According to a 1945 Wessingtonian, "A thatched roof, planned in the original blueprints, had to be abandoned because of the difficulty encountered." Therefore, it seemed appropriate that Cecil White, an American-born, English-trained, Master Thatcher from Centralia, Washington, was hired to thatch the Anne Hathaway Cottage in 1995. Funds for this project were obtained through a Mary Chilton DAR Foundation grant and donations from members and friends of the Society.
The process began on the front of the Cottage by removing the top layer of asphalt shingles and the original shake shingles, cutting off the overhang and reshaping the dormers. After a layer of tar paper and a grid of wood strips was added, water reed from Manitoba, Canada was put on 12" thick. The first bundle of reed was placed on the roof on Sept. 6, the 50th anniversary of Emma Shay's death in the Cottage. Each row of bundles is held in place with rods that are secured to the roof with hooked nails that Cecil handcrafted with his forge and imported English anvil. He then used a wooden tool, called a leggett, to tap the ends of the reed into perfect position.
Cecil began thatching the back of the Cottage in the summer of 1996, but ran out of reed. Due to circumstances beyond control, the Society was unable to get any more reed from Manitoba and finally secured a load of reed from New Jersey to complete the back in 1999.
The decorative ridge along the peak was added in 2000, using locally grown wheat grass. Cecil shaped the 1/4-inch steel pattern rods and 12-inch U-shaped spars which were then galvanized to make them rustproof. The pattern rods were placed over the ridge material and are held in place by the staple-like spars. The lower edge of the grass ridge was then trimmed using sheep shears purchased in England.
Water won't penetrate the roof because of its 55 degree slope and the thatch should withstand winds of up to 100 miles an hour. A thatched roof will last 40-60 years, although the ridge will have to be replaced more often.
Cecil has also undertaken general restoration of the Cottage exterior. This has included repair of the brick chimney, stucco, and wood trim and replacing the basement and back porch doors. He has also put a brick floor in the back porch, built a new retaining wall west of the Cottage, and made and installed new windows in the back porch and bathroom.