THE MUD HOUSE
It's the only one of it's kind left in New York state. Other so-called
mud house owners have stuccoed, sided or otherwise covered up their outside walls.
The town of Penfield mud house has been up for sale since September. And realtor
Judy Francis with Coldwell Banker First American knows why.
FRANCIS: But the thing that has scared people off has been the mudding- of the
outside, that has to be taken care of. And so the Lehman's decided when they mudded
this year that they'd invite the public. You just have to know the technique and then
LEHMAN: You're ready? Let's get some mud, okay?
LEHMAN: You're going to start right up there and work down this line and then
work up at the top and across this way.
FLYNN: Where's your spatula thing?
LEHMAN: It's up there already.. good luck!
FLYNN: No problem (starts up ladder).. I hope.
LEHMAN: We spent many years trying to figure out exactly how to do this.
That's mud house owner Gary Lehman. When the house was built in the 1830s,
a mixture of mud, straw and manure was used. Seems the price of lumber was raised
beyond the means of the SAMUEL GORS family. Lehman found out that sifted dirt,
water and a splash of lime works just fine for repairs.
LEHMAN: Somebody suggested we use some kind of a spray device, you know kind of
like the gattling gun of mud. But what you want is just a.. baseball hardball amount
of mud- seems to throw it just right. And when it hits, it squishes down on the wall
and attaches just right.
Three different mud mixtures , or consistencies are used depending on the size of
the crack or hole. To keep pace with the effects of North Eastern United States weather
once a year Lehman gives the mud house a once-over to shore up the 18 inch walls.
LEHMAN: Nature helps us out. Every year the snow pounds on it and the rain pounds on it
and smooths it out real nicely. Buit what we need to do is go back and put another layer
up everytime so that each year it has something to come loose. There's no vapor barrier
in the wall. So when heat- which is born on moisture- comes up and goes through the
wall... during the winter when it penetrates the wall that moisture is going to freeze.
And when it freezes, it expands and when it expands it's gonna drop a little mud off.
It's a town landmark in Penfield, listed on the national Register of Historic Places,
the National Survey of Historic Buildings and the New York state list of Historic
Structures. Architecht Michael Doran got to know about the mud house during his years on
the Penfield For Historic Preservation Board.
DORAN: It was quite an economic and successful way of building and very efficient from a
thermal point of view- in the holding out of heat in the summer and holding in the warmth
in the winter. No, I've never had anybody ask me to do anything in mud. The masonry units
that we have today are a great deal less expensive and considerably easier to work. I
think it's going to take a very special person who is interested in historic structures.
Some people have that urge in their lives, you might say.
Lehman is looking for a buyer to assume that.. sense of custodial responsibility. He
feels it's up to the people- not the government- to preserve historic buildings.
LEHMAN: We keep talking about this house being high mantenance and it is. But when I look
out at my suburban neighbors here.. you know they're out here trimmin' and fussin' with
their bushes and stuff. And it terms of hours we probably spend less time than the average
FLYNN: You're not worried about siding either..
LEHMAN: We don't worry about siding, no. And when the guys call up and they say we got a
really good deal on aluminum siding I have the perfect answer for them.
Bill Flynn WXXI 1370.