHDVH ZRUN ZHUH done last year.

Af­ter open­ing up walls for the rewiring that is part of the re­main­ing work, in­te­rior walls will have to be re­plas­tered and re­turned to their orig­i­nal con­di­tion.

“All the plas­ter here is NLQG RI D VSHFLDOWy fiQLVH,” NQRZQ DV VDQG flRDW, VDLG Matt Perch, su­per­in­ten­dent for Wu & As­so­ci­ates, of Cherry Hill, N.J., the com­pany do­ing the third phase work.

“For the most part, when we turn it back to Pearl Buck In­ter­na­tional, it should look the same as it does now,” Perch said.

Paint anal­y­sis has been done to make sure the col­ors of the house are not be­ing changed, Rhodes said.

“(vHUyWHLQJ ZLOO UHflHFW the col­ors Miss Buck and her fam­ily se­lected,” Rhodes said.

The restora­tion is ex­pected to last for 30 to 50 years, Mintzer and Rhodes said.

Ear­lier phases of the restora­tion have made it pos­si­ble to open up more of the house for the tours by the pub­lic, as well as al­low­ing more of the items in the house to be dis­played, Rhodes said.

“Up un­til now, a lot of things have been kept in stor­age,” she said.

In past years, the house tours have not been held in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, then re­turned in March.

This year, the March re­open­ing isn’t pos­si­ble be­cause of the work be­ing done in­side the house.

In­stead, in March through June, there will be “A View From The Out­side In” tours, fea­tur­ing a tour of the prop­erty and ex­te­rior of the house, a visit to the Awards Room and time­line and a video tour of the home’s in­te­rior. There will also be a lim­ited en­gage­ment show­ing of the “Pearl S. Buck Life and Legacy” play, giv­ing an oral his­tory of Buck, as well as the “Sil­ver Screen Ex­hibit,” show­ing Buck’s life on ra­dio, stage and screen, as well as a glimpse of home movies.

“We had to be really cre­ative,” Mintzer said. “How can we con­tinue to bring the pub­lic here to learn about Pearl Buck and her amaz­ing legacy if we don’t have the house as a way to do that, so that’s why we devel­oped the alternative pro­gram­ming.”

Self-guided tours in­clud­ing the Awards Room, gift shop and time­line are also cur­rently avail­able.

A grand re­open­ing for the re­stored house, af­ter which tours of the in­te­rior will re­sume, is sched­uled for June 26, which would have been Buck’s 121st birth­day.

Preser­va­tion con­trac­tor Dick Caswell jots down restora­tion ideas with Wu & As­so­ci­ates su­per­in­ten­dent Matt Perch.

News-her­ald pho­tos — DEBBY HIGH

Pearl S. Buck House cu­ra­tor Donna Rhodes and vol­un­teers Susie Wood­land and Becky Kiefer work in the li­brary.

Sheets cover fur­ni­ture in the master bed­room of the Pearl S. Buck House while restora­tion is un­der way.

Vol­un­teers An­gelina Bar­torelli, of Dublin, and Bon­nie Janke, of Lower Gwynedd, help tape plas­tic over books in the li­brary.

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