Renting in Big Sky Country: A Montana Bungalow

House Hopping with Preservationists began in Virginia and moved to Ohio. Today the tour continues in the Big Sky Country: Montana. Sarah and her husband rent an adorable bungalow in Great Falls, MT and she enjoys reading the house and pondering its history. Join Sarah as she takes us through the house and shares her insight for analyzing the changes that have been made by previous residents. Sarah proves that renting can be just as thought-provoking as owning. 

By Sarah Nucci

I confess, I’m a Virginian at heart. I was born in Virginia, ended up in Ohio, Michigan, and Mississippi before coming home. And even then, I married into the Air Force – which took us to Las Vegas. It’s pretty safe to say that I was less than excited when we found out we were moving to Great Falls, MT, last year. I was even less excited when we planned on living on base, only to find out that we couldn’t as soon as my husband arrived. Slight freak out! No housing and I was on my way with two cats in the car.

It turned out okay in the end – the panicked house hunting brought up this home:

The front of my house. Yes, I realize this looks pretty sad at the moment - it’s February and there isn’t much snow. I’m told we’re getting plenty this week, but until it shows up we continue to have unseasonably warm weather. Ignore the lawn.

My husband texted me an image of the front of the house – and then a google search brought up this link(Click to see lots of interior shots for a good idea of the layout and discussion to follow. The home looks big on the outside, but it’s a 1913 bungalow style house with small rooms that is hard to photograph.)

Let’s start outside. You can see that the house has three bays, with a center front door. It’s on a corner lot of only .09 acres. – and when I looked it up on the Sanborn Maps (it first appears in 1929), this house is one of two on the original lot, and it appears that there may have been some kind of garage in between the two.

Sanborn, 1929.

The house is the one on the block on the left, top right corner. You’ll notice there is kind of a small porch on the inside of the lot, and you may notice that the neighbor’s house looks surprisingly like this one.

The neighbor's house, NE view.

The house was built about 15 years before the map was drawn and there are already changes you can see by looking at the  maps. The biggest change is the flow of the floor plan. Rather than a porch across the front of the house, now when you walk through our front door, you enter the screened-in porch, which is only on the right half of the facade. From the porch you walk into the living room/kitchen. The dining room is off the kitchen (note the enclosed portion of the porch).

The dining room ceiling.

Check out the dining room: it has a dropped ceiling (remind anyone of elementary school). What you can’t see is that the floor slopes down. In extremely cold weather, the cold air comes through the floor, since this room is not over the basement and thus, has no insulation.

Exposed ceiling beam between the living room/kitchen.

In the main room are a couple of evident changes. You can see the beam through the middle of the room (running the short way through the house). I’m guessing there used to be a wall there.  I’m guessing the kitchen as always been there, though it has been updated.  Something that you don’t notice in a house until you move in: there are no wall outlets on the sink/stove side of the kitchen. Instead, they are all located by the L extension.

One of the saddest parts of what has happened to this house is actually the fireplace on the far north side of the house. Outside, on both houses, you can see the pretty awesome irregular brick on the fireplace. At some point, someone painted ours to match the walls. This makes me terribly sad. I’ve never been inside the neighbor’s house to know if theirs has been painted as well.

The painted mantle and fireplace.

One of those things I wasn’t really thinking about until recently is that we don’t have a hallway in our house. This is kind of amusing in that hey-our-master-bath-exits-onto-the-living-area-way, but then again since there are only two of us, it works out pretty well.

We only rent this house, and frankly, the owner is a single military guy – there used to be five young guys living in this house before we moved in. I’m pretty sure that there were some changes to make it “rentable.” One of these is the door frames throughout the house.

New door frames.

New trim and old baseboards.

You’ll notice that the baseboards are still there. Someone put some textured wall treatment on EVERYTHING and I guess the realtor probably thought it would rent better with the door frames added. They also added the tacky hollow wood doors. In fact, there is only one original door in the house – and it leads to the attic.

The only original door in the house.

If you walk through this “open area” at the base of the stairs you walk into the master bedroom. This is the far southwest corner of the house, and is right behind the kitchen. There are a couple of things that really indicate that this room has been heavily altered. One is that there is a small beam/extension through the middle of the room, and the other is the window next to the built-in bookcase on the far end of the room. You’ll notice that there is a small cut-out for the window to fit – and it cuts about 6 inches out of the side of the room.

