Block Island CSIWhat color was the original Spring Street Pump House?
Doug Gilpin, an architect who also sits on the Block Island Historic District Commission, engaged in a little forensic work to see if he could figure out what the original color scheme was of the old pump house on Spring Street. Gilpin is part of an effort to rebuild the structure, which was built in the 1880s and torn down a couple of years ago after having fallen into a state of disrepair.
After a little help from his niece, who is a paint conservator, and a tiny bit of evidence, it was discovered that the original pattern was red and yellow, something that had been obscured by decades of white paint thrown onto the exterior to help disguise its increasingly dilapidated appearance.
It started in 2010 when, at an HDC meeting, island resident Bill Penn said the pump house had gotten so bad that it would probably have to be torn down. “I said let me go out with my camera and at least document it so somebody has a picture of what it looks like from all four sides,” Gilpin said. He also measured the building — by this time the roof had blown off. It turned out that the building was not salvageable, but soon after it was razed a committee was formed to see if it could be reconstructed.
But Gilpin had salvaged a tiny piece of evidence. An original piece of batten — vertical strips of wood used in construction for design and structural purposes — looked like it might have been painted an alternating scheme of yellow and red.
“My niece asked to see the batten, she said she’s like to take a look at it under her microscope,” Gilpin said. “I gave her this thing — this piece of wood — and lo and behold, she said looks like you were right and it was originally yellow paint with some red. Sherlock Holmes,” he said, meaning his niece, “Figured it out.”
Scenic Block Island is in the process of raising $75,000 to rebuild the pump house. “As soon as we get close to a goal, the committee has to embark on a site plan and zoning project,” said Gilpin. The Pump House Committee includes Bryan Wilson, Ray Torrey, Pam Gasner and Mike Vaillancourt.
For more information, visit www.scenicblockisland.org