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With His Latest Repair Job, Jason Renjilian Is Nailing Down History



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With His Latest Repair Job, Jason Renjilian Is

Nailing Down History

By Nancy K. Crevier

“Keeping old buildings is expensive,” said Newtown Historical Society president Lincoln Sanders, and he should know. Not only does he live in an antique home in Sandy Hook, but he oversees repairs and renovations to the historical structures owned by the historical society.

Most recently, repairs to the Matthew Curtis House on Main Street have created some expenses for the historical group. The back porch needed rebuilding for safety purposes and the front access of the home was seeing more wind than tourists pass through, resulting in the need for a new door. The circa 1750 house is used by Newtown Historical Society as its headquarters, and also hosts the majority of its public events at the building.

Jason Renjilian of Renjilian Enterprises, LLC, finds working on older structures an enjoyable challenge, and was pleased when the historical society approached him to handle the replacement of the porch. Mr Renjilian is the son of John Renjilian, one of the historical society’s trustees.

“We ripped off the entire back deck of the porch,” said Mr Renjilian, “and then re-decked it, painted it, and tried to make it look as authentic as possible and match the period of the house.”

Because the house is a museum quality antique building there were concerns about the repairs being kept as true as possible to the period. “It makes it a little more challenging when it is a showpiece for the era. I try to match the period hardware, for instance. In this case, it meant banging out the old, cut nails from the old wood and reusing them whenever possible.”

He suspects that the porch was not an original part of the structure, and in removing the rotted, broken floor boards realized that this was not the first time repairs had occurred. “At some point the framing had been redone, and we replaced the floor with ¾ inch pine boards in two widths to match what had been most recently there.”

The fact that the porch repairs involved simple replacement of existing work made this job a little easier for Mr Renjilian, in that modern day safety codes did not have to be negotiated.

“The steps were already there and it was just rebuilding what was in place,” he said. In many instances, he added, there are issues that arise as antique homeowners struggle to comply with modern public codes and stay true to an era.

“With an antique house, there is a lot of custom cutting,” said Mr Renjilian. “Nothing is ever square, straight or plumb.” This repair went surprisingly well, though, Mr Renjilian said, despite odd measurements here and there.

In order to maintain the integrity of the 18th Century house, the specialty reproduction company Mauer and Shepherd Joyner of Glastonbury was hired to create a custom door. The cost of the door alone, said Mr Sanders, is around $600. With installation, the total cost will most likely hover around $1,000.

“It is not simple to install a reproduction door,” Mr Sanders said. “It has to be weather-stripped and the iron strap hinges make it difficult to install.”

Mr Renjilian looks forward to the arrival of the door this winter and the trials its installation may bring to him.

“The Matthew Curtis House is a fun house to work on,” he said. “It’s a great old house.”

Newtown Historical Society depends upon dues and donations to fund repairs to historical structures in town. Donations are welcome and can be mailed to Newtown Historical Society at PO Box 189, Newtown CT 06470.

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