The full, open attic led to the cupola, which was struck by lightning and burned down in 1927. A bucket brigade from the well pump to the third story saved the house itself, but for many years, the attic floor served as the home’s de facto roof. In the 1980s several inches of mud were removed from the floor and the roof repaired. Char marks from the fire are still visible on the roof beams.
New Prairie began working on the attic in 2007. The attic floorboards were taken up and numbered for later reinstallation. This allowed new framing and electrical work to be done. Rigid and spray foam insulation was added to the eaves, then covered with stained wooden panels. A kneewall was added around stairwell for safety reasons, but the attic stairs were left as it. Some plaster was repaired on the stairwell walls.
The occuli (little round windows) were repaired, painted, and had custom glass installed. Occuli that were beyond repair were replaced; new occuli were constructed from many angled staves glued together. Then they were caulked into their openings.
New Prairie rebuilt the cupola on the ground and it was hoisted to the roof with a crane. Several posts were salvaged from an old barn and used to help shore up the weight of the new cupola. A new spiral staircase to the cupola was added for ease of access, and electricity and air conditioning were installed. Many of the original arched cupola windows — some with the glass intact — were salvaged from the fire. They needed some TLC before installing them in the new cupola.
For more pictures of the cupola construction, views from the outside, and video of the cupola being raised by crane to the top of the house, visit Victorian Italianate Homestead Phase 1: Exterior Restoration.
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