Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Big One

Out here in California that would mean an earthquake. After seeing what I saw of The Gulf Coast the past few days the term has taken on a whole new meaning. My sister decided to ride it out in New Orleans. She has lived in NO in a turn of the century home for about 10 years now. We grew up outside of Houston and spent a few years in So. Florida. We’ve been through hurricanes. I can’t imagine what the hell she was thinking by staying behind. My niece and her young son also live in NO, but they were in Kentucky because of her work, so they got out before it hit.

My sister and her husband moved in to a hotel room in downtown NO on Friday. It was on the 6th floor and my Mom spoke to her on Monday and it seemed like the worst had passed. Then the floodwalls broke and everything changed. We haven’t been able to get in touch with her since Monday. I’m sure she is safe. She had food and water in the hotel room, but I can imagine the living conditions are terrible. They say there are about 100,000 of the cities 485,000 residents still in the city. It is estimated they can evacuate 15,000 a day. That means she could be there another 5 to 7 days.

I talked with my Mom last night trying to convince her that they will be OK. It is going to be very difficult but they will get out of this alive, and really, at this point, you can’t ask for much more. Everything they own except what they could take with them is most likely gone. They say it could be weeks or months until they can get the water out and even more before power is restored. And then what to you go back to. My sister was a chef at a 5 star restaurant. The restaurant, her home, and everything is probably under water.

I was talking to my brother yesterday and the consensus seems to be that his house has the most room, so they may go there. My house is plenty big as well, so they could end up here. Of course, I made the offer. My sister’s husband is from Minnesota, I think. They may end up there. At this point they just need to get out of the city.

I know there are a couple of NO house bloggers. Last I checked there was no new post at That Old House.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Super Paint

I’ve stripped a lot of paint in my days, but I’ve never encountered any paint quite so tough to get off. Perhaps it is because this wood was the ceiling to a kitchen for 80 years or so. Maybe all the heat, grease, dirt and grime, coupled with all the moisture, changed the paint at the molecular level some how. It turned it in to some sort of Super Paint. No matter how much heat I apply to the paint it never really bubbles up. The work bench is smoking and the scrapper is starting to glow red but the stupid paint just sits there. Eventually, with great effort, I can manage to scrap it off.

Now, we all know from watching movies and reading comic books that when things are exposed to high levels of radiation they become stronger, bigger, and well, frankly, just better. It’s a known fact. Obviously I’ve stumbled upon some new method for creating a new breed of Super Paint. I’ve been on the phone all day to Behr and Sherwin Williams, trying to get someone in their R&D departments to listen to me. After 40 or 50 calls to each of them I’m no longer able to get though. There must be some problem with the phone lines. Maybe it is the hurricane. I’ll keep trying in the morning.

For now, here is what I was able to accomplish today.

Only 9 of 16 Boards Stripped

One of two Doors Stripped

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Bride Of Frankenstein

Time to make the last of the cabinets for the kitchen. It will consist of 4 cabinets and a countertop. There will be two cabinets on the wall, 2 cabinets on the floor, and a counter top that spans the 2 floor cabinets. One of the floor cabinets will hide a dishwasher and there will be a sink in center of the counter.

I’m going to use two salvaged, raised paneled doors for the cabinets on the wall. The doors each had a slightly rusty – but still working perfectly – Victorian cabinet latch on them. I removed the latches today and on the back it said, “Patent June 10th 1890”. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. The rest of the cabinets will be made out of salvage redwood I got from the 2 story addition I removed last fall. First project: The wall cabinets.

One of 2 garages with salvage lumber
It used to be much more full. I’ve used a lot

Tongue & Groove Bevel Board

The tongue and groove bevel board is very similar to bead board. It has a bevel at each side just like bead board, but there is no bead. These boards made up the ceiling of one of the rental kitchens in the 1920s addition. These will make up the sides of the cabinets. The wall cabinets are going to be about 5-feet tall so I can get the crown molding above the corner blocks. I have to cut about 3-feet off each piece. This works well because all pieces have a little damage that I can work around.

1X6 Redwood Flooring

Both the addition and the house have 1X6 T&G redwood flooring. The finish face of the house flooring is 5.75 inches. The finish face of the addition flooring is only 5.5-inches. Grrrr. I was hoping to use the addition flooring for repairs to the house floor but it is a ¼-inch too narrow. I’m going to use it for the backs of all cabinets. These are a few scraps. It will look much better once it’s cleaned up.

Back Side Planed

Originally the back side was never meant to be seen so it was rough cut lumber. Now, the back side will be the inside of the cabinets. Here is it cut to 53-inches. I ran them through the planer and took off about 1/16th of an inch to clean it up.

