This (Not Very) Old House: Part Two

The week  began in Virginia, skipped over to Ohio and jumped to  MontanaYesterday’s House Hopping with Preservationists post took us to Vermont where Jen introduced us to her pre-fab fabulous home. Today she shares what happens when a preservation wife and an energy guy renovate a house together. 

—————————–

By Jen Parsons

Energy Guy VS Home Built When Oil Was Cheap

While the technology of aircrafts and lightweight materials were all the rage in manufactured home construction in the post-war era, there are repercussions when it comes to living in the house in a modern environment. Energy Guy soon realized the framing of the manufactured part of our home was not your normal 2” x 6” stud-wall construction. The studs were, I’m not kidding here—1” x 3”. Our walls are half the thickness of the wall of your standard home. Now, that may mean little to someone who is not married to an Energy Guy, but think of what it means to him. Our walls are only half as deep as the walls on your normal stick-built house. No big deal, right? WRONG! Energy Guy is all about insulation! Energy Guy would make a home with R-1 zillion insulating value if he could, and our half-as-deep walls meant half as much insulation. I watched him fret about our skinny walls and their proximity to the outside of our house on winter nights, as he would drink beer, put one hand upon the wall, feel its coolness to the touch, and drop his head down to scowl.

Another important feature of note is the use of a product known as Beaver Board, a.k.a. paperboard. This roughly 1/4” thick wallboard is made entirely of compressed wood, and as such, is paper-like. When painted and attached to the wall, the normal onlooker would likely mistake it for a wall built of 3/8” drywall. An advantage in the manufactured home would be that Beaver Board is lightweight for shipping. However, disadvantages are as follows:

  • When removing wall paper from it, the Beaver Board tears.
  • When removing wooden door or window trim, Beaver Board tears.
  • When removing old picture-hangers, Beaver Board tears.
  • When hanging any new items to our wall, Beaver Board tears. You many only hang so much as a key holder where a stud is available.

Energy Guy does not approve of the insulating qualities of Beaver Board when compared to gypsum. Not only are the walls in our manufactured home too skinny for ample insulation, the wallboard is skinny as well. The solution, for the parts of the house where it was necessary to remove wallboard, was to replace it with gypsum sheetrock. While he is Energy Guy, I guess that makes me Thrifty Wife, because I did not allow him to rebuild out the entire house with gypsum sheetrock—just about 2/3 of it.

What’s to be Made of This?

They say you remodel until you mop your way out the door. We’ve done floor coverings in the bedrooms, a full bath remodel, addition of a half bath, but the big two for our quality of life were as follows:

1. Removal of the forced hot air oil heat.

The hot air heat was generated in the furnace in the laundry room, ducted through the attic, and forced downward through dinner-plate sized ceiling ducts (probably in a 1950s effort to drive Energy Guy of the future bonkers). This heating system was yanked and a modern, efficient natural gas boiler/hot water tank was installed, as well as the addition of solar collectors for our hot water needs. Radiant panel heaters replaced the ceiling dinner plate style forced hot air heaters. They are beautiful, and remind me of a modern take on accordion style radiators.

Original forced hot air heat vented through the ceiling.

Panel radiator.

2. Kitchen Remodel/Integration of the Trailer to the Double Wide

Did I mention the original owners were incredibly clean? They were also remarkably cheap. While tearing out the Styrofoam drop panel ceiling in the rear addition (a not-so-clever technique of hiding the damage from a failed roof many years ago), we also discovered that much of the addition was framed with scrap lumber—wooden pallets, to be exact. Our suspicions proved correct when we removed a board with a shipping address written on it in marker—it was from Shelburne (Vermont) Bakery! Needless to say, this made Energy Guy, a husband of superior building diligence, absolutely crazy.

The exciting beginning, as Energy Guy begins to unearth the truth.

So we reframed the whole back third of the house inside the existing envelope. The good news is that this allowed Energy Guy to add copious amounts of fiberglass insulation. The bad news is that, while conducting this out-of-pocket remodel on nights and weekends, our remodel had long reached its exasperation point, as I cooked dinners in my unheated, un-insulated garage well into Christmas season (we started in June).

A pregnant lady compelled to bake things in a garage in December is a sad, sad thing.

