Follow Us!

The Muster Roll
General Fund Donation

Meet the NOVA Hut Brigade

rebuilding destroyed hut

In 2006, a hut at Muhlenberg Brigade was burned in an act of arson. This terrible criminal action became the wonderful impetus for the NOVA Hut Brigade, volunteers that were primarily involved in replacing the huts’ shingled roofs. While the Park provided materials and supervision with funding by the Valley Forge Park Alliance, the Brigade provided the labor and rebuilt the hut from the ground up in just eight weekends!


hut brigade members
Pictured: Some of the 20 Hut Brigade volunteers that arrive throughout the year to assist with projects.

NOVA (Network Of Volunteer Associates) is a community service organization previously sponsored by Lockheed Martin. The Hut Brigade, one of many community service projects supported by NOVA, has continued maintenance of the huts such as rebuilding chimneys, building bunks and replacing doors. In more recent years, the Brigade has expanded services to assist the Park and improve the visitor experience by making lanterns, popular water yokes, gabions for Ft. Moore, stools and new benches at Muhlenberg Brigade.

Email to learn more. Printable volunteer FAQ.

THREE GREAT WAYS TO SUPPORT THE HUT BRIGADE

VOLUNTEER

New recruits welcomed!

Familiarity with basic hand tools would be helpful but prior construction or building experience is not necessary.

Park rules require volunteers to be at least 16 years old.

ADD YOUR SUPPORT

Make an unrestricted contribution and support this important work.

JOIN THE MAILING LIST

Not sure when you can assist? Join the Hut Brigade mailing list to stay informed of upcoming work dates, progress on current projects, and new work to come.

Email to join the list.

2015 NOVA Hut Brigade Highlights

This summer was no exception to the valuable work and impact of the NOVA Hut Brigade. The Park, Alliance, and visitors are grateful for the important and remarkable repairs and improvements made possible by this dedicated and skilled group of volunteers.

After several weather related postponements, the NOVA Valley Forge Hut Brigade kicked off the 2015 season on Saturday, March 14. The goal for 2015 was to complete the restoration of the Blacksmith Hut, begun in 2014. While the Hut Brigade was working towards this goal, the Park contracted the building of four new huts near the Visitor Center. The Hut Brigade was quick to volunteer – from debarking and daubing to whatever necessary in assisting the Park to complete the new huts for visitors to enjoy.

March • Work Begins Despite Inclement Weather

Volunteers devote efforts to constructing four large double doors and four window shutters that will be installed in the Blacksmith’s hut. Despite rain, folks stayed warm and dry by working in the Park’s Carpentry Shop and successfully construct new doors plus windows that will be installed as a part of the Blacksmith Hut restoration.

building window shutters

April • Debarking Logs for New Huts

About 200 logs are needed for the four new huts contracted by the Park to be built near the Visitor Center. The Hut Brigade lends a hand (and strong back) to assist in debarking the new logs. Also, new doors and window shutters constructed in the winter months are installed in the Blacksmith Hut.

debarking logs

April • Junior Ranger Day

Hut Brigade volunteers engage Junior Ranger Day participants through How to Build a Hut demonstrations using hut building tools such as drawknives, adzes, shaving benches, etc. plus allowing visitors to test their skills at daubing a log wall.

Junior Ranger Day

May • New Members Arrive and Assist with the Heavy Lifting

Hut Brigade begins mounting the new doors made earlier this winter with each weighing close to 200 pounds! Fortunately, two new members, Christina Cassidy and Fran LaPenna, arrived and were able to help in the completion of mounting a door.

mounting the doors

June • The End is in Sight!

The end is finally in sight on completion of the Blacksmith Hut. Two of the four doors were hung with the other two soon to follow. The next BIG job is in sight – assisting Park staff with completing the four new huts at Muhlenberg Brigade. Completion includes daubing, chinking, building doors, and completing the fireplaces.

mounting more doors

July • July 4th Community Picnic in the Park

The Hut Brigade entertains Park visitors with Water Yoke games where visitors get to experience carrying water the way the Revolutionary Soldiers did, using water yokes and buckets. A new game, How to Build a Hut, was added and was a big hit among all ages.

4th of July events

July • Restoration of the Blacksmith Hut Complete!

