Gaston and Wyatt
, a Charlottesville firm that specializes in fine woodworking, undertook the challenge.
The company might be called the woodworkers of the presidents.During its 26-year history, the company has done work at Monticello
, Montpelier, Mount Vernon and Ash Lawn-Highland.
The Wharton niche turned out to be one of the most challenging projects ever undertaken by the company."We do a few jobs every year that are like this niche," said Gaston and Wyatt owner Rick Wyatt.
...Wyatt learned about the plans to replace the niche through a friend who lives in Massachusetts and had been doing work at the Mount.
The Charlottesville company was invited to submit a bid to build the niche, and it won.
With photographs and Codman's
architectural sketch of the original niche in hand, the detective work began.Because the dimensions of the niche were lost to time, Wyatt
and his draftsman, Keith Cutts, put their heads together and did some fancy extrapolation.
"All we had to go on were photographs from a number of different angles of the niche, and Codman's
sketch of it," Wyatt
"This was definitely the most difficult project I've had to draw, and I feel privileged that Rick
gave me a chance to draw it," Cutts said.
"The thickness of the wood we were able to come up with in some part determined how we approached the construction of the thing," Wyatt
, Keith and I discussed the project off and on for a month before we started," said Kippers, who has 35 years of woodworking experience to draw from.
"I'd pay Rick
to do this.
and Kippers realized a modification of the plans would make the structure better, albeit much more difficult to build, they didn't hesitate to make the change.
"Keith had originally drawn the thing with a continuous groove and spacers to hold the lattice work," Wyatt
was there to see it off, and he
couldn't have been happier.
"It came out great and looks terrific," Wyatt
said of their four-week project.