Cut for the window in the master bedroom.

Looking up in the window cutout.

The old connection between the two rooms in the current master bedroom.

This room looks pretty spacious, right? Ha! We have a small, 1940s, four-poster bed that sits under the back window. It leaves about a foot and a half for us to walk between the wall and the bed. This is also the only room in the house that’s air conditioned. My guess is this could have been two rooms, that have been altered into the “master”

The last room in the middle of the two bedrooms is actually the bathroom. It’s not big, not even close, but it’s also not bad. The bathroom has the tub/shower combo, as well as the toilet, sink, and medicine cabinet. There’s also a small cabinet in the corner. From the outside you can see there was originally a window there that has been covered and painted over.

The filled in bathroom window on the rear of the house.

The city is built all around water ; in 1889 the first water tap was issued, and electricity happened early as well – the five water falls that Great Falls is named for were dammed early on for hydroelectric power. That being said – I’m not sure where the original bathroom was located. I have doubts it was here, but maybe it was as a Jack-and-Jill bathroom with doors into each bedroom.

I can safely say that the basement and the attic were not originally finished. You can see the images of the space on the link – but there isn’t too much to see. What I will point out, is that we have a small side porch that opens from the kitchen.

The side porch.

And we have that small stairway to the basement from that side of the house. My guess is that is what is marked on the Sanborn map there. The fireplace was definitely not the original or only means of heating the house; the coal chute cover is still on the back of the house.

The original coal chute.

Inside there has never been central air installed. In fact, we have that one window until and we only run it when sleeping during the summer months. The basement is always cool. The heating system, though, heats the first floor at the basement. It’s pretty efficient and it’s completely helped by the 9 deciduous trees that are on the property.

Unfortunately, the attic only has gravity vents onto the first floor. In the winter we actually close off the attic so we aren’t trying to heat it, and in the summer we open those windows to help cool off the house. It makes the space a bit unusable for much more than storage space!

This house has been amazing to live in – and there are definitely a lot of clues as to what the house was before we moved in. I’m hoping that my neighbors move sometime soon so I can have an excuse to explore their house.

What is your house telling you?

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Sarah Nucci is a 2004 graduate of Mary Washington College, and is currently the Curator of History at the Montana Historical Society.  She’s an avid re-enactor making the most of living in Montana.

Thank you Sarah for giving us a tour of your bungalow. I hope you enjoy analyzing the changes, learning more about the house, and dreaming of what you’d do if it were your own!

Next up on House Hopping with Preservationists, we’re headed back east to Vermont. 

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The Alison House

It’s a week of House Hopping with Preservationists! Continuing on from stop one in central Virginia, let’s make our way to Columbus, Ohio. Maria, a historic preservationist, is busy researching, planning and prioritizing restoration and other projects for her house. Read on as Maria shows us the significant architectural features and shares the first projects she and her husband have undertaken. 

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By Maria Burkett

About a year ago, my husband and I purchased our first home, a beautiful little two-story brick vernacular house constructed in a working class immigrant neighborhood in 1914. The house is one of the newer buildings in the neighborhood, which dates to the 1860s, although most of the neighboring buildings on my street are from the 1890s and early 1900s. We are located north of downtown Columbus, Ohio and many of the early homeowners worked at nearby factories or shops. One of the early owners of our house (the Allison family) was an auto-mechanic and had a large garage in the rear of our yard, off of the ally. The garage is long gone, but the 1921-1922 Sanborn Map shows the location of the garage as well as the mixed development in the area with several multiple dwelling units and businesses mixed together.

Sanborn Insurance Map, 1921-1922.

One of the things that attracted us to the area was the diversity. The factories and garages have been replaced by restaurants and art galleries, and the area continues to change with many new developments planned for the neighborhood that will reuse the older buildings or appropriately in full the vacant urban lots. It is an exciting place to live.

It was love at first site for my husband and me with our house. First of all, it is one of the most unique buildings I have seen from the exterior. Although its form is rather plain, the buildings materials are unique. The front of the house is a beautiful yellow brick with red mortar and red brick details, and the other sides are a darker red brick, much darker than normal. Luckily for us, little repointing has been done, and we still have most of the original red mortar. The house has no additions and most of the windows are original, although all three of our doors have been replaced.

