As every homeowner knows, there’s always work to be done. This is especially true when your “home” is the size and scope of the N.C. State Fairgrounds. Several historic buildings and structures are located on the nearly 300 acres. The fairgrounds also hosts hundred of events annually and, of course, puts on the largest event in the state, and one of the largest fairs in the country, every October. It’s year-round work to keep the fairgrounds maintained. This month one of the projects at the fairgrounds is chinking the walls of the new Heritage Forge blacksmith shop.
The new blacksmith shop really isn’t all that new. The wood for the main part of the building is from a tobacco barn that dates to 1855. Last year, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler donated the wood from this barn, as well as one built in 1909, to bring to the fairgrounds to assemble the new shop. “The wood used in the blacksmith shop is from the American Chestnut tree,” said Bob Stanfield of Rockingham County. “American Chestnut was wiped out by a blight in the 1920s. When we cut the wood to place around the windows of the shop, I counted 79 rings on one of the trees. Which would date the the tree to 1776, the same year our country was born.”
Stainfield was project manager for the blacksmith shop. He supervised the barns being taken down in Guilford County, and then construction of the blacksmith shop. He also has taught continuing education classes in log cabin building at Rockingham Community College.
If you visited the new shop at the 2016 N.C. State Fair, you might have noticed it was a little drafty. While the structure was up in time for the fair, the area between the logs was left unfilled for completion after the fair. This filling in is referred to as chinking.
Chinking involves placing metal screening in the openings between the logs. Then, a sand and mortar mix is applied to fill in the area. “Chinking is a slow process,” Stanfield said. “After we fill in the outside, we will have to repeat the process on the inside.”
Chinking provides additional protection from the weather and serves as an insulator from heat and cold. While Stanfield is pitching in with some of the work, a majority of it is being done by fair staff. Some members of the staff worked on chinking a smaller wood building in Heritage Circle a few years ago, good practice for this new project. “You never know what you might be doing when you come to work,” said Braxton Lindsey, State Fairgrounds carpenter. “You might be welding in the morning, and then chinking on a sunny afternoon.”