Will and I have owned the red house and white cottage since June of 2013. This past January we began working on the white cottage for a few reasons; it was condemned and in an appalling state of disrepair. The cottage was also very small in scale so we thought it would be a good way to cut our teeth before we tackled the big project ahead in the red house. And most important of all, the red house had tenants so we had a modicum of income until the Spring; at least we thought we did.
The origins of the red house are a bit of a mystery but we know parts of it date back to the mid 1700s. The clues are in the hardware, the joists and nails. It has been altered and adapted several times over the past two hundreds plus years and is now a complex mix of hair brained ideas, scotched taped and gerry-rigged solutions to hold it together. It lacks insulation in the downstairs, and is in need of all new plumbing and electrical wiring. It’s in pretty sad shape. No wonder it took us a while to get the plans drawn for the red house and just last month get to the point where we could hang the building permit in the window.
Let the fun begin. Here is our plan: Start with the kitchen and the dining room. These are the original two rooms of the house.
Step one, put on respirator and protective eye wear. Get crowbar and hammer. Tear down the plaster walls, remove the lathe, rip down the ceiling. Then the floors in these rooms will have to be removed to sister (along the lines of learn something new every day , yes, sister can be a verb ) existing framing in the basement and add additional floor joists to levels the floors. Right now they are far from level, and pretty springy, not to mention kind of beat up. We plan to restore them- we shall see if we get there.
Discovery one- Will removes the kitchen range and discovers a hidden door connecting to the dining room.
Progress…the fruits of our hard labor
Can I tell you this not only contains 200 plus years of dirt and dust, but it is also REALLY heavy. Plaster weighs a ton which makes for a slow clean up. There were days when I told Will I just couldn’t lift and empty another bucket full of debris into the dumpster. I felt like Marcel the Shell…wanna see me lift this? I can’t, I cant. Honestly, all this heavy work and progress is gratifying but I prefer conventional weight training in the gym.
We make our second discovery in the kitchen…an original corner post.
We have a treasure on our hands. Just how old is this house?
Once the kitchen is stripped we move into the dining room. Will removes the makeshift closet, along with the walls built around the chimney while I continue to empty small trash cans of debris into the dumpster.
He pokes at the plaster walls, trying to see what lurks underneath and we make our next discovery. Wallpaper!
The plaster and lathe are pried off, strip-by-strip, landing on the ply wood creating great heaps of dust. It is hard to breath. My respirator fogs my glasses. I bend down to scoop up an armful of lather to take to the dumpster. The nails intrigue me. The nails are square and many appear to be hand made, not machine made. I make a mental note- research the history of nails. How old could they be?
Next down comes the ceiling. Tiny corncobs, like mini Indian corn, and fossilized walnuts drop from the ceiling. How the heck did they get there? Primitive insulation? Mouse droppings cover the floor.
What was I thinking? Be careful what you wish for…those words continue to haunt me. We have embarked on a DIY project of enormous scale.
I can’t wait to take a shower.