Front Side Planed

I then lowered the planer 1/32nd of an inch and planed the painted side. It acts as a paint shaver but I’m sure it ruins the blades in the planer. They were pretty much shot, and ready to be replaced anyway, so I’m not worried about it. A lot less paint to strip.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

In My Dreams

Well, last night while I was asleep I managed to strip 3 doors and buy some authentic brass hinges on EBay and I wasn't even awake! Seriously, though, I’ve done little of anything this weekend. This is the first time in months I haven’t had a looming deadline of some sort hanging over my head. I actually had time to read some blogs again.

The new tenant moved in this weekend. Her name is Heather. I told her I would give her the place rent-free for the last 7 days of this month if I didn’t have to clean the apartment before she moved in. She was thrilled with the idea. On Thursday her and a friend showed up armed to the teeth with cleaning supplies. I let them in and they cleaned the apartment to within inches of it’s life. Yesterday she started moving stuff in. I’m just thrilled with her as a tenant and she’s only been her a day. There is just this feeling that she is not going to thrash the place and she will pay rent on time. Just, no hassles. My other tenant, Nicole, is the same way. I feel like the luckiest landlord alive right now.

The last tenants actually left the place in pretty good shape and they had been in there for a little more than 3 years. I spent and hour or two yesterday fixing a few minor things. Their cat had ruined a few of the vinyl mini-blinds, but those are like $8 a piece so it was no big deal. I also replaced the WH blanket because the old one was looking ratty. The front doorknob was loose and so I tightened that. I had to relight the pilot light on the heater and fix the plug on the fridge. All-in-all very minor stuff after three years in the place. I was going to charge them for the stuff I had to replace, but now I think I’ll return all of their deposit. It could have been much, much worse.

The best part about the old tenants leaving is that I get one of the garages back. The old tenants were a young married couple (Their first place together) and the man is a Car-Guy. I let him use one of the garages rent-free because I had this fear of greasy tools piled up someplace in the apartment. Now that I have the garage back I have a place to strip paint and build the last of the cabinets for the kitchen. No more sanding in the house. Whew!

So, the plan is to just take it easy this weekend …wait…what’s happening. I..I’m being pulled…ugh…towards the shop. There…there is some …ugh …force ...pul …I can’t …ugh …seem …to …break ..loose …I'm ...ugh ...trying ...but ...ahhhhh!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Cat Door

The New Favorite Spot

Thursday, August 25, 2005

And A Good Time Was Had By All

The party was a great success. The final head count was little more than 20 guests. The first 4 or 5 people that showed up were some of the few who had never been to my house before, so that was nice because I got to spend some extra time with them. Again, these are all old house fanatics and well versed in all things old house. Their questions and observations are intelligent and insightful, and they don’t ask many stupid questions.

I burned a CD with about 100 images from the past 3 years of projects and then ran a slide show with the DVD player in the front parlor. I used the same 100 or so images and ran another slide-show with the laptop on the Museum of Petch table in the dining room.

The “party” is really a regular gathering of people and it is somewhat organized. The first hour and a half or so is mingling, drinking and then a pot-luck dinner. After that there is a formal meeting where people talk about different things that are going on in the city, recent finds at antique stores, salvage yards etc. Someone may be looking for a specific piece of hardware they need, so that is brought up. There is a small group that is working on the restoration of a 1906 Fire House in town, so that gets talked about. One of the attendees is a member of the City Council and 2 others are on the Historic Preservation Commission, so politics inevitably comes up. After that it is turned over to the host (That’s me!) and the host can talk about their house, recent projects, or maybe some sort of history lesson involving some aspect of turn of the century living. I, of course, chose to talk about my house.

During the mingling part of the evening I think the stove and the dumb-waiter style door were the biggest attractions. The Frankenstein Hutch had a lot of interest as well. The whole kitchen, even in it’s unfinished state, was a big topic of conversation. Not one person, for one second, ever hinted that they were even the slightest bit inclined to comment on the things that came out less than perfect. It was a big relief. I assumed I would have endless questions about why the plaster didn’t look perfect, or why the floor wasn’t better. They either didn’t notice or chose not to comment. I’m not sure which.

I was hoping that the meeting would be held in the dining room because of all the work I had done on paint stripping, and it’s close proximity to the new kitchen, and the Museum of Petch table was set up in there. The room is kind of small for that size of crowd, though. I assumed we would end up in the parlors. With the dynamics of a crowd fueled by wine and food you never can tell were they will end up. As it turned out everyone naturally gravitated towards dining room and it was very full. When it came time for me to speak it was as if I was talking to a packed house.

