This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Some of the readers of the Horticulturist who are so fortunate as to reside on the shores of the smaller lakes so numerous in our northern States, may be glad to learn the experience of a dweller in a similar locality in the construction of boat-houses ; for every one knows that the first step toward keeping a boat in good condition, is to provide it with a shelter. Left on the beach it is not only knocked about by waves, but the influence of sun and rain open all its seams, and crack its boards until it " leaks like a riddle.77 The common practice of drawing it up under a shelter on dry land, by means of inclined timbers or " ways," is also injurious as tending to rack and strain it, while it also demands a degree of muscular exertion not always convenient or pleasant to supply.
After trying several plans, I have been perfectly satisfied with one of the simplest possible. First framing together the sills, I nailed upon them plank, two inches thick, forming a strong and smooth floor. This was floated to the water's edge opposite the point where the building when located, was intended to stand, and " blocked up" so as to keep its level, while the posts and plates and studs were framed and raised in the ordinary manner. After "siding it up" with strong plank as high as the water was expected to cover it (about four feet), the whole frame was shoved out to its chosen location (a smooth patch of sandy bottom about thirty or forty feet from shore), sliding on two long poles laid under it like ways for launching. Being thus placed, the rest of the work was easy, a raft being made which could be secured against either side of the building, to afford a footing for the carpenter while putting on the clapboards, etc.
The boat-house, as now completed, is fifteen by twenty-five feet, its sills resting directly on the bottom, with posts about nine feet " between joints," which are submerged nearly three feet, so that there is height enough for a man to enter beneath the eaves. A platform or upper floor is laid just above water level, extending across one side and one end of the building, with a width of about five feet; while along the other side runs a ledge eighteen inches wide, just enough to walk on. In the open water-space between, a couple of boats float, "ready - aye, ready" for service, one suited for fishing, with anchor and lines on board; the other, a small iron boat of Francis's patent, with oars and cushions complete, ready at a moment's warning for the use of the ladies of the household, with whom it is a great favorite, from being perfectly water-tight, and always as dry and clean as a carriage, so that skirts are in no danger of staining. They are taken in and out through a wide door in one end of the building, which extends nearly to the sill, and upwards of four feet above water.
The building is reached from the shore by a slight bridge.
I need hardly say, that where all is so entirely in readiness for use at any moment, many a short sail or sunset row is enjoyed, which would be foregone were any preparation necessary.
The building also makes a capital bathing house, having on its floor two or three feet of pure water, which is constantly changed by the action of the waves through a narrow opening left round the walls just above the sills (observe that this opening should be only just sufficient for this purpose, say three or four inches wide ; if larger, it will admit too much swell in a windy day, and the boats will knock about and chafe against the platform). A few pins, hooks, and shelves, hold simple conveniences for the toilet; others are stored with hooks, lines and other apparatus for angling ; and whether for bathing or boating, the whole establishment is, if not very elegant, at least is complete and comfortable as need be.
Of course, such a structure is best suited only for our smaller lakes, the level of which does not vary more than a couple of feet or so, and where neither heavy waves nor freshets are liable to injure it; but there are many country residences situated on such waters, where the pleasures and advantages of such an aquatic building would much more than repay its cost. The first I built in this way was of rough hemlock lumber, costing perhaps $15. It stood safely for seven or eight years, during which we had "our money's-worth" out of it many times over, and was finally crushed by a huge field of ice driven against it by a storm, while the lake was opening in the spring. My second edifice is a neater structure, in which I have gone to the extravagance of planed flooring, ceiling, and clapboards, and a coat or two of paint, as well as some minor vanities, such as a flagstaff and vane; and I intend to protect it from such accidents as destroyed its predecessor by a pier of crib-work filled with stones. This is to be built on the ice outside the boat-house next winter; and I may remark that a boat-house itself may also be built on the ice, and allowed to settle to its place in the spring.
So I built my first, but the discomforts and delays of carpenter's-work in cold weather were such, that I preferred next time to wait till June and do the work as first above described.
