Cole Digges House
Historic Structures Report
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The recent archaeological report clearly defines which areas have been excavated, immediately around the house, and which have not. This will aid in planning for services that involve ground disturbance. Original floor levels in the cellar were deep, and there may be evidence for an interior kitchen and other uses below the present floor, so salvage excavation will be needed there ahead of intrusive work.

Proposed Use and its Impact on the Property

The current plan is to use the Cole Digges House as a restaurant. A restaurant is likely to be a harsher presence than domestic residents, so it will be very important to plan approaches to cooking, service, and dining that will do as little damage to the fabric and appearance as possible.

From the building's standpoint, it is highly preferable for the National Park Service to manage the restaurant in favor of leasing it. The best means of ensuring conscientious care for the building is to have knowledgeable people (professional Park Service staff) as close as possible to the day-to-day decisions that affect both its appearance and the preservation.

It has been said that dining on the second floor will require an external fire escape and reinforcement of the frame. Adding a fire escape or stair visible outside would have a major visual impact, probably to an unacceptable degree. Adding a new wing also seems inappropriate, given the nature and location of the house. Structural reinforcement of the floor framing might do minimal damage to original summer beams, plates, and joists, if carefully planned, but any reinforcement of the walls would either require removing paneling and cutting original masonry or would be quite visible in the rooms. In short, there are a number of important reasons for confining the restaurant to the first floor and cellar. Office or residential use of the upper floor would be preferable.

The best location for rest rooms is probably the present shower room, located in the kitchen and accessible from the stair passage. Because the 1925 first-floor toilet plays a role in the plan, projecting into the passage and right front room, we recommend leaving it in favor of reworking the plan and finish.

Planners have considered using the bulkhead as a dumb waiter. This is possible if the waiter moves diagonally from cellar to outside. Obviously, it does not give access to the first floor, and undermining the walls must be avoided.

Electric panel boards and meters should either be hidden in the rear porch or be automated to make visible meters unnecessary.

HVAC lines through the house should be carefully planned to do the least cutting of early material as possible, whether or not it will be visible to the public. For example, any lines cut above the ceiling should affect 1925 rather than the surviving 18th-century joists.

Exterior lighting should be small in scale, carefully placed, and not attached to early brickwork, preferably not to the building in general.


We wish to thank Jane Sundberg, Cultural Resource Management Specialist, at the Colonial National Historical Park. She invited us to study the building and prepare this report, and she provided all necessary support and gentle prodding until the work was completed. She was especially helpful in reviewing the documentary material and photographs with Chappell.

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Last Updated: 19-Jan-2005