Front corner of our house—you can see the original 1/1 window, yellow brick façade, and red brick details and red brick side wall.

The interior is just as extraordinary; the house retains the original reddish hardwood floors and wood trim. The trim in the kitchen and first floor bathroom was painted, but one of my jobs this year is to remove the paint and refinish the trim.

The original floors and trim really excited us about the house when we were looking.

One of my distant projects is to remove the drywall in the firebox and find and appropriately sized gas insert.

My favorite part of the interior is the upstairs bathroom. Most of the bathroom has been redone (which I think is pretty ugly and will be giving it a makeover eventually), but the original clawfoot tub is still in place and there is a curved wall detail to accommodate the tub.

My beautiful bathtub—I can’t wait to rip out the tile and flooring.

We have done relatively little in the ways of improvements to the house so far. One of my husband’s requirements was that we did not, under any circumstances, purchase a fixer upper. Our house was move in ready, but like all houses, a person can dream up many projects. I made a three page list of every dream, which is why we delayed beginning work – in order to prioritize these projects. This past fall, we took the first step and insulated our attic. We like to think our house is warmer this winter, although the winter has been so warm it really is hard to tell.

After the insulation = a nice warm house. None of this existed in the attic before.

This spring we are going to start the task of repainting our exterior trim (one reason a brick house is so great, so little to paint!) and fix our gutters and front porch. The roof was incorrectly built and years of water and ice damage have left a considerable gap between where the roof ends and the gutters begin. I would also like to get some storm windows up and restore all of the rope and pulley systems in our double-hung windows, but that may have to wait another year.

One of my favorite details-a corner guard! We have several of these upstairs, although others are painted (for now).

In the meantime, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring so I can continue work on my yard. For a house that is closing in on its 100th birthday, it had almost no landscaping to speak of until we bought it. I spent last summer putting in raised garden beds and planning perennials, azaleas, vinca, and whatever else I could get my hands on.

My nice garden last summer.

Our dog posing by a newly planted azalea.

The beginning of the garden. We later discovered that the dirt path running through out backyard is actually a concrete walk buried under several inches of mud. That is a project for this coming spring.

We are looking forward to continuing my battle against grass and installing a back walk this year. We love our old house and are constantly surprised and gratified by what we find and complete to make it our home.

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Maria works in Columbus, Ohio where she lives with her husband and dog. She is part of the fabulous Mary Washington Preservation class of 2006 and a flamingo enthusiast since 2005. 

Thanks, Maria!  You are a great inspiration for how to carefully plan restoration and other home renovations. Good luck with this year’s projects. Last year’s garden looks beautiful.

Next stop on House Hopping with Preservationists, we’ll head further west to the Great Plains: Montana!

Virginia “1/2” I-House

The first stop on the House Hopping with Preservationists tour is in Central Virginia. Hume, an engineer,  & Ali, a historic preservationist,  bought their house four years ago and have been lovingly working on it since. With their combined knowledge and dedication, they tackle many structural projects that cause the rest of us to shudder. Read on to find out why we could call this house a “1/2” I-house, how Ali & Hume have uncovered its history and how the present interfaces with the past in this house.

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By Hume and Ali Ross

Our house was built in 1930. We have pieced together information about how it evolved from neighbors and relatives of the previous owners. We heard from the granddaughter of the original owners that the house always was meant to be based on the traditional I-house form that is common in Virginia, a two-story, three bay, symmetrical façade with a long front porch. Our interpretation is that the plan was modified – perhaps in response to the Great Depression – and half of the typical I-House was never built. What would have been the central hallway now runs along one of the exterior walls.

Three main additions have been built out from the original footprint. The clearest evidence of what is an addition is the framing style. The main “half-I-House” is constructed of balloon framed, true-dimension Southern Yellow Pine that will snap a modern drywall screw off at the head if it manages to pierce and grab in the first place. The additions are constructed of modern “whitewood” dimensional lumber with headers and sill plates.

