What wintery wonders shall I share with you today? How about a celebration (and showcase) of upcycled Christmas gifts dreamed into existence by three allstar members of our icehouse rehab team?
Pam, Hroth, and Tony stopped Susan and me in our just-barely-post-winter-solstice tracks with an early Christmas gift (or three) that exemplify the apex of upcycling and adaptive reuse that I’ve been blathering on about for, well, for a looong time.
These upcycled Christmas gifts are a product and symbol of renewal.
I talk and I type, but these three creative characters have reimagined and reinvented deconstruction debris into functional art and decor. They transformed a piece of old garapa decking and a handful of icehouse artifacts (uncovered during laborious hand excavation for the new foundation) into a handsome coatrack, and they transformed a gnarled piece of rusty steel back into a museum-worthy ice hook that turns the clock back 100+ years.
Let’s start with the photograph at the top of this post which Pam accompanied with the following note of explanation.
Hroth, Tony and I wanted to wish you both a very Merry Christmas. We came up with the idea to make a coat rack out of repurposed items. The wood is old garapa. I found the spikes in the icehouse during inventory and the hook was also discovered in the icehouse during excavation for the concrete floor/footers. Hroth custom made a handle for the ice hook. We also wanted to add a new hummingbird feeder to the garden outside of the breakfast area. Merry Christmas! — Pamuela Murphy
Perfection! Garapa upcycled from Rosslyn’s 2008-9 deck build and miscellaneous ice hauling artifacts reconciled and reborn as a new coat rack that will greet icehouse visitors upon entering the miniature foyer, and a restored antique ice hook that will be displayed prominently in the main room. Bravo, team.
I was curious how Hroth had fabricated the garapa handle for the ice hook out of old decking boards. It’s so round/cylindrical that it looks as if he’d used a lathe.
Two pieces of garapa laminated together. Started out about a 16 inch because it was easier to run through the table saw. I made an octagon out of it on the table saw, then used the big belt sander… I roughed it up a little bit. Didn’t want it to look too perfect. Then Pam suggested that we take a propane torch to it. Made it look older.
It was a fun project. I still need to seal the wood and the metal. Penetrating sealer works well on metal. It’s sharp… We were thinking you might want to put some corks on the ends… or garapa balls. That was the first thing I thought of. We can certainly do that. — Ottosen Hroth
Carving tiny garapa orbs to install on the spikes strikes me as the perfect way to complete the coat rack so that jackets can be hung without getting spikes. It’ll be a difficult-but-intriguing challenge! There must be some technique for creating a small wooden sphere out of a block of wood. Hhhmmm…
I can’t imagine more perfect Christmas gifts. Their collaboration has rendered layers of Rosslyn history — from the late 1800s and early 1900s when the icehouse was in use, through 2008 when we built the deck that yielded this garapa, to 2022 when the old deck was deconstructed and the icehouse rehabilitation was initiated — into timeless beauty that will adorn the icehouse when it is introduced/revealed next summer. These upcycled Christmas gifts are a product and symbol of renewal. Our gratitude is exceeded only by Hroth’s, Pam’s, and Tony’s collaborative accomplishment.
The flip-through gallery above offers a few more details, and all three (as the two featured photographs above) are documented inside the icehouse with mid-construction backdrops: old studs with new spray foam insulation and new subfloor ready for interior framing and hardwood flooring. It’s tempting to offer tidier or even fancier backdrops, but authenticity prevails. Future decor created from old materials, documented midstream the icehouse’s transformation. Future, past, and present. Concurrent history and hope, a timeless present, an artistic representation of this liminal moment.
Backstory to Upcycled Christmas Gifts
Susan and my gratitude to Pam, Hroth, and Tony is (and obviously should be) the focus of today’s Rosslyn Redux installment, but I can’t conclude without first considering a slightly more amplified retrospective, the backstory, if you will, to the new coat rack and restored ice hook.
Let’s start by rewinding the timeline to 2008-9. Building the new deck and installing garapa decking was the proverbial caboose in a virtually endless train of construction that started in the summer of 2006. (Source: Garapa Decking 2008-2009)
In the photograph below, taken exactly fourteen years ago today, Warren Cross is putting the finishing touches on our first deck build. Although the perspective may be misleading given the still unbuilt garbage and recycling “shed” which today stands directly behind Warren, this is the northernmost extension of Rosslyn’s deck. The stone step (actually a repurposed hitching post chiseled from Chazy and Trenton limestone (aka “Essex stone”) and the rhododendron shrubs are not yet in place either.
But it you imagine the perspective as if you were standing just north of the morning room, looking back toward the carriage barn and icehouse, you’ll be oriented in no time. Oriented, yes, but nevertheless a bit disoriented too, I imagine, as you look upon a carpenter laboring in the snow to scribe and affix the garapa deck skirting / apron that will complete the installation that had began in the autumn with far more hospitable conditions.
It’s worth noting that Warren, already in his mature years when he worked on Rosslyn with us, not only threw himself into difficult endeavors like the one above, he contributed decades’ of experience and an unsurpassed work ethic that inspired everyone with whom he worked in 2008 and 2009. But there’s an even more notable memory that describes Warren. He was a gentleman. And he was a gentle man. It was a privilege to witness Warren’s collegiality, and Rosslyn profited enduringly from his expertise. But it was his disposition, his consideration, and his kindness that make me nostalgic when I hear him mentioned or when I catch sight of him in photographs.
These handsome upcycled Christmas gifts are enriched by memories of Warren Cross and others (Kevin Boyle, Doug Decker, Don Gould, Andy Cross, Jonathan Schier, Jacob Sawitski, and Mike Manzer) who labored from autumn-to-winter, past the winter solstice, and almost until Christmas, in order to see this project through. And that’s only the first chapter of Rosslyn’s garapa decking. This past summer, when we deconstructed and rebuilt Rosslyn’s deck, was the second chapter.
In preparation for our summer 2022 deck rebuild we carefully salvaged all of this original garapa decking, and current experiments are underway to determine the most appealing adaptive reuse in the new icehouse project. (Source: Garapa Decking 2008-2009)
I’ve recounted our summer adventure in recent months, so I’ll simply say now that all of these new memories are infused into the coat rack and ice hook. In addition to Pam and Hroth and Tony, this new chapter in Rosslyn’s garapa decking journey summon fond recollections of David McCabe, Ed Conlin, Eric Crowningshield, Matt Sayward, Justin Buck, Jarrett Cruikshank, Brandon Dumas, Andrew Roberts, and Jason Lautenschuet.
In terms of memories conjured by this repurposed garapa decking, I should include Hroth’s “research” this past autumn into how best we might reuse the lumber. There was such anticipation and excitement in the hours he experimented and explored. The image below perfectly illustrates the hidden gold just waiting to reemerge from the deconstructed decking material.
I wrote this at the time.
Hroth is continuing to experiment with the garapa decking we salvaged from our summer 2022 deck rebuild. I’m hoping to repurpose this honey toned Brazilian hardwood as paneling in the icehouse bathroom. (Source: Upcycling Decking Debris)
Hroth’s discoveries underpin our plan to panel the interior of the new icehouse bathroom with what for a decade and a half withstood the Adirondack Coast elements season after season, and a rambunctious parade of footfalls, barbecues, dog paws, wetsuits, etc. It’s as if the new coat rack exudes the anticipation and optimism that many of us brought to the journey of upcycling the old decking into the new paneling.
And there is an aside that I’m unable to resist mentioning. Pam’s late husband, Bob Murphy, who worked as our property caretaker and became an admired and dearly respected friend, several times removed and reinstalled Rosslyn’s garapa decking over the years — monitoring, triaging, and compensating for the failing TimberSIL substructure. He knew that we would need to rebuild the entire deck soon, and yet he waged a relentless campaign to extend the useful life of the deck as long as possible. I think he’d be proud of the work accomplished by the team this summer, and he sure would have loved being part of that team! And the icehouse rehab would have thrilled him. Needless to say, these upcycled Christmas gifts from Pam and Hroth and Tony also exude Bob’s smile, familiar chuckle, and that mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
And what about that antique ice hook?
I mentioned above an antique ice hook, and the photograph below illustrates exactly what I was referring to. Disinterred by Tony while cleaning out and grading the dirt floor of the icehouse, this badly corroded artifact bears an uncanny resemblsnce to a common tool of yesteryear: the handheld hook. This implement was most often used for 1) grabbing and hauling ice blocks and/or 2) carrying hay bales. The location where this relic was discovered (as well as plenty of examples uncovered by quick research online) strongly suggest that this is an antique ice hook. (Source: Icehouse Rehab 01: The Ice Hook)
Isn’t a beauty? Well, rusty and corroded, but a beauty nonetheless, I think.
The prospect of restoring that ice hook crossed my mind at the time. But it struck me as a challenging proposition given the advanced state of decay. What a surreal transformation from rust-crusted phantom to display-ready relic! It too is marinated in memories, some recent and personal, others vague and distant. In the near rearview mirror are the painstaking efforts made by our team to secure the historic stone foundation beneath the icehouse while ensuring the structural integrity demanded by modern building codes. A labor of loves on the parts of so many. And today we can look back from the proud side of accomplishment. As for the more distant rearview, the antique mirror has succumbed to the influence of time, the glass crazed and hazy, the metallic silver chipped and flaking. And yet we can detect traces of laughter and gossip as blocks of ice were cut from the lake, hooked and hauled up to the icehouse, and stacked in tidy tiers for cooling and consumption during temperate times ahead.
A Glimmer of Springtime
In closing this runaway post, I would like to express my warmest gratitude for the upcycled Christmas gifts above, and for a new hummingbird feeder to welcome our exuberant avian friends back in the springtime. Taken together this medley of gifts excite in Susan and me the enthusiasm and optimism for the coming months of rehabilitation and mere months from now the opportunity to celebrate a project too long deferred and so often anticipated. With luck we’ll be rejoicing together in the newly completed icehouse by the time the hummingbirds return to Rosslyn.
Thank you, Pam, Hroth, and Tony for these perfect presents. And thank you to everyone else I’ve mentioned above for enriching this home and our lives. I look forward to rekindling these memories when I hang my coat or my cap up each time I enter the icehouse. Merry Christmas to all!