Renovations on the Blacksmith Hut continue until the last door is hung and window installed. Except for a few minor clean-up tasks such as latches and hardware… the renovations are complete. Great Work Hut Brigade!

Blacksmith Hut completed

August • Playing with Mud – Daubing Begins

Daubing of the new soldiers huts begins. While making significant progress, there is still much to be done. Jeanne and Janelle Miller, charter members of the original Hut Brigade as well as world class dauber Ken Saler and his friend Vince DiBella lend a hand. We are fortunate to be joined by five new members – Eric Nielsen, Jodi Bergman, Susan Brown, plus Dan Baldner who was visiting the Park and jumped in to assist. As a special treat, Dan Weckerly, Communications Manager of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Bureau joins the action and documents his Hut Brigade experience in the article Dabbling at Daubing.

hut daubing
2014 NOVA Hut Brigade Highlights

April • Junior Ranger Day

Visitors get an up-close understanding about hut building and tools of the encampment

Jr. Ranger Day

June • Restoration of the Blacksmith Hut next to Artillery Park

Under the expert guidance of Ranger Pat Sullivan, the Hut Brigade begins the summer-long restoration of the replica of the hut which served as the Blacksmith Shop during the encampment. Tasks include removal and replacement of rotted logs and rebuilding windows and doors.

Blacksmith Hut restoration

July • The Bucket Brigade

Hut Brigade engages July 4th visitors then morphs into the Bucket Brigade to make colonial style wooden buckets. Used in conjunction with water yokes, visitors get a more authentic experience of hauling water.

Bucket Brigade

August • Blacksmith Hut renovations are taking shape

New window and door frames are installed. While more renovations are required, the results of the labor are taking shape.

Blacksmith Hut renovations

August • Attention turns to making new park benches

park benches

October • Work continues on east window frame and door jambs

frames

November • Daubing and chinking

Work includes daubing or filling the spaces between logs with a mixture of sand and cement, simulating the mud used by the Revolutionary soldiers, chinking (laying stones for a step outside the hut entrance), and start of constructing shutters and doors.

daubing and chinking

December • End of the season

Season concludes on a high note by building two doors as the next step in the Blacksmith Hut restoration. Each door measures about six feet high by four feet wide and constructed from one inch thick oak planks. HEAVY stuff but not for the Hut Brigade!

blacksmith doors

History of the NOVA Hut Brigade

NOVA (Network Of Volunteer Associates) is a community service organization previously sponsored by Lockheed Martin. The Lockheed Martin facility in King of Prussia was originally the home of the General Electric Space Division. GE sponsored the ELFUN Society that performed numerous community service projects. Projects at Valley Forge National Historical Park started in the 1980s. Initially focused on landscaping such as planting trees and wildflowers, the work gradually expanded to include replacing shingled roofs on the wooden huts.

In 1993 GE was sold to Martin Marietta, which subsequently merged with Lockheed Aircraft Corp. to form the Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMCO). LMCO formed the NOVA organization to replace the GE ELFUN Society. While maintenance and other projects continued at the Park, the NOVA Hut Brigade surfaced and jumped into action after a hut at Muhlenberg Brigade was burned in 2006 in an act of arson. While the Park provided materials and supervision, the Hut Brigade provided the labor and rebuilt the hut from the ground up in just eight weekends!

This group of skilled and dedicated volunteers meets year-round. The Brigade continues to provide maintenance to the huts including rebuilding chimneys, building bunks, and replacing doors. In more recent years, the Brigade has expanding services to assist the Park and improve the visitor experience by making lanterns, popular water yokes, gabions for Ft. Moore, stools and benches at Muhlenberg Brigade.

Current work focuses on restoring a hut adjacent to the Artillery Park which is a replica of the original Blacksmith Shop during the 1777–1778 winter Encampment. Several window and door frames have been replaced. Additional work is still required and includes construction of new doors and shutters, along with replacing several rotted logs.

VOLUNTEERS WELCOMED: The Hut Brigade welcomes all interested parties – you need not be a member of NOVA to participate. Familiarity with basic hand tools would be helpful but prior construction or building experience is not necessary. Park rules require volunteers to be at least 16 years old. If you are interested in learning more or willing to assist please contact info@vfparkalliance.org.