This facade photo shows how the house really makes sense as an I-House with the location of the front door; you can just picture the door centered on a larger facade, which is a characteristic of I-houses.

The first addition, a kitchen on the West elevation was constructed likely in the early to mid-1940s, as evidenced by a newspaper found under the floor discussing ongoing military action in Corsica. The house was expanded again; we think about 10 years later, a one story “beauty salon” was tacked onto the north elevation. We arrived at this date from what appeared to be the calling card of the trim installer penciled onto the back of some crown molding: “WM 53-12-8.”

“Beauty Salon” is not a typical room name in a residential house but this was its original purpose. Our neighbors across the street have lived here for almost 50 years and they remembered lots of women coming to our house to chat and get their hair cut by the previous owner in the salon. In the attic we found a few boxes of 1950s and 1960s hairstyling magazines. The name for the room remains, although the hair washing sink has long been removed.

The third “addition” was the enclosure of a pre-existing porch off of the kitchen. This is the hardest to date – the construction methods are different from the kitchen, suggesting it was enclosed later on, even if the porch was built at the time. A marking in a concrete pad outside this porch has initials and the year “47” – although this pad could have been poured concurrent with the construction of the kitchen and original open porch.

This MicroLAM shot shows the door opening we made between the kitchen and middle room. Note the contrast of the modern header with the back of the lath and plaster showing .

Another shot without the support poles, again showing the door opening we made between the kitchen and middle room.

It is interesting to think about how future owners may understand how the changes we have made may fit in chronologically. LVL Beams, pressure treated lumber, structured wiring, galvanized joist hangers, subfloor adhesive, the pane of glass we bought at ACE Hardware next to the original wavy glass pane in the kitchen window; all are products of our renovations to the house. Which of these will become the first that could provide a TPQ (terminus post quem) for future renovators to discover when our work was done? For instance, we installed CAT5e cable throughout the house, which is already practically antiquated. CPVC pipe may be the future or may be phased out entirely as PEX improves. We have hidden some dates around the house, written in concrete or on cross bracing under the kitchen floor to help confirm their assumptions of when we did our renovations, if they happen to find them.

Our initials for future renovators to find.

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Thank you to Ali & Hume for sharing your house’s history and some of your projects!

Ali is also part of the fabulous Mary Washington Preservation class of 2006. Ali graduated from UVA in 2010 with a MA in Architectural History and a certificate in Historic Preservation. She has recently worked in the Easement Department of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Thousand Island Park Landmark Society in upstate NY.

Tomorrow on House Hopping with Preservationists, we head to the Midwest: Ohio!

House Hopping with Preservationists

Let’s take a trip together! How about a cross-country road trip this week to visit historic (or old) homes inhabited by and loved by preservationists and their families? Have you wondered how preservationists live in and treat their own homes?

This week, Preservation in Pink, will do just that with the introduction of a mini series: House Hopping with Preservationists. Step into the homes of preservationists, who will share their historical research, analysis of alterations, thoughts on restoration and renovation planning, project implementation and project completion. Join in for the variety and lots of images.

Get ready, the first tour begins today.

A repeat, but still adorable: Scooter hugging Mr. Stilts.

And none of the houses will include stuffed or lawn flamingos or cats (my house is not on the tour for this round).

 

Pedestrian Malls

What do you think of streets closed to traffic (pedestrian malls)? Do you like to visit places with pedestrian malls? Would you like to live in a town or city with a pedestrian mall? They have a time and a place, yes?

Church Street in Burlington, VT is lined in brick and cars are only on the cross streets.

Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont is an excellent example of a successful pedestrian mall. Restaurants have outdoor seating. There is public art. Retail stores have actual sidewalk sales. Musicians sit on the brick lined street and play. Kids, couples, families stroll up and down the pedestrian mall. It’s beautiful and sunny and ambient. However, Church Street has not always been like this. Just a few decades ago it was a traditional downtown which had gone downhill until 1981 when Burlington began to reinvent itself, including Church Street. (Disclaimer: there is more history to downtown Burlington than that!)

But, pedestrian malls are not always successful. Look at Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, NC, which was converted to a pedestrian mall in 1976 in hopes of revitalizing the city. Instead, it had the opposite effect. In fact, the street was less populated and less popular than ever. Finally, in 2005, the city decided to return the street to vehicle and pedestrian use rather than just pedestrians.  However, the new plan included wider sidewalks, street furniture, plantings, wayfinding signage and a plan for additional development. The current result? Success.

Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, NC with wide sidewalks and street planting and furnishings. Image via Metro Jacksonville. Click for source.

Charlottesville, VA has a pedestrian mall as well that seems successful. And it has the giant chalkboard, if you recall.

Charlottesville, VA pedestrian mall and community chalkboard.

The best examples for pedestrian malls that I can think of lie in cities with a strong population base of college students and/or tourism. Aside from big cities, what about small towns? Could pedestrian malls work and would there be a good justification for creating them? I think of Vermont towns with small main street business districts. Many of our towns have one or two through roads, and converting a street to a pedestrian mall would not seem feasible. A park or a courtyard or a side street; however, could be another story. Additionally, many towns have limited parking and sidewalk space. A large sidewalk to accommodate seating, shopping, walking and street furnishings is just not possible.

What if we consider daily shopping v. tourism shopping? Ideally, our main streets and business districts across the country have restaurants, retail, pharmacies, markets and overall a good combination of – shall we say – those every day sorts of businesses and those fed by tourism and our “expendable” incomes.  In a business district that caters to the town itself rather than tourism and large crowds, a pedestrian mall would seem improbable and inappropriate. One reason is parking. People who need to stop at the pharmacy or the bagel shop or the bank want to be able to park in front of or near the building, and not have to walk from a parking garage or a far away spot in order to run a quick errand or two. Hence, pedestrian malls have a time and place. Small town America may not be the place.

Does anyone know of a town with a small main street business district that has been converted to a pedestrian mall? I’d be interested to know. While pedestrian malls are aesthetically pleasing, they seem ideal in warmer climates or those with large business districts that will attract many people. I’d like to hear a debate on pedestrian malls, one given by planners who have studied such issues and weighed the pros and cons and the factors at play. Are any of you readers skilled in such discourse? Care to give a brief overview of what is important to consider for the creation (or removal) of pedestrian malls?

So, readers, tell me your thoughts on pedestrian malls and parking in front of businesses? What do you think is preferable in theory? In practice?

Pirelli Tire Building

What remains of the Pirelli Tire Building, as seen from the Ikea parking lot in New Haven, CT.

Passing through New Haven, CT on I-95, you might notice a large mid-century concrete building – if you’re not blinded by the blue & yellow Ikea building just south of the concrete building. Or perhaps the Ikea advertisement on the building distracts your attention.  I hadn’t paid too much attention on this section of I-95 before, and Ikea may have caught my attention first (usually we’re traveling this way after daylight hours).

Vinny and I recently stopped at the New Haven Ikea on our way back to Vermont and once I had the time to look at this building, I was struck by its beauty. Normally I wouldn’t characterize mid century concrete buildings as beautiful, but there was something about this one. And it’s smack in the middle of an Ikea parking lot, which seemed odd. We figured it must be Ikea offices. It looked modern, like the general aesthetic of Ikea.

Once I started looking, it was not hard to find information about this building. It is the Pirelli Tire/ (originally) Armstrong Rubber Company Building designed by Marcel Breuer in 1968. The building was meant to serve as a gateway to New Haven, since it is located near the I-91/I-95 interchange and to mark the cultural rebirth of the city, hence, the choice for a modern building. Read more about the design of the building on the DOCOMOMO_US record. The building was listed in the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places in 2000, which makes it eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been vacant since the 1990s and there have been a few unsuccessful plans to rehabilitate the building.

In 2002, Ikea announced its plan to demolish the Pirelli building in order to create enough parking for its big box store. (It was a huge news story in the preservation world, but that was when I was just learning of preservation so I missed it back then.) Fortunately, they were not successful, at least not completely. The image you see above is only a portion of the Pirelli building; originally the two stories on the bottom extended and those floors served as a warehouse as well as a research and development wing. This image from Architecture Week shows the original building.

Pirelli Tire Building. Image via Architecture Week. Click for source.

Now, the Pirelli building is overshadowed by the Ikea building. The green space is gone, and the two-story wing is demolished, which destroyed its iconic asymmetry (and possibly its architectural integrity). The building is surrounded by a parking lot. Ikea uses the building as a billboard. See the original extent of the building on A Daily Dose of Architecture.

