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Discussion in 'Your Vintage Home' started by LolitaHaze, Jun 13, 2006.
Floor looks superb Lizzie.:eusa_clap
Your new floor looks very nice. I'm always glad to see new improvements that don't look "modern."
Lovely job, Lizzie!
Having lived in New England for a while years ago, I know the style well. We also spent our Honeymoon in "camp" version of one of these on Peaks Island almost 13 years ago. They came make for a homey comfortable living, provided one doesn't rip the soul out of the house by improving it as I have seen on so called home improvement programs on TV. (Present company naturally excluded of course without saying.) What I have seen done to vintage homes over the years would make for a good plot for an Alfred Hitchcock film. How about the title, "Renovations for The Birds.":eeek:
Yes, Excelon is good stuff, as s the VCT produced by Mannington and Tarkett. If one has access to a radial arm saw one may even reproduce the 1940's vintage 9" x 9" tiles by cutting down the modern 12" units. One can also do a pretty fine job of reproducing a 1920's inlaid linoleum by cutting three colors of tile down into 2 1/2 squares and laying them in modified checkerboard fashion. All for much less cost than any sheet floor, and certainly less expense and trouble than ceramic tile.
The new floor in your kitchen really looks fine, Miss Maine. What a lovely job!
Looks great, Lizzie! I think you did a terrific job.
What saved my house from a renovation worse than death was the fact that the same two people lived in it for over fifty years - a lobsterman and his wife moved in in 1931 and died here in 1981 and 1982. That generation of Mainers didn't believe in wasting money on appearances, and the house was pretty much frozen in time over that span, in the same way my grandparents' house was. The people who got it after they died tried to muck it up with dark plywood paneling and shag carpet and the aforementioned textured white floor tiles, but as soon as I moved in the paneling and the carpet went to the burn pile. Fortunately they did no irreversible damage to the integrity of the house.
I'm hoping to spend the next twenty-five years or so here, until they take me out feet first, and whoever gets it after I'm gone better respect its integrity, or I'll be back.
My thoughts about my old homeplace!
I thought, some of you might enjoy this article: http://starcraftcustombuilders.com/Architectural.Styles.VictorianKitchen.htm#.VAqBv2MXMyh I new the Victorians did not use built in cabinets, so it is interesting to go into one and look how small the kitchen is, even a 3000+ square foot house, with all the modern updates.
Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing.
You'll find a lot of articles in '20s-era issues of "Better Homes and Gardens" on how to convert an "inward" kitchen to an "outward" kitchen, which is the about the time the latter style really became dominant. Houses built in the teens and twenties generally still had pantries -- mine does, and although it's very small and shallow it originally had double-wide folding doors separating it from the kitchen proper, and the only counters in the house are in this area. Only a pompous twit or a real estate agent would have ever called this a "butler's pantry," but it was a pantry nonetheless. There's also a closet-sized larder off the pantry which was converted, in the '70s, into a second bathroom for the convenience of the then-elderly owners.
On the issue of ice boxes, it was more common in New England, in houses which had shed or a back porch on the shady side, to keep the ice box there instead of actually in the kitchen. Heat from the stove, which was kept burning all day -- it was a primary heat source for the home -- would melt the ice much faster than if it was kept away from the kitchen. Most smaller homes before the twenties didn't have any sort of ice box at all -- perishables were kept in a larder or in the cellar which might help them keep for a day or so before they went bad.
My house, built in 1907, has a pantry that measures about 5 feet by 5 feet, with a "window" from the kitchen into the pantry. The pantry door is in the dining room. I never really figured out the usefulness of that window, as most anything you really need to reach, you have to go into the dining room and through the door to get of the shelves of the pantry.
Funny story about the pantry in my house: My aunt Hazel was a school teacher. Hazel never married and always lived at home with my Grandmother. One day while Hazel was at school, my Grandmother went into the pantry to get something. A gust of wind blew the door shut behind her. The door has a thumb latch on the OUTSIDE of the door. My Grandmother was locked in the pantry. She wasn't able to crawl out the window into the kitchen, as she was at a rather advanced age at the time. So, she just sat down on the pantry floor and waited for Hazel to get home from school. To this day, when anyone goes into the pantry, we always say, "be careful, you might have to wait for Hazel to come home."
