Monday, August 21, 2006

Spared No Expense

Do you remember the wealthy British gentleman who ran the island in the first Jurassic Park movie. The character’s name was Jon Hammond and the actor who played him was Sir Richard Attenborough. One of his lines that he repeated throughout the movie was, (spoken in The Queen’s English) “Spared no expense. Nothing but the finest”. I say this to myself a lot of times when I’m painting the outside of the house. Of course, I say it in a British accent.

While the inside of my house has some very nice High Victorian woodwork, I get the feeling that if the house had been built on the other side of the Rockies the inside might have been even nicer. My house had no fancy tile work in the bathroom; no inlayed floors in the parlors; no encaustic tile in the foyer; no lincrusta in the dining room. It is my own personal theory that those things weren’t being produced out here yet and shipping them was so expensive that only the wealthiest could afford them.

The necessities though, like tile surrounds and oak mantles from Ohio on the fireplace, are found in my house. You’ve got to have a fireplace, right? I’m sure there was a big honkin’ stove in the kitchen that was made someplace in the rust belt. Those things, even though they were expensive to ship, were a must-have for the home so you paid the price to get them on a ship and ship them around South America and up the West Coast. I’m guessing at some point, though, things became cost prohibitive for even a mildly successful home owner. Things that may have been common place in areas near where they were produced became more scarce out in the boondocks.

Again, this is just my own pet theory. Perhaps the Petch family just couldn’t stand tile and the thought of inlayed floors was offensive them. I don’t know. I do know though, that on the outside of the house they Spared no expense. Nothing but the finest. As I work around the house I just marvel at the craftsmanship and the level of detail they went to. They may not have had tile and oak floors but they had redwood up the ying-yang and it was easily milled in to any shape you could imagine.

Case in point, the corners of the house. You can’t do much with a corner, right? It’s a 90 degree angle. Two boards come together. Slap a few nails in and your done. Right? Wrong. They did bull-nosed corners on all the outside corners around the house. Why did they do it? I don’t know. I’m guessing that some enterprising architect was sitting in his office and thought, “Oh, wouldn’t that look cool to do bull-nosed corners on the outside of the house?”. Well, maybe he didn’t say, “Cool”. I wonder what it would have been. I wonder what the “hip” expression was in 1895? Interesting question.

Anyway, here’s how they did the corners.

Standard corner with lapped boards. This is from 1920s work when they expanded the scullery. This is the only corner on the house like this.

Bull nose corner. They don’t lap the boards. Instead, they seperate the boards and add a piece of quarter round to fill the gap. As I go around I’m removing the quarter round and stripping it separately. I then goop up the joint with caulk before I reattach the quarter round.

Here is a finished corner. The lighting is poor, so use your imagination.

Spared no expense. Nothing but the finest.

As a bonus question, does anybody know who Sir Richard Attenborough’s brother is? Although I wouldn’t call him an actor, he is seen on TV on a somewhat regular basis. I do a pretty good impression of him, if I do say so myself.

And that……as they say… that!


jaxter said...

Greg -
beautiful corners - stunning actually, it makes me wonder why people (well, most) don't take the time for that kind of work anymore.

David Attneenborough is Richard's brother's name - he does a lot of nature stuff I think.

Greg said...


I agree, they are beautiful. And your right about David Attenborough. He has done some great nature shows on PBS.

John said...

I never thought too much about the bull nose corners. The Devil Queen has them too; I wonder if that was a standard practice back then? Or, maybe it was something extra? The Devil Queen is fairly plain on the inside, but they certainly didn't skimp on the exterior finish.

Greg said...


That's cool, so I guess this was a common thing on Victorians of the day.

purejuice said...

thank you for the comparitive pix, it's wonderful to see this detail and to have your ongoing comment.
question, how do you scrape the fishscale shingles?

Greg said...

how do you scrape the fishscale shingles

Very carefully….but seriously folks.

No, really, I have a scraper that comes with different shaped scraping blades on it. The blades are $7.50 each, but when they are sharp they does very well.

You can see a picture of it here:

At first I didn't like it, but now I do.

Kristin said...

Hmm, this makes me realize I don't even know what our corners look like! If the Devil Queen has bullnosed corners, we might, too. Must check on that.