The goal of finding a house to restore which was both architecturally and historically interesting has been simmering in the background for some time now. Life has a way of distracting us from our goals (most recently getting involved with the renovation of someone else’s house) but it is possible to get back on track.

We thought we had found such a house early last year — a stone house from the 1870’s which had had few alterations since built. However, our initial excitement had prevented us from seeing the reality that it was simply not practical to work on a house that was two-and-a-half hours away. We had to find something closer to home. The only problem is that most of the older (19th century) houses in our area were torn down or altered beyond recognition long ago… there are very few survivors. Lots of great Craftsman-era houses, but very few Victorians.

They say that “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and for Jim the desire to find a suitable restoration project was strong. We’re not even done with the current Project House and yet find ourselves tackling another one! The timing for this next adventure is not exactly ideal, but that’s when the opportunity arose. We also realized that if we did not take on this house it would likely be turned into a rental (single-family or duplex) — and that its plentiful remaining architectural integrity would be at risk. You are likely already familiar with this forgotten house from a previous post, A Gothic Revival with a Jerkinhead Roof!

The house has a ton of problems… plumbing, electrical, foundation, hideous vinyl siding, you name it. The only recent “upgrade” is a new roof — necessitated by a recent hail storm and installed by the previous owner. Sadly, the roofers covered over the original standing seam metal roofs on the front porch and bay window. It is our goal to eventually restore them.

The image above shows the house as it appeared before 1895 when the rear wing was expanded. Today we’ll look at a few details not seen previously.

The house as it appears today, buried in vinyl siding (all to be eradicated) and waiting patiently for some attention.

The historic view again for comparison purposes. the rear wing did not have a dormer window originally; two were added on this side when the house was expanded. The house was originally on a larger parcel with a barn and outbuildings. These structures were removed in the mid-twentieth century and replaced with houses. I’m fascinated by the stone wall but do not know if it actually existed or is simply “artistic license”.

I suspect that this is just artistic license as the illustration also shows a porch and bay window which do not reflect reality; the existing Gothic porch supports are clearly original — yet single, lathe-turned, posts with a balustrade are shown in the drawing. The bay window is shown as having narrower windows than it does. That makes me question everything in this illustration.
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When the rear wing was doubled in size in 1895, the porch grew in size along with it. The existing porch supports were simply spread further apart to accommodate the new length; no new supports were added..

Above the center porch support you can see a change in the width of the beaded board ceiling. The wider boards are typical of the 1880’s while the narrower ones were standard by the 1890’s.

The same porch support was beginning to kick out at the bottom. All of the posts show some degree of deterioration and there is evidence of numerous previous repairs.

After repairing the leaking sink faucet, Jim made a temporary fix for the porch support to stabilize it. I mowed the lawn and drank beer.

Back inside, the front door is the only original door (besides the pocket doors) to have a mortise lock. The glass knobs are twentieth century replacements, but the porcelain rosette indicates that a white porcelain knob made specifically for this rosette is needed. The key escutcheon on the other side remains and it is also porcelain so I’ll be looking for another for the interior.

This door (just an awkward jump up) provides access to the attic. It’s in a bedroom over the rear addition. Let’s go into the attic and look at a more interesting door…

Someone was a problem-solver. Someone wanted a door in this attic room which needed to be full-height. But a full-height door won’t open into a sloping ceiling. What to do? Cut off the top of the door and hinge it!

The top is folding down to allow the door to open.

The open door leads into another room which appears to have been more completely finished at one time.

Former trap door? Former skylight?

The lath in this room is really interesting but I can see why it didn’t catch on. It didn’t work really well. We have a lot of plaster patching to do. We’re not sure if this plaster was original or a part of the 1890’s renovation. To be determined…

This is what is left of the original staircase. It snaked behind the bathroom; the foot of the stair began in what is now a small closet. It will be rebuilt some day in the distant future.
Now we’ll run down to the basement… right below this area.

This is odd. This steep stair is hinged in the center and appears to have been designed to fold into the ceiling where there was once presumably a trap door in the floor. It is now covered over, so some sleuthing is in the future. It doesn’t quite make sense just yet…. it may have somehow been a part of the stair that led to the attic when that area was altered.

Jim found this fascinating kerosene lamp in the basement. It’s a bit mangled, but restorable and quite possibly original to the house. If original, it’s likely that this was in the parlor or dining room before the present 1890’s electric light fixtures.

Back outside, the north side of the house got hammered by hail earlier this year. Seriously, why do people think it’s a good idea to wrap their houses in vinyl?

All of the hideous and toxic vinyl siding will be removed and I will eventually paint the house in period- and stylistically-appropriate colors. Something dark and brooding… earthy and mysterious. It will definitely NOT be white and blue!

I’m open to color scheme suggestions but am leaning toward a shadowy mustard body with dark brown trim as those colors were used a lot out here in the 1870’s and 1880’s. I’ll do some research to determine the original colors, but if they suck I’m going to do something more interesting — paint can always be changed. The arched window is over the bathtub!

One of the two dormers added in 1895.

Our first efforts will be scraping and priming exposed wood trim, including the porches.
Hopefully we will find time to do that before winter sets in.
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