Steve's House -- The work begins

The Old House Web

The demolition begins

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The green turret room

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A hallway once again

The blue ceiling

The floor revealed

Powder post beetle damage

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Turret access through attic

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The leaning, but safe, chimney

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A room with a view

Thursday, Nov. 11, 1999

It's finally ours -- from the top of the tin turret to the treasures and surprises waiting for us in the basement. After three months of haggling and nail biting, four loans and two settlements, we closed on the 5th of November.

Now comes the dirty, nasty and at times, fun, work -- removing the "improvements" that converted our Victorian into four single bedroom apartments in the mid-1960s.

That means carting off four stoves, four range hoods, four refrigerators, four bathrooms, and acres of green paneling. We're wondering just how good a deal the prior owner got on this paneling, because it's EVERYWHERE.

The current mayor's mom, daughter of the builder, a Mr. Hirst, was born in the turret room in Apartment C in 1903. I'm sure the room was far less green then.

Finances weren't the only thing we committed to paper. While waiting for settlement we drew up floor plans -- of the house in its current "remuddled" state, and as we guess/hope it will appear after our renovations.

Today the house has four apartments sandwiched between a stone-walled basement and a spectacularly large and interesting attic.

To condense our dreams: Apartments C and D on the second floor will be replaced with four bedrooms and two baths that approximate the original house layout. Apartments A and B on the first floor will become a library, formal parlor, dining room and a kitchen with a pantry.

In the first half week or so of removing things, here's some of the stuff we've found.

The kitchen cabinets we're removing make great temporary tool boxes -- they keep valuable stuff from being lost in the demolition debris.

Already we're restored one original feature -- a hallway. As I suspected, the paired closets which backed up to each other upstairs used to be a hallway. The doors are modern (1960s) and the floor and wallpaper behind them is contiguous. There's even an old vent of some kind behind that door frame stud. The wall paper looks to be 1920s or perhaps even original, although there does appear to be a yellow layer (possibly backing or glue) behind it.

The ceiling of the resuscitated hallway is a very pretty light blue, and with original walls on both sides, there's very little doubt that this used to be a hall.

The original oak flooring is in place beneath carpets in Apartments C and D.

With the help of a friend skilled in restoration of older homes, I've learned a lot more about the house. We found a sizeable amount of termite damage in the basement. Moving to the attic we found a few residents who will need to be removed. Of the three types of wood-destroying insects, this house appears to have two species.

In the attic, the most visible are the powder post beetles. There are a good three or four locations with this type of visible damage.

We also spent some time looking at the roof, via the attic. One the neatest parts of this area is the turret access, a small opening which leads to a decaying but plastered area within. The views from this small space are rather wonderful, the ridgeline to the west (along which runs the Appalachian Trail) is clear through the trees in the front yard. There are also four other triple windows -- not a whole lot of light, but a unique space.

Central to the attic space is a brick chimney. Quite oddly shaped, it's slanted and twisted so as to emerge at the very top of the roof. It's a very impressive piece of brickwork, and I'm assured it's quite structurally sound despite its Tower-of-Pisa-like appearance.

A less ornate second chimney rises through the rear gable of the house and appears to be coated with the same white material used for the parging in the cellar. This second chimney is also sloped and twisted so as to emerge from the roof in just the right spot.

Along the back gable a rectangular section of floor clearly indicates where the former stair access to the attic was present. This will certainly be replaced in the restoration process. We may also adjust this rear window to provide roof-deck access to an envisioned addition, but we're not sure about that yet. Lots of ideas are floating around.

All told, though, the attic is a very large and very livable space. A central room, dominated by the brick chimney, is approximately 21x23. From that, gabled areas, each with a triple window, point towards the front (North), left (West), rear (South) and right (East). Towards the Northeast is the opening to the turret where we started.

To see more of Steve's house pictures, follow this link to his Web site.

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