My grandmother's ice box sat on the back porch, just out from the kitchen door. There is still a hole in the porch floor where the drain from the ice box went. My Grandmother also used to put things in the well to help keep them cool. She tied them in a sack and lowered them down with a rope. I remember hearing a story that once she was keeping a watermelon in the well and the sack broke open, spilling the watermelon out into the well. Seeing that the well was about 40 feet deep, it had to stay there till it finially rotted away. Just another interesting story of "life in the good old days."
On my grandparents property there was a natural spring, which fed into a nearby creek. The water coming up from the ground here was very cold, and formed in a little pool before spilling down into the creek. My grandfather built a little "house" of concrete blocks around it, and put a piece of tin on top to keep the critters out, and they used this like an auxiliary refrigerator. They kept melons and gallons of milk and other stuff in there. Just set it down in that cold water to keep it cool. As a kid I thought this was pretty neat, that wheny grandmother needed something she would send us down to the spring to fetch it.
Totally unrelated, but they also had a well, and the water was pumped into the plumbing of their house by a big electric pump under the front porch. The water had so much iron in it that it stained everything brown. It tasted pretty funny, too, but my grandmother always kept two or three half-gallon old glass orange juice jars full of water in the fridge, and when it got good and cold all the iron would settle out to the bottom of the jar. When a jar got empty she would refill it and stick it in back and move another one up front. That water, from those jars with the brown layer of iron sediment in the bottom, was always the best tasting water around.
Around the time my Aunt & Uncle inherited the house, the county put in a water main to service some development going on up the road ( I won't even get into how sick it makes me when somebody inherits some land and they can't wait to carve it into lots and make a fortune building a subdivision) and for whatever reason they decided to go with municipal water instead of the well.
When I was a kid, my parents used an old spring box for refrigeration. We used one on the primary property, but there was an abandoned one on the "back 40" (the side of the property far from the house) that was used when we were working that part of the property to keep our lunch cold. Most of the old houses on the road were near springs and had spring boxes at one time.
Lots of times when my parents would do a digging project, they would come across half inch lead pipe which came from a spring in the back of the house. We believed this dumped into a cistern type of thing closer to the house, as well as providing drinking water.
My parents home was built around 1812, and had both a large pantry (10x10 ft) and a large kitchen (14x20 feet). The kitchen was the heart of the home, and had four doors in it (3 interior, one exterior), so very little wall space. The pantry had originally 4 doors, but no windows: an exterior (later made into a window), one into the dining room, one into the kitchen, and one into the basement. It had gorgeous cherry and maple built ins, including a dresser that had been built in with the shelves. My mother believes the built-ins were added when the youngest son bought the house from his father who built it, as an upgrade.
All of the handles on the doors into the pantry are lead on the entering (non-pantry side). Without knowledge of microbes, people back then believed that evil spirits poisoned food. They also believed that these spirits/ witches could not touch lead or open a lead handle. The rest of the doors in the house have ceramic or brass.
I was always able to get into the pantry, despite the lead handles.
My family's new house (built in 1853 we think) is a little harder to figure out. I believe that the room that is currently the kitchen was once the dining room and that there were two parlors. The kitchen is what will be our family room, as it has evidence of an old chimney/ stovepipe. There is a small room off of this that I believe was the sick room (now a bathroom), a L-shaped room that was the pantry with an entrance to the basement (this is now the laundry room and a guest room), and a small room that led out to the porch that I believe to have been a woodshed/ storage room. But there's really no evidence, it is all guess work. Most of the original doors and woodwork is gone, all the original windows are out, and the plaster was taken out in the 1960s. It was split into apartments later too. I wish we knew.
Very interesting to read, sheeplady.
Is the 1812 home still standing?
Thanks for the flooring information, Lizzie. I'm looking at the peel & stick white textured stuff in my kitchen right now with a new eye toward possibilities.
Yes, my parents still live there. It badly needs upkeep. My parents (for various reasons) are not good at the upkeep and they are also not welcoming of help. (Long story.)
Like Lizzie stated about her home, my parents home survived virtually untouched because it had long term owners. Each family that owned it made several upgrades, as far we could tell, but they were minor compared to most houses.
This is roughly it's history:
1812 (we think this was when it was built) to 1850: The original owners, who had 6 children. They built the main house, with attached woodshed. Minimal interior walls, including an open hearth. They also built the main barn on the property, across the street from the house.