I positioned myself behind The Museum of Petch table and I was able to use a lot of items on the table in my discussion. I started out talking about the article in Restore & Preserve. Everyone had read it and I got a little round of applause. I told them how that all came about. I then talked about the history of the Petch Family, which led into how Phyllis Petch turned the house in to a boarding house, which led to the apartment conversion, which led to the projects I had completed on turning it back in to a single family home. I had a lot of fun. Normally I can go on endlessly about the house anyway, but when I have an audience that is really in to it, and after I’ve had a few glasses of wine, I can really get in to it. One woman at the end of the night told me she was on the edge of her seat through out the discussion.

I spoke for maybe 45 minutes to an hour and was interrupted frequently for questions and comments. Just really a lot of fun. After that it was time for a tour of the house. Just as everyone was about to get up I got their attention one last time and told them about the fortuitous timing of one of the 1926 apartments being available for viewing. Everyone really loved that. Immediately they all got up and moved enmasse towards the backdoor to see the apartment. I had to shout once more to get their attention because I had not unlocked the door to the building or the apartment yet. I also didn’t want everyone to go up at once because I didn’t want to disturb the other tenant. She works early in the morning. I told everyone to give me a minute to open up the building and then perhaps 5 or 6 people could go up at a time. When I came back to the house after opening up the apartment there were 6 people lined up at the back door like six little kids waiting to get on a ride a Disneyland. It was hilarious.

I had every light in the house turned on and with all those big Victorian windows on every wall the house must have looked like it was lit up like a Christmas tree from the outside. All the guests swarmed all over the house, in the walk-up attic, and in the 1926 apartment. I sort of flowed all over the place answering as many questions as I could and pointing out some of the more subtle details. One of the hot-spots was the little trunk room that I call “The Vault”. That is where I have stashed a lot of vintage lighting, antique tile, old door hardware, and other old house goodies. It was always shoulder-to-shoulder in there. After about 20 minutes of this the whole thing begins to wind down quickly. By 10:30 the house is empty and it is quite once again. I’m still amped though. I don’t think I went to bed until after midnight and even then I didn’t sleep well. The whole thing was really a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

1926 Apartment

My house is 1895, but behind it is a 1926 Mission Revival 6-car garage with 2 – 1 bedroom apartments above the garages. Today one of the tenants moved out. In fact, I just got the keys an hour ago. This works out well because I can show it to the party guests tonight. They are totally in to this sort of thing. You know, going through other peoples houses.

Also, I was able to go in and get some digital pics of the apartments. Now, they are nothing spectacular, but there are some charming elements to them. With few exceptions, they are very original to 1926. When I bought the property 3 years ago I did I kind of quickie fix-up job on them to get them rented. There is the usual things you would find with a 1926 house. Painted wallpaper. Some failing plaster in places. Windows that don’t quite work like they did when they were new. But all-in-all, they’re not too bad.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures.

Living Room

Built-in Dinette Set


They still didn't mop the floor!

Another good thing that happened was the fog finally broke yesterday. We’ve been socked in for over a week now. Without exaggeration, yesterday was the first day I’ve seen the sun in almost 10 days. It is also the first day the temperature has climbed above 55. I refuse to run the heater in August, I don’t care how cold it gets. I’ve been sitting on the couch in the evenings with long-johns and a sweater. Today it warmed up to a balmy 68 degrees so the house won’t be a freakin’ icebox for the party tonight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Party Favors

I have 22 RSVPs for the big get-together tomorrow. This group is officially know as The Splinter Group. All own old houses and all are actively restoring them. There are a few bungalows and some stately Craftsman homes, but the majority are late Victorian. Many of the people are really, really into the whole Victoriana scene. Me, I’m mostly in it for the architecture. It truly was The Golden Age for many, but not for all, and it is a bit stuffy for my tastes. Regardless, we have all found common ground in our homes and we celebrate that which draws us together, not that which separates us.

I have been cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, and to be honest, the place still looks very much like a work-in-progress. But it is what it is, so I’m not going to let it bother me. This crowd won’t be affected by it at all. I am one of the new comers to the group and most of them have either been through this, or are going through this right now, just as I am (this being major renovations).

I thought it would be nice to hand out party favors. I remember my patents coming home from nice parties on occasion with a little gift of some sort. I thought that would be nice. I figured I would reach back in to the homes distant past and hand out little trinkets that screamed Victoriana. Little mustache combs for the men and little doilies for the ladies. That would be nice. However, that’s really not in the budget, and frankly I am way too exhausted to be crafty about it.

Instead I’m reaching in to the very recent past of the home when it was a drug infested hell hole. Here is what I was think about handing out.

I was thinking used drug needles for the ladies and a round of ammunition for the men. At the end of the night I could do a drawing for the two baggies of meth. That might be nice. Don’t you think?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Greg said, "Let there be light,"…

…and there was light. Greg saw the light, and saw that it was good. To bad it took Greg 4 hours to re-wire the light. That was not good.