What is the worst part? The building is empty, not even one floor is used for offices or business or anything else. Ikea owns the building. Ikea is probably waiting for the right time to attack and destroy the iconic building (though the company says it is in agreement with the City of New Haven that the building should remain).

What is interesting about this? Ikea and Marcel Breuer, Pirelli building architect, have a lot in common. Ikea is known for its modern design using affordable materials and production and distribution.  Marcel Breuer, is known for mass producing objects with common materials, such as bent steel tube chairs and Ikea. Wouldn’t you think that Ikea would find this to be an ideal location and a wonderful building to showcase the company? Instead, the building is a billboard for Ikea. Why couldn’t Ikea think creatively about a building? A 2003 Preservation Nation post ponders whether saving half the building was a bad decision or a good compromise.

Ikea demolished a significant building (a portion of one, but took integrity with it) for parking spaces – more asphalt.

As always, local zoning and architectural appreciation by city officials could have helped to preserve this building or come up with an actual compromise. Of course, retailers such as Ikea should be culturally responsible, too.

And now I feel guilty for shopping at Ikea.

Rocky Point Drive-in Theater

A follow up to Preservation Photos #120.

Long Island had many drive-in theaters in the 1960s-1970s. The suburban setting and still vast amount of land available was perfect for drive-ins. The Rocky Point Drive-in opened in 1961 with capacity for 750 cars, a modern snack bar, speakers for the cars and a playground for the kids. The spaces for cars were on an angle, so the front of each car would be raised a bit for better viewing. It closed in 1988 and remained empty into the 1990s. After closing as a drive-in, the Rocky Point property reopened as a golf driving range; however, that didn’t last long. You can see in these photographs that the driving range used the existing sign.

Drive-in opening from the Port Jefferson Record in 1961. Found via New York Drive-ins. Click for source and to see additional advertisements.

As a kid, I always found the Rocky Point marquee fascinating; to me it was something tangible of my mother’s childhood, and helped me to imagine what Long Island was like for her. It is a unique relic for Long Island, one left alone among the intensive development. Beyond that marquee, my mother’s stories and the movie Grease, I didn’t have any connections to drive-in theaters. As we know, drive-ins today are few and far between. I don’t think I ever saw one in operation until I lived in Virginia (and my friends and I had to make a trek to find that one).

The marquee for the Rocky Point Drive-in on Long Island has been slowly deteriorating throughout my entire life. For years I  have wanted to stop and photograph the sign, hoping to capture a bit of roadside Long Island before it was too late. Finally, I found the time to do so.

View of the Rocky Point Drive-in marquee on the westbound side (looking east) of Route 25A.

Looking to the former drive-in property.

The abandoned driving range.

Drive-ins existed on Long Island throughout the 1950s-1970s, with many closing in the late ’70s and ’80s; few lasted into the ’90s.  The Westbury Drive-in was the last operating drive-in on Long Island; it closed in 1998 after a long fight. Aside from the lure of indoor theaters, drive-ins closed mostly due to pressures of real estate prices; once closed and demolished, the land became more profitable shopping malls and hotels.

Over the years, "Rocky Point Driving Range" has fallen off to reveal the "Drive-in" sign beneath it.

Side profile of the marquee.

"Rocky Point" covered "Drive-in".

View looking west.

What will happen in this location? There has been talk of big box stores wanting this land for decades. Fortunately, the citizens of Rocky Point are opposed. A Facebook group  is hoping to garner support to reopen the drive-in. Who knows? Maybe it will become  a park and leave some green space on Route 25A.  I’m glad I finally took those pictures.

Preservation Photos #120

The marquee of the long abandoned Rocky Point Drive-in Theater in Rocky Point, NY.

More photos and history coming in another post, later today.

Presidents’ Day

A bald eagle sitting in the cottonwood tree at Chimney Point State Historic Site, VT, February 2012.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Who loves CBS Sunday morning? Whenever I’m home visiting my parents, we sit in the sunny living room, drinking coffee while watching this show. Usually the stories are interesting and we cannot tear ourselves away. Yesterday’s edition was all about the Presidents and the White House, and it was fascinating.  Here is some of my new presidential knowledge, thanks to CBS.

