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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Archaeology

Part of the joy of owning this place has been getting to search into all the nooks and crannies and not worry about what the landlord will think if they find out you removed the panel on the wall or some such. So far, we haven’t found too much of interest, though I’m beginning to figure out how I might find out more about the house if I wanted to. I think that research project should probably wait until we’ve actually moved into the darn place, but I am looking for clues along the way–like who lived here, which walls are new, what the layers on the walls seem to tell us.

I started out suspicious that this could be a Sears kit house, simply due to the age. It was built in 1913, and is definitely within close enough range of the railroad to be suspect (Sears houses were generally brought in by rail, and then taken to the site by truck or wagon.) But I’ve looked through the 1912 – 1915 Sears catalogs online and found nothing even close to tall enough to be this house. So if it’s a kit, it’s unlikely a Sears house, but I’m leaning against the kit theory now.

That led me to be curious about prior owners.  The Franklin County Auditor’s site is pretty cool, in that you can search properties online and find out who owns them. They recently added the ability to download a pdf of the original handwritten records that were used well into the 1960s and 1970s, so I do have a great list of all the owners of the house. The original owners are buried in Greenlawn cemetary, but I didn’t get any farther than that on google, mostly because the handwriting on several of the names is the type that looks awfully neat, but that is in effect entirely illegible.

So now, we’re down to trying to find things in the house itself.  There’s nothing extraneous in the attic or basement, though we’ve unscrewed panels and looked.  We are, however, 100% certain that the kitchen used to span the entire back of the house, and the wall that was put in to split it in two and make a kitchen and a half bath/laundry has been there for a while, but is not original. It’s less clear whether a second doorway was cut into the wall between the dining room and half bath or if the kitchen originally did have two doors.

The other puzzle has to do with that giant closet in the dining room. When we pulled off the woodwork in the double doorway between dining and living rooms, we found the space where pocket doors used to live, though the doors and frames are long gone, and some electric has been run through the wall.  We think that the entrance to the house used to actually be that closet doorway, so that what’s the present entryway would have originally been part of the porch. Or it’s also possible there were just two doors, allowing you to close the pocket doors and use the front room as a formal parlor, while also allowing access straight back to the kitchen from the front entrance. There are several other houses in the neighborhood set up both ways, so either way could be right.

And then there are the smaller clues we find that are just interesting. When we tore out the door frame from the newer closet, we found a signature on the wood (though unfortunately, no date).  We’ve also found evidence that the walls of the downstairs may have at one point been painted scarlet and gray (ick.)  And the floor I exposed while ripping carpet out of the closets yielded a tiny steering wheel from a model car, then evidence that at some point someone spilled black paint and just left it there.

My favorite finds during the closet project were evidence that the woodwork may have been painted black and then refinished before someone painted it white, and what looks to be pink wallpaper underneath paper in the bedroom (might be paint — I’m unwilling to rip more off the wall to see for certain):

But by far, the most amusing things are to be surmised from what we have in the kitchen. From this photo, we learn two things:

First, my mother’s theory on the cause of that godawful dropped acoustic tile ceiling: she pointed out that the paneling that is on the walls comes in pre-cut heights. So we surmise the ceiling was dropped to avoid cutting up pieces to reach the ceiling. (Me, I would have made a shelf with moulding, but who’s asking.)  The original wallpaper is still peeling off above that ceiling, so I’m inclined to think this theory is a good one.

And second, judging from the height of that spice cabinet, at some point giants lived here.

We have an interesting neighbor who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s, who also claims that at some point, an elderly couple died in the house, but until I have some sort of corroboration, I’m not worrying about that one.

Giants, I prefer to think of giants.

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