Preserving Millford’s Stable Roof

Authors: Will Hamilton, CAHPT Director of Historic Preservation & Dr. Jeff Klee, CAHPT Vice President & Senior Director of Architecture

In 1839 John Laurence Manning enlisted builder Nathaniel Potter of Rhode Island to develop specifications for a 50’ by 100’ stable on the property. Potter called for the stable to be finished with a wood shingle roof.  In 2021, Classical American Homes Preservation Trust began a thorough investigation of the historic cut nail patterns in the Millford stable’s roof sheathing to determine an appropriate replacement roofing material.

Surprisingly, the investigation determined that the existing cut nail patterns are not consistent with the wood shingles called out in Potter’s specifications.  Wood shingles are spaced just a few inches apart in regular rows that run horizontally, parallel with the ridge, but the surviving nails at the Millford stable are much more widely spaced and aligned vertically. This pattern seems to be consistent with the installation of two generations of standing seam metal roofs prior to the current asphalt shingle roof.  The previous metal roofs were surely similar to what remains in place on the mansion house, kitchen, and laundry buildings as well as the Little Mansion. Potter likely changed from wood to metal because of the low pitch of the stable roof, which would be prone to leaks if covered in shingles.

It appears, in other words, that the stable roof was covered in metal for about the first 150 years of its existence, during both the Manning and the Clark eras of ownership.  As current stewards of this site, it is now Classical American Homes Preservation Trust’s responsibility to ensure that the stable gets a new roof that will continue to protect it for many more years.