Recently I had the pleasure of touring a vacant farmhouse which has remained in the same family since its construction in 1918.  Although the house has had many of the updates one would expect over the course of a full century, it has had far fewer of them than most houses of similar age.  One can readily perceive the slow march of time within its walls; decades of accumulated artifacts and modifications are retained in various stages of integrity.  This time capsule-like quality of the house is quite palpable and greatly enhances its appeal.

One room, however, stood out amongst the others.  Obviously intended as a bedroom (as demonstrated by the presence of a clothes closet), the room had clearly been used for storage since built.  An additional (and much smaller) closet is found beyond a knee-wall in the room.  Located on the second floor of the house, a late and nominal example of the Craftsman style, the room is noteworthy not only because of its resilience to the passage of time, but also because the room was never actually finished.  Amazingly, its plaster walls have never been painted!  Its woodwork has never been varnished!

Naturally one is inclined to ask, “Why?”  One of many possible explanations is that the house was built from a plan book or mail-order house plans – quite common for the time period – and that the smallest bedroom was designated as storage before or during the construction process.  What does such a room look like after one full century and multiple generations of use?  Let’s take a look:


A 1960’s-vintage clipboard hangs from a nail on a door casing which has remained unvarnished for a full century. The relatively rough texture of the plaster ceiling suggests that the room was never intended to be finished while the presence of an egg-and dart cap moulding implies just the opposite!  Computations pencilled on the wall, both above and adjacent to the casing, remain unchanged since the construction of the house.  The painted walls of the hallway beyond are visible.


The unvarnished five-panel door of the same opening. Note the Japanned finish of the hinges and lockset.  The pine floor was neither stained nor varnished.


The clothes closet once had a door (which swung inward) but it has been removed.  Note the whitish appearance of the narrow face of the jamb; this suggests that the jamb was installed before the walls were plastered and that the casing was installed after they were plastered. Apparently neither the plasterer nor the carpenter saw fit to remove the excess – one of many indications that the decision to use this space as a store room was made early on.


A four-panel door, sans knob, opens to a small attic space.


Ceiling lath, visible where plaster has fallen, shows a staggered installation intended to enhance integrity.


Bonus Feature!

The stairwell leading to the second floor appears to have survived unpainted until the mid- to late 20th century.  Apparently the painter did not have a ladder sufficient to reach the uppermost portion of the space:


Painting appears to have been done with a roller; corners and the area around the ceiling light are not cut in.



%d bloggers like this: