Color grading: work restoring the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club cottage to the 1880s look | local news
SAINT MICHAEL – Faux brick siding and vinyl siding have obscured the original look of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club for generations.
As it turned out, much of the Double Cottage’s original wood paneling was preserved through the facade changes. Even traces of the cottage’s original 1887 paint remain, said Doug Bosley, the National Park Service’s chief of interpretation.
“It’s pretty exciting because we had no idea what to expect under that vinyl siding,” Bosley said, adding that the valet made an effort to “expect the worst.”
Instead of rows of rotting planks, workers found lumber that needed little more than putty to cover the nail holes from decades of remodeling — and a coat of primer, he said.
Color abrasion allowed Park Service crews at the Maryland-based Historical Preservation Training Center to match the color to the original tones, according to Bosley.
They’ve been busy at the cabin for the past few weeks, adding coats of light gray paint while covering the structure’s repaired window trim with a shade of burgundy, Bosley said.
When the Victorian-era retreat was built it was part of a series of cottages built for some of the most powerful men in the nation.
Members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club spent their summers on Lake Conemaugh for about a decade – until their artificial dam failed in May 1889, flooding Johnstown and killing 2,209 people.
The members left the retreat and then sold their homes.
For decades, many of these structures have been neglected.
Recently the Double Cottage has been used as a rental.
The National Park Service upgrades signal a historic turning point for the cottage.
The federal agency has owned the property for more than 10 years. But Park Service officials weren’t sure who originally owned the building — or even its original use — because so much about the club’s Cottage Row seemed lost with history.
Built right next to the larger clubhouse, they named it the Annex because they believed it likely served as an overflow space for staff or additional club guests.
It turned out to be owned by four club members and their families.
The name was extracted from documents including a newspaper clipping from the period that described the house as ‘the duplex’.
Two prominent Pittsburgh glassmakers, HP Patton and H. Sellers McKee – the latter a former director of the Exchange Bank of Pittsburgh – formed the first half of the team of four.
McKee’s family was so prominent in Westmoreland County that the Jeanette community, where his sprawling factory was located, is named after his wife.
Pittsburgh Forge and Iron Co. President Calvin Wells and William Ambrose McIntosh, a temporary Carnegie partner, also owned the cottage, records show.
Efforts to continue preserving and protecting the impressive South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club clubhouse itself are also gaining momentum, Park Service officials said.
The three-story retreat’s roof was replaced about a decade ago. But much work — including structural repairs, foundation work, fire protection and utility upgrades — still needs to be done, Bosley said.
He confirmed that federal officials told them that funding for stabilization efforts had been approved, “but the exact amount is in flux, so we don’t know what we’re getting or when.”
David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.