It must be remembered, that the ice which freezes fast to the boat-bouse, is liable to be upborne by sudden thaws, so as to raise the building from its place. This will do no harm, unless it should lift the posts out of their mortises in the sills, which would ruin ail; so remember that these timbers must be firmly pinned together. There is also a horizontal movement of the ice, backward and forward, to a small extent all winter, caused by its expansion and contraction from changes of temperature. This will not injure a light and yielding structure such as I have described, which slides backward and forward on the bottom as the ice drives or draws it; but I have seen it move a heavy pier and crush in a stone wall, inch after inch.
I enclose a rough sketch of the form of my boat-house, which, as I have proved it, I can recommend for any suitable situation. If the builder desire, he may ornament and decorate it ad libitum, even to the extent of the precedent on Windermere, where a boat-house was crowned by a steeple "for distant effect." The cut and description, however, I believe to include all that is essential.
If only some of the readers of the Horticulturist have opportunities for boat-houses, most of them have opportunities and suitable tenants for Playhouses.
The best plaything for a child, is not a splendid and complex rattletrap, but some simple and rough thing which may be applied to various uses and purposes, and aid to stimulate invention and contrivance. The best of all such things for a girl is a house.
My daughter at six or eight years of age took possession of a tiny shed, originally made to shelter a bee-hive. Sundry articles of furniture, of the most impromptu style, some of them requiring a good deal of imagination to supply their deficiencies of construction, were added by degrees; - a board for a table, a box set on end for a cupboard, some blocks for chairs, a scrap of old carpeting, a broom with a broken handle, half a dozen odd and cracked teacups, etc. By-and-by the open side was boarded up, a hole being left for a window and another for a door, which was a board hung on two bits of leather. The pleasure derived from occupying this queer cabin was so great and enduring, that when next carpenters were busy about repairs of our own house, I had a little one built on purpose for our rising generation, the success of which has been so great that I here describe it as a hint for other parents and for the benefit of little people in general.
"Appletree Cottage" as it is named from the sheltering boughs which overhang it, stands on a cross-walk in the garden. It is built of pine boards, without any timber frame, eight feet by ten on the ground, and six feet high at the eaves, neither ceiled nor plastered, but open within to its roof of planed boards. It has on each side two windows, each a four-light sash of 7 by 9 glass, hung on hinges for convenient ventilation ; and a real batten door, five feet high, with a knob-catch, and genuine lock and key to secure the property or privacy of its owner.
This was the contribution of Paterfamilias to his daughter's amusement, and it was at once occupied with the intensest satisfaction. Little by little, as in the economical and thrifty progress of older housekeepers, articles of furniture were added. First, there came a present of a real tea-table, with leaves to let down, suited to the dimensions of the apartment, and three chairs large enough for small people; the next acquirement was a set of small tea-cups and saucers. A tin teapot and a set of knives and forks followed from one quarter, a small broom and dust pan from another; some window curtains were put up by the united exertions of the proprietress and her friends ; and at last Grandfather completed the whole thing by sending an "old-maid cooking stove," a little affair but fifteen inches square, but perfectly capable of baking and frying and boiling, and competent to make the apartment as hot and happy as need be.
In this small edifice there has been probably more genuine enjoyment than in most palaces, and I doubt not that the young princesses of Windsor would find it a happy exchange for the stately halls in which they, poor little things, are doomed to dwell. Not only are tea drawn and currant-- jelly made, and biscuit baked, and fish fried for hospitable entertainment within its wooden walls, but even the pains of ordinary housekeeping are here converted into pleasures. Mopping and sweeping, dusting and windowwashing are enjoyed exceedingly, and half a dozen times a year there is a delightful general house-cleaning, which recalls to mind Hopkinson's famous description of that annual epidemic, and realizes his recommendation that a small separate building should be provided near every homestead, where its subjects can spend the force of their excitement without disturbing the peace of the household itself.
In all this, there is not only amusement, but wholesome exercise, and even useful practice in housekeeping; and we believe there rarely were twenty or thirty dollars better spent than those which erected and fitted up this little establishment. I recommend it for imitation by the parent where children are reduced to "make-believe" in the corner of their nurseries with tiny pasteboard houses and lilliputian furniture not large enough for dolls. Give them a real cabin in a corner of the garden; do not make it elegant, and do not complete it at once, ready to their hands; but let it be a plain affair and add to its appointments little by little, until it gradually becomes parlor, kitchen, hall, and library all in one. If it is found a pleasant and lasting amusement for genuine and unspoilt children, they may be grateful for the hint to the present correspondent.