The house had long held a camp-like smell, musty and sneeze-inducing, especially after being shut for a weekend away. We were successful in finding the cause of that smell. A roof leak, probably the same one that caused the previous owners to install a drop ceiling, still existed and allowed water to pool at the intersection where the roof of the addition meets the garage. This meant framing existed within our walls with ant-farm quality carpenter ant tunnels.

Busy little jerks.

Sparing all the gory details of remodeling, we built new stud walls within the existing framing, installed vapor barriers, insulated to high heaven, installed outlets, air sealed, and all the other things you would expect out of a modern house built by a good boy scout like my Energy Guy.

What living in your remodel is really like. Here, the galley kitchen in the manufactured part of the house enters the 1980 addition.

Our goal to integrate the space of the older manufactured home into the rectangular addition was achieved by about a third of the original exterior wall which separated the two. A mini glue-lam allowed us to open up the space. We modernized by creating a large kitchen area, with a huge bar to eat at, and installing as many cabinets as the house could hold, since the house only had 3 small closets prior. Also, there are glorious electrical outlets every few feet, and nearly more lights in the house than you can stand.

The finished remodel.

Ultimately, we do have a home of Superior Quality. Ironically, the plaque was not all that wrong. Framing and materials within the original manufactured home were by far superior to those parts built by thrifty Vermonters in 1980. More remodeling has ensued, but those the tiny kitchen and the inferior heating system were the big two for us.

Preservation-wise, I did have qualms as more of our choices led us away from the era in which the home was built. Our layout is very current; with a kitchen that opens up into a living area via a bar, and the only original building material we utilized were new Formica countertops. However, when a home was manufactured to be put on a truck and installed quickly on location so that ordinary people could have an affordable home in a reasonable neighborhood, what sort of historic integrity must be maintained? We chose to honor the spirit of the efficiency and affordability of the home, while keeping with the idea that the National Home Corp rose out of what was considered a modern construction technique post-war. We used the most modern means of construction within our budget to make a house that can be lived in for another sixty years, if need be. Hopefully, that’s where Energy Guy and Preservation Wife found their compromise.

—————————-

Jen Parsons graduated from the University of Vermont with a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation and lives in the Green Mountain State. With a young child at home, she mostly preserves heirloom cookie recipes currently. She is sick of remodeling old houses, this being her third, and is looking forward to finally rehabilitating her 1966 Scotty Gaucho canned ham camper this summer…or building a tiny house. You never know.

Thank you Jen for sharing your remodel woes and successes. The house is looking great!

This wraps up the Preservation in Pink House Hopping with Preservationists tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 

This (Not Very) Old House: Part One

The House Hopping with Preservationists tour began in Virginia, continued to Ohio and jumped across the Midwest to the Great Plains and Montana. Now, we’re headed back to Vermont for a two-part post about a compromise between the historic features of a 1950 prefabricated ranch house and its incredible lack of energy efficiency. Today Jen talks about the history of her pre-fab “fabulous” house.

—————————-

By Jen Parsons

It is tricky business for someone trained in Historic Preservation to be married to an Energy Guy. It gets even trickier when remodeling your own house, while you live in it. Fortunately for us, our 1950 ranch had so little architectural flair to begin with, we joke that when the manufactured parts arrived on a truck and were plopped into assembly, the model name of our home was probably the “Spartan.”

A Home of Superior Permanent Construction

Though it is our home, we are but a number, a single item in the manufactured home series. We are number 31, 521. The most interesting feature of the home included this plaque, which hung in the laundry room (an alcove off the kitchen in the center of the home that also included the hot water heater). The National Homes Corporation of Lafayette, Indiana built the home, and the serial number is stamped in the bottom right corner.

House number 31,521.

With access to the University Library while a graduate student at UVM in Historic Preservation, I only found the following tidbits of information regarding the National Homes Corp.

From “A History of Prefabrication,” by Alfred Bruce and Harold Sandbank, Published by the J.B. Pierce Foundation, 1945:

National Homes Corp., Lafayette, Ind., began production for sale in 1940, and had sold 816 units for private use prior to 1942. During the past year, they produced 2,665 units for public war housing projects, and 102 units for private projects. Their Lafayette plant is working at its maximum capacity of 750 houses per month, which it sends out over a distance of 300 miles. At present, their unfilled orders amount to 2,872 units. The houses are prefabricated in panels on an assembly line, and grouped into four types: two 2-bedroom types selling for $2,000 and $2,400, and two 3 bedroom types, priced at $2400 and $3600. Their plans for post-war distribution are not final, but they are emphatic as to their intention to prefabricate after the war. For the postwar period, they envisage certain changes in construction, design, and distribution, but precise data are not yet ready for publication.