1850s-1880s: Owned by the youngest son and his wife. They made the most significant changes to the home. He added many of the interior walls (the lath dates from this period) including the knee and hip walls (half story home), the main staircase, and replaced all the windows. He added a wrap around porch to the southern and eastern side of the home. He added 3 double window dormers to the house as well. He also added a beehive furnace in the basement- it is a large brick stove that heated the upstairs by simple air flow. Hearth was removed.
In these upgrades, they also added a false wall in one of the upstairs bedrooms. We believe that before he owned the home, this area above the kitchen was unfinished. The floor does not match the rest of the early house (but does not match later additions). A daughter of the original owner (the renovating son's sister) inscribed her name on the back of the door into the room (childhood writing that you probably wouldn't do to a door in the main part of the house). The flooring does not extend out to the eaves in this room on both sides- in other words, there is a low "knee wall" on one side of the room that has no flooring in it, but a higher hip wall (the protrudes into the room more) that has the floor underneath it. You enter the "false room" through a closet and a crawl space in the next bedroom, which at that time would have been part of the woodshed. This false room is enough space for about 10 people, standing room only.
The son and his wife also added an addition to the large barn across the street, which would have doubled the number of cows they could have farmed. This addition had a stone floor on three quarters of the floor, and a wooden floor above a root cellar. This addition had a large back sliding barn door that opened onto the stone floor side. Directly underneath this door there was a trap door located directly under the sliding door. (In otherwords, this trap door was not in the barn or out of the barn, but directly underneath the door. There are six air shafts that ran underneath the barn, and this space was carefully laid field stone with a flat floor and an arched ceiling (as opposed to cut stone, which the barn basement and floor is made of). It is not a cistern due to it's location nor is it a water storage because there is no evidence of plastering. In addition, it is not a root cellar as there is already one in the barn, and you wouldn't put the entrance to the root cellar under the cow exit. And you wouldn't put a stone floor over a root cellar either. The root cellar at the front of the barn seems like a distraction from this cellar.
The area was carefully filled with sand (not dirt, sand), and we only found it because one day I was washing the windows above this area and fell through the door. Again, it would hold about 10 people. (A later owner took out the door, and not knowing the "cavern" was there, used stone from the main barn that had fallen in during the second world war to add a wall where the door was. We found him and took him back there, and he had never seen it, and commented that it was well hidden because he never knew it was there and built a wall on top of it.
We believe both these features- the barn hiding place and house false room- to possibly have been part of the underground railroad. When the son owned the house it was still illegal to transport or hide former slaves in NY. The village that is a mile away had the second Unitarian church in the country, and Unitarians were famous for their anti-slavery stance. (The church and town records all burnt in a large fire in the 1930s.) There are several other "confirmed" homes in the area, several miles away in either direction, that suggest this area was part of the railroad to Canada.
The son also built a small house across the street as a "working man's house" for the hired help.
1880s-1912: The property was split into two halves in the 1880s when it was sold. The barn and workman's house across the street had separate owners from then on. The original house was bought by a family, who took in an orphaned girl at the end of their ownership to work as a maid. My parents met this girl and had her over once in the early 1980s. This family made few changes to the house: they removed two interior walls and enclosed a back stairway (put flooring above it).
1913-1978: The property was bought as a summer home by a Wall Street banker. The woodshed was removed and replaced by three bedrooms and a bathroom for the servants. (They traveled with a maid, and a full time caretaker lived at the house year around.) They added the two bathrooms and a sink in every bedroom in 1913. They also added french doors that opened onto the wrap around porch. They also added electric to the house in 1940, after selling a lot from the property to raise the money. They maintained the property as an apple orchard.
They took in foster kids in the summer and it was rumored that they used these kids to maintain the house. For instance, we met a gentleman who had been instructed when he was 8 to paint the porch floor, and they gave him a can of paint and a mop (not a brush, a mop.)
Before the house was sold in 1978 they added central heating and sold off several lots from the house.
1978 my parents have bought it. Mostly what they have done is strip paint, added an outdoor wood broiler, and added two barns.
That's long, but I think it's interesting.
It is very interesting. I love an old house with "a story" to tell.
Indeed. One of the best things about living in an "old house" is that you share it in a very concrete way with everyone who's ever lived there before you.