Using Tree Rings to Answer Questions:
Dendrochronology is the science of analyzing and dating annual growth rings in trees. 39 field samples were taken from the Pavilion in late 2013. A total of 19 pine and 15 hemlock samples were analyzed in the laboratory, with all 34 samples providing firm dendrochronological dates
According to Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO, the grant will provide funding for vital research to help Fort Ticonderoga date the construction of the Pell home, known as the Pavilion. The result of the analysis will help inform the future interpretation and use of the historic structure.
“While the building’s occupation and use over the past 187 years is quite well documented, how the structure evolved over that period remains a mystery,” said Hill. “It is clear from historic photographs of the Pavilion that many elements of the building have changed. Windows and doors have moved, appeared, and disappeared; porches have come and gone; and even a large portion of the building’s central structure was rebuilt over a century ago. It is also possible that significant portions of the Pavilion were built over the course of several years. But exactly when and why these changes occurred has been largely unknown. Clearly, there are several questions related to the Pavilion’s construction date(s) that need to be answered as we plan its future.”
Funded in part by a grant from the National Trust, a Historic Structure Report is currently underway for the Pavilion led by John G. Waite Associates, Architects of Albany, New York. The report, expected to be complete this year, will include the dendrochronological findings.
According to architect John G. Waite, “The Pavilion is a more interesting and more complicated building than previously thought and certainly of major architectural significance. Previous documentary research indicated that the Pavilion was constructed between ca. 1826 and 1840. Recent building fabric analysis and the dendrochronology confirmed this. However, the dendrochronology also revealed that certain sections of the building contained at least several wood framing members dating from the 1750’s and one as early as the 1690’s. Whether these were isolated reuse of older material or represent significant sections of earlier buildings incorporated into the Pavilion is still to be determined. What it does mean is that these elements are the oldest wood framing members existing on the Fort Ticonderoga property and provide us with clues to the evolution of this remarkable and unique historic structure.”
The dendrochronological analysis was conducted by Dr. Edward R. Cook and William J. Callahan in partnership with preservation architect John G. Waite Associates of Albany, NY. Dr. Cook is the director of the Tree-Ring Laboratory at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He has comprehensive expertise in designing and programming statistical systems for tree-ring studies, and is the author of many works dealing with the various scientific applications of the dendrochronological method. William Callahan is a former associate of Dr. Edward Cook at the Tree-Ring Laboratory of Lamont-Doherty, he has extensive experience in using dendrochronology in dating archaeological artifacts and historic sites and structure.
About the Pavilion:
The Pavilion was built ca. 1826 by William Ferris Pell and occupied by his family until ca. 1840. From the early 1840s through the end of the 19th century, the house served as a hotel. When William Ferris Pell’s great-grandson, Stephen H.P. and his wife Sarah G.T. Pell began the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga in 1909, they simultaneously undertook the restoration of the Pavilion and then used the house as a summer residence for many years. After Stephen Pell’s death in 1950, his son John occupied the house through 1987. As one of the earliest summer homes and hotels in the region, the Pavilion is one of the most important historic structures in the Adirondack and Lake Champlain region.