The Exterior of the National Homes Company of Lafayette, Ind. Home, ca. 1945. From "A History of Prefabrication."

Assembly of a National Homes Company home. Judging from the window placement on the front façade and the side façade, this is probably the same model home as ours. From "A History of Prefabrication."

Assembly line of interior panels at the National Homes Company. From "A History of Prefabrication."

Interior wall panel construction. From "A History of Prefabrication."

A larger version of the above images from "A History of Prefabrication."

Our Pre-fab Fabulous Home: The Trailer on the Double-Wide

Our single level, two-bedroom, one bath, 800 square foot manufactured ranch plunked down and rested on its slab in a new post-war suburban development of quarter-acre lots in 1950. As such, one of the cool things about the neighborhood is that the trees are older, taller, and occasionally quite lovely. Quite often, I find new suburban developments rendered more barren and obtrusive by the lack of old growth around them. I call this phenomenon: “House in a field.”

Convenience, proximity and price led us to our little ranch. Without an inherent love for the style, I believe we actually uttered the phrase, “The construction is so basic. It should be easy to fix.” When you remark of “ease” when tackling a home improvement project, you might as well just dig a hole in your backyard and shovel your money into it. It would take less time and cost just as much.

The house had only one prior owner: a man who had met a German woman when he enlisted during the Korean War; he brought her home, and made her his bride. This worked well to our advantage: the German woman was a precision cleaner. Neighbors tell of her vacuuming her driveway of excess dirt.

From appearances, the house remained largely unchanged since the 1950s: the kitchen was laid out galley style. With only four plywood cabinets, a sink, a GE stove, and gold-flecked Formica countertops, the limitations were evident for modern use. The kitchen also suffered from an utter lack of electrical outlets (only one; we chose to plug in the refrigerator and the coffee maker, alternating coffee for toast occasionally). Ceiling mounted light fixtures were also lacking, thereby requiring us to use precious electrical outlets for lamps. These failings signaled that not too much futzing had transpired in the home.

Making pizza in my four square feet of counter space, original cabinets, and ca. 1980 electric stove.

Around 1980, a shed roof addition extended both gable ends toward the rear of the house and formed a long, narrow rectangular room with brown carpet and wood-paneled walls. We fondly called this “The Trailer on the Double Wide.” This added another 350 square feet or so of questionably useful space to the main block of the house, and was accessible through an opening punched out where the rear exterior wall of the original kitchen had been. More brown carpet had covered the floors of the bedrooms, with blue carpet covering the living room, while the kitchen and bath received a reprieve with VAT and vinyl tile, respectively.

Vinyl Asbestos Tile (VAT) remained under the carpet in most living spaces. Darn the “Spartan” model—our neighbors had hardwood.

As for any architectural flair of Post War building styles, features were quite Spartan as well. The two panel interior doors are old growth Douglas fir with lovely, tight grains for the stiles and rails, and plywood panels. Clear glass doorknobs and brass hinges complemented these doors. Varnish has darkened the doors over time, yet they still remain lovely.

Varnished doors and glass doorknobs.

A concave shadow molding and V-joints join the walls to each other and the walls to ceiling. The long pieces of molding were nailed to the wall with a plaster cast joint in each corner where the wall molding and ceiling moldings meet on two sides. The plaque explains this joint as allowing for expansion/contraction of a home, resulting in crack-proof walls. While this sounds unusual, we have to keep in mind now that many people were still quite used to having cracked plaster walls, and this was a home of the future, with newer, lighter modular materials.

The wood molding joins together in a plaster V-joint.

——————

So, how do the Preservation Student & the Energy Guy work together in this pre-fab house? Stay tuned for part two. 

——————

Jen Parsons graduated from the University of Vermont with a Masters degree in Historic Preservation and lives in the Green Mountain State. With a young child at home, she mostly preserves heirloom cookie recipes currently. She is sick of remodeling old houses, this being her third, and is looking forward to finally rehabilitating her 1966 Scotty Gaucho canned ham camper this summer…or building a tiny house. You never know.

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?

—————————-

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. 

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. 

———————————–

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.

————————-

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.

——————————

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.

——————————–

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).