As you last remember, the kitchen of the Keys House was being relieved of decades of accumulated indignities (including carpeting, a drop ceiling and wall paneling). Similar work has been done in the bathroom and the north and south parlors — allowing for new discoveries and refining our understanding of the evolution of the house in the process.
Let’s see what has transpired over the winter months!
Removal of carpet and linoleum from the floor began even before the removal of cabinets and appliances.
A seam in the floor below a drop in the ceiling height distinguishes the original, smaller, kitchen from the enlarged version that exists today. More wallpaper layers are meticulously removed and cataloged by Jim.
As he removed wallpaper from the ceiling of the original half of the kitchen, Jim found a cast iron grille which was painted in the same yellow-green of the original woodwork. Before being papered over, the grille allowed heat from the kitchen stove to go up into the small attic room above. That room, reached only by a folding staircase originally, is of unknown purpose but it had four stained glass windows and a skylight!
The grille is seen here more clearly. Repairs to the plaster pave the way for priming and future wallpaper.
While removing layers of linoleum, Jim discovered that the west and east portions of the floor had been painted… presumably to compensate for a piece of linoleum which was not quite wide enough for the room. A future post will reveal what we believe was likely the original linoleum; a narrow scrap was found in the attic.
The 1940’s sink base straddled the seam in the floor. When the sink base was removed, a hole was discovered in the floor of the original section…
We believe this hole may have been the location of the original pitcher pump. Remnants of an old cistern were found in a semi-excavated space below the addition — just a short distance from this hole. Tack marks in the flooring show a rectangle perpendicular to the wall at right… the rectangle matches the size of the cupboard now in the pantry. We think it was likely in this location after the pitcher pump was removed.
The room is starting to clean up.
When not working on walls at the Keys House, Jim is restoring this early twentieth century Quick Meal stove. It will one day go in the newer half of the kitchen while an older (1880’s) stove will be installed at the other end of the room. We are still struggling with a concept which will honor the original kitchen yet incorporate the addition (which will not be torn off). Some sort of compromise with history is inevitable.
The bathroom. All exterior walls are being drilled for blown-in insulation. Plastic bags currently plug the holes. When patched and papered over, these holes will not be evident.
Paneling comes down in the south parlor as wallpaper is removed in the north parlor.
Surprise! We discovered that early on, the north parlor had been divided into two smaller rooms. A change in the plaster of the wall and ceiling clearly shows a former wall location. We suspect that the house began as three small rooms and was quickly enlarged to include the dining room, kitchen, small bedroom and bathroom. Cardboard protects the refinished floor below.
This irregular scrap of wallpaper appears to be the original layer in the north parlor after the early partition was removed. Floral sprigs adorn a striped background.
In the loudest discoveries yet made, this 18″ border and flamboyant ceiling paper both survived only because someone had built an ugly closet into this corner. Though quite faded, both papers still retain silver and gold metallic highlights.
We like these papers very much and will leave them in place and visible while installing new papers adjacent to them. The broken shelf of the wall cabinet will be repaired. Original paint will be left on the cabinet and newly restored baseboard below (matching paint will conceal the repairs). A new rounded corner protector (matching those of the bay window seen in the background) will replace the one which was lost here when the closet was installed.
Close-up of Jim’s obsessive/compulsive attention to detail. The baseboard had been savagely sawn off at an angle to make way for a flimsy wall of fiberboard. But at least the paint and early papers were saved!
The north parlor anticipates insulation.
Detail of one of several original cast iron roller-shade brackets! This gives us a good clue as to how to proceed when coming up with conjectural period window treatments. Five pairs had been lost to time, so a foundry in Wisconsin will be casting replacements.
An original pair stripped of paint and ready to go in the mail!
With the paneling removed, Jim begins the time-consuming task of stripping wallpaper in the south parlor.
Sadly, most of the original wallpaper had been removed from this room long ago. We thought the piece above might be original, but we later discovered it wasn’t. Small pieces have survived here and there, however, and Jim found a small and equally boring piece which will be in a future post. The paper was not boring when new; it has become faded and muted with time.
Hopefully there will be some decent scraps of ceiling paper intact. If it is even half as gaudy as the paper in the north parlor I’ll be ecstatic!
After enough paper was removed, it became evident that the walls once sported a picture rail about 18″ below the ceiling. Without any samples to go by, we purchased some reproduction picture rail with a fake gilt finish.
We look forward to resuming work on the exterior soonish. First order of business: I’m going to paint the gable and dormers of the south side. Then it’s on to more vinyl abatement!
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Thank you so much for the new post and the update! Your house is a treasure trove of discoveries and I really enjoy following your journey as you puzzle together the history of the house.
Thanks, Bethany! I hope to have more free time in the future to post; glad that you find it as interesting as we do!
Thanks for the post! You guys have been busy – that is a lot of work. The careful removal of layers of stuff is really interesting. It is so nice to see life being breathed into the place! Looking good.
Jim has been doing the bulk of the heavy lifting this winter, but I’ll get my turn this summer! Thanks for the encouragement… it all helps!
This is like an archeological excavation!
It really is… just wait until we get to the basement and foundation repairs! At some point I’ll be into the crawl space beneath the parlors in order to fish new wiring; I’m looking forward to some archeological finds in that area, too… carpenters always drop stuff on the ground when building!
So glad to see an update! That “gaudy” wallpaper is incredible, as is the progress so far. Love how the exterior is turning out, and the kitchen already is starting to look great. I have a fondness for this house, and it’s so nice to follow its journey with two people who have a deep respect for its history. Thanks!
Hang in there, Margaret; there will be more progress soon!
I like that you placed the holes for the insulation in the plaster and not the exterior siding as seems so common. Never understood why they do that. Seems easier to patch plaster than to have a bunch of large holes in the exterior. I see similar issue when old houses get electricity, they often cut holes in the wooden second floor instead of the first floor ceiling plaster. Maybe it’s because the person living there at the time doesn’t want the living space disturbed? If so, seems short sighted.
Short-sighted, indeed! I do understand that many people aren’t able to disrupt their lives to accommodate the insulation or re-wiring process and we are fortunate that it is not an issue here. Much easier to patch interior plaster than exterior wood siding!
I did not know that roller blinds go back far enough that they had cast iron brackets! Makes me wonder when they came into common usage.
Everything else is looking great!
You got me curious; I’d never thought much about this type of window covering, either. I did a little digging… apparently the concept goes back to at least 1780!
It looks like some research will be in order before selecting new roller shades!