From Mangled Manor to Clement Castle

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Musings

She died.

Oh, yes, she did. Between our offer on the house and closing, the previous owner–an Italian woman just a decade younger than the house itself–left this earth and her 100-year-old Foursquare that had been in the family since construction.

An American Foursquare is a simple house design in plan and there isn’t much frill to it in finish. And in our case, that’s extremely true. Without much millwork to speak of or anything really well-crafted that stands out (I honestly think a dull axe was considered a finish tool), it sounds like a simple old house to fix up.

But, like all old houses, there’s much history to discover that’s wrapped inside its un-insulated terra cotta block walls.

History and Renovating

“History” can create two very different paths for renovating:

  1. History can make it relatively easy to update if the house has been well-cared for, in other words restoration
  2. Then there’s the history that makes it need a lot of work, in other words re-built from the inside out

Ours is a 100-year-old house needs a lot of work.

From Mangled Manor to Clement Castle

From the total lack of insulation to the wet basement and apparent decades-ago leak in the roof to the window trim with old termite damage and crumbling plaster walls, it is fairly evident that our new old house hadn’t been well-cared for in a very long time.

Added to the mix, there were the few less permanent visual obstacles like the pink shag carpet covering the first floor of pine floorboards that headed on up the stairs (I still think that carpet contained the remains of several long-since-lived felines). Theremuddled 1970s wood paneled bathroom with carpet (oh, that was awesome carpet that had absorbed so much that we just shouldn’t mention) and blocked-up window with a view to the backyard.

In my imagination and happy-dream-like state, I’d really like to think of our home as Clement Castle, but for now we usually go with the more appropriate “Mangled Manor.”

But after five years of nights and weekends–and more–we’re moving up the castle road. We can now see Clement Castle’s Walls from Mangled Manor. Our home renovation is a trip from Mangled Manor to Clement Castle.