William Henry Harrison is the president who gave the longest inauguration speech (2 hours) and he was sworn in at age 68, at a time when the average life expectancy was only 39.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison after he died (one month after his inauguration speech). His campaign would be very in vogue today as he was a wealthy aristocrat who portrayed himself as an average guy who liked hard cider and log cabins, unlike his opponent, William McKinley. And, John Tyler who served as President from 1841-1845 has two living grandsons — yes, 170 after his presidency, his grandson is alive. Three generations spanning 200 years. Crazy. How? John Tyler fathered a child at age 68 and his son was a father at age 75. John Tyler’s grandsons are in their 80s.

And, possibly the best part of the show were the clips of Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House. Mrs. Kennedy essentially created the role of White House curator and worked hard for restoration and historic preservation of the White House (and beyond). Mrs. Kennedy shaped the White House in a respectful way, stating that it is very important for how the country presents itself. She believed in keeping pieces from all of the presidents, but also thought that the White House should change a bit with each presidential family.  From the JFK Library, Jacqueline Kennedy is quoted in Life Magazine in 1961 as saying,

“All these people come to see the White House and they see practically nothing that dates back before 1948,” Mrs. Kennedy said in a September 1, 1961 interview with Hugh Sidey of Life magazine. “Every boy who comes here should see things that develop his sense of history. For the girls, the house should look beautiful and lived-in. They should see what a fire in the fireplace and pretty flowers can do for a house; the White House rooms should give them a sense of all that. Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to “redecorate” it — a word I hate. It must be restored — and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.”

(I knew I liked Jackie O.)

What an interesting piece to include; it shows that the presidency and the presidential terms are about more than the Presidents themselves. And while we should most definitely honor the U.S. Presidents, it is important to remember their entire legacies and families.

If you have the chance, watch some of those CBS Sunday morning clips or look up facts about a president you’re not too familiar with. At the very least, you’ll have a bit more knowledge of US history and some good trivia facts.

Here is a famous quote about Vermont, written by President Calvin Coolidge:

Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox, without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our eternal hills.

I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

You can visit the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, VT (his birthplace). Here, Coolidge was sworn in as President of the United States by his father.

Abandoned Vermont: Hancock House

Hancock, Vermont is known for its association with the lumber industry, the Green Mountains and its location along the Scenic Route 100 Byway. In the early nineteenth century, Centre Turnpike (today VT Route 125) connected Middlebury to the Connecticut River Valley. Agriculture, lumber, mills, modest homes and the turnpike tell the story of Hancock.

Hancock, VT

This former residence sits across the street from the Old Hancock Hotel in the Hancock Village Historic District. It is Federal style architecture, constructed in 1825. Pictures can tell such interesting stories. The above image shows ghost lines for shutters on at least the second story. Perhaps the house had a wrap-around one story porch.

View of the ell. Note the interesting ghost line of another roofline, and the alterations to the window openings.

Northeast corner view. The first floor windows are mostly boarded from the inside. Note the pilaster on the corner of the building - another hint of a porch? You can see the shutter ghost lines clearly on the second story. Yet, look at the bottom of the first story. It almost looks like someone started work on the house.

The sun and the blue sky help the details pop. Note the house appears to have been painted red, but weather and time have worn it away. The attic story window has been altered.

Note the beautiful white porcelain doorknob. Did this house have a more elaborate door frame at one point?

Altered windows, clapboard in a variety of condition. Note the nice cornice return on the gable.

Did you notice anything odd about this 1825 house? There is not a chimney. The foundation looks as though work was started and never completed. I’d love to spend more time staring at this abandoned house. While historic, these 6/6 windows likely replaced the original 12/12 windows. (Glass panes grew in size as glass technology improved; therefore, older windows have smaller panes.)

As I mentioned, I do not know anything about it. Maybe it’s another sad story of the owner running out of money  or perhaps it’s one caught up in family estates. Regardless, it would be a crying shame for Hancock to lose this building, especially because it sits at such a prominent intersection. What potential it has.

(Historical information from The Historic Architecture of Addison County: Vermont State Register of Historic Places.)