In 1994 Venoge narrowly escaped destruction, but fortunately it was discovered in time that the building was of a rare architectural type and important in the early French-Swiss settlement in Switzerland County. It was deemed worthy of restoration and its significance appreciated. The barn was not so lucky; it had already been burned.
The house is a posts-on-sill (poteaux-sur-sol) timber frame structure with brick nogging insulation. The cottage is of a French Colonial style typical of the lower Mississippi Valley but extremely rare (if not unique) in the Ohio Valley. It has the broken pitch roof line, common in French settled areas. There is one room on the first floor and two on the second. Its structure was precisely measured and symmetrical. It is side-gabled, rectangular in plan, 18 feet wide by 38 feet including integral front gallery (porch).
After the initial investigation and research, restoration began with the removal of all additions made to the house after 1839, the date that the first known residents, Jacob and Charlotte Weaver, sold the house. In 2005, the 200th anniversary of the purchase of the property, the asphalt shingle roof was removed and a wood shake roof was installed over new live-sawn poplar sheathing.
During 2009 the house was dismantled nearly down to its timber frame. The original fireplace mantel had been found in a shed to the rear of the house, but the firebox, chimney and hearth were missing. The major rebuilding of those and stabilization of the first floor joists was done in 2010. At every step of the way information was gathered and photographs taken of clues that would lead us to the next phase of the project.
The first floor ceiling had sagged, due in part to the removal of a ceiling joist. The joist was cut in order to accommodate an interior stairway, probably installed c. 1850. The ceiling joists were lifted 4 inches and reinforced with steel. When the first floor was being leveled it was possible to locate the position of the exterior second floor entrance. The stairway was built in its original location; a closet was created beneath it enclosed by a paneled wall. An original board and batten door found on the closet on the c. 1850 staircase was reused. New poplar tongue and groove flooring was installed on the second floor.
The first floor walls were plastered in the traditional manner, scratch coat, brown coat and finish coat. The difference being that the finish coat was rough as was the original surface. The walls were then whitewashed. The walls on the second floor used whole board (accordion) lath to support the plaster. The finish coat of plaster here was only a thin coat of lime wash.
The remaining original paint evidence was studied and it was determined that much of the interior wood trim had not initially been painted. First coats much later were gray.
We were fortunate to have one original sash and one original window with trim, so in reconstructing those parts, we had examples. Old glass was used in the sash reconstruction. Two original board and batten doors survived and were used as models for the two new ones that were needed.
In rebuilding the porch (gallery) posts we had the originals as guides. Sparse decoration typical of French construction include chamfering of the posts with lambs’ tongue detailing, and beading on exposed beam edges and on a single front weatherboard and vertical along the building corners.
The restoration was open to the public in June of 2011.
Our restoration continued with the recreation of a kitchen garden next to the house. It features heirloom plants common in the early 19th century that would have provided food for the family. This one, however, is only 1/8 the size needed to support a family.
An outdoor bake oven was built behind the house in order to demonstrate early baking techniques. We do not believe that there was one original to the house. However, the building methods would have been common knowledge to the builders and occupants of the house.