Did You Know? ~ Birch bark was sometimes used as flashing. This image shows strips of birch bark installed as flashing between the window trim and clapboard siding on the Federal style Isaac Hobbs House in Eastport, Maine.
This was done c. 1820, drawing on the traditions of the local Passamaquody tribe. Native Americans had used waterproof birch bark for centuries in constructing their long houses and canoes. I have seen this application in several areas of northern New England, and it may have been used more widely.
It is a wonderful illustration of how the building and cultural traditions of all those who have called America “home” have been borrowed, adapted, mixed, and repurposed through the centuries as the population has become ever more diverse.
Our historic buildings are physical repositories of this history – whether it is birch bark flashing in Maine, the Spanish adapting Native construction traditions to create adobe brick in the Southwest, or the mixed Dutch, English, and German influences in the early buildings of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Variations occur all over the country, depending on the Native peoples and origins of European settlers in any given region.
The Hobbs House is currently undergoing restoration after a long period of abandonment. Its owner, Jim Pollowitz, posts regularly about the project at facebook.com/groups/772590120524315/
“Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners” was written to help people like Jim restore houses.
Signed and personalized copies of the award-winning and bestselling 720-page hardcover book are available from the author in our online shop, YourHistoricHouse.com/shop/.
© Scott T. Hanson 2023
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