The transition from gas to electric lighting seems to have been pretty fast. Edison invented the light bulb in 1879 and with-in 10 years people were installing them in there house. This is one of those early fixtures. I’ve re-wired 4 antique fixtures so far and this was by far the most difficult. Normally I can do one in less than an hour. This one took almost 4 hours.

The others were built from the start to be electric light fixtures. While the internal structure on the others resembled the gas-lights they were easy to rewire because they were basically designed for wire. This one also started out as an electric light, but the internal structure was very much a gas-light. They basically took parts for a gas-light and drilled some holes in the manifold and arm pipes and then ran wire through it. That made it very, very difficult to re-wire.

I bought 4 fixtures as a collection on Ebay from a guy in Main (I think). The house was 1888 and I’m willing to bet these were installed as original equipment. I realize this style is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the craftsmanship is incredible on this thing. Most of the sockets are original and they are all stamped “Thomas Edison”. They are put together with tiny little screws that look like a watchmaker might have made them. The inside of the sockets is porcelain and still shiny brass.

The tubing for the neck and arms are very thick heavy, brass because they came from makers who had a gas-light background. The “newer” fixtures I re-wired (late 1890s) have much thinner brass arms because they only had to hold wire and did not need to be concerned with an air-tight connection.

The 4 fixtures are not identical but similar enough that they look like they go together. I had planned on re-wiring 3 of the big ones for the party on Wednesday, but that aint going to happen now. I just don’t have the time. This one should be a crowd pleaser though.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Million Dollar Mystery

While not as spooky as The Tale of the Lost Corset, The Million Dollar Mystery is pretty cool. In 1914/15 there was a movie that ran all over the country in 22 parts. It played for 22 consecutive weeks starting in June. At the same time the story ran in print in more than 200 newspapers around the country. Also, each week William J. Burns of the William J. Burns International Detective Agency wrote a weekly column in the Movie Pictorial Weekly (a magazine) telling of the clues he would follow if he were eligible to win. And we thought cross-promotional marketing was a new thing.

The movie was a mystery about lies, deceit and international intrigue revolving around a millionaire and his lost million dollars. The movies never actually solved the mystery. There was a contest for the solution. At the end of the 22 episodes the person who wrote in the best 100 word solution to the mystery won $10,000! As we saw from the classifieds section of the SF Chronicle $10,000 was more than enough to buy a new home in a posh city like San Francisco.

When I was removing partitions and opening up closed off doorways I discovered the 2 pockets for the pocket doors leading from the foyer to the front parlor. The doors were missing, but the hardware and pockets remained. Stuffed in the back of one of the pockets were two playbills for The Million Dollar Mystery. I have Episode 2: The False Friend, and Episode 6: The Coaching Party of the Countess.

Each episode played 2 days a week at The Empire Theater here in Eureka. It was kind of interesting that when I went to look for The Empire it was no where to be found. I went down to the Clark Historical Museum to get some clues about what happened to it. I asked the curator if she had any information about theaters and to my surprise an enterprising local movie buff had written a short pamphlet on the history of movie houses in Eureka.

I thumbed through it and found The Empire Theater. As it turned out, I was now standing in it. Back in the 70s the museum expanded in to the next building. That building at one time was The Empire Theater. Most aspects of the theater where long gone, but the balcony was still there and so was the stage. It was weird that here I was holding these playbills while at the same time standing in the theater where someone must have clutched them 80 years ago dreaming of $10,000.

Click to enlarge these images

Episode 2 Front and Back

Episode 2 Inside

Episode 6 Front and Back

Episode 6 Inside

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Tale of the Lost Corset

It was a dark and stormy night – well, ok, it wasn’t, but it could have been. I had been working on rewiring the house for more than 3 months now and was nearing the end. I started on the third floor and worked my way down to the first floor. Most of the ceiling fixtures on the first floor no longer worked. When the house was wired during construction in 1895 it was wired only for light fixtures because there was really nothing to plug in at that time. The house had four circuits and over the years a short had occurred in one of the first floor circuits and the fuse blew as soon as you screwed it in. This was the circuit that operated the lights in the butler’s pantry.

When I bought the house there were only 4 outlets installed in the walls. These were added in the 1920s – one per apartment. The rest of the outlets in the house were fed by conduit that snaked through the house along the baseboards. Very attractive. I had to cut many, many small square holes just the size for an electrical box so I could add outlets to each room. I think I ended up adding close to 40 outlets to the house. I did this without disturbing the plaster. I got very good and cutting the hole and then fishing the wire through the walls. The walls, of course, are only about 4 inches in width. You could normally only reach your hand in there a few inches past the wrist before your arm would be wedged in there and would go no further.

This was early on in my ownership of the house. It was still very much 4 apartment units and had a lot of bad mojo in it. There was still a lot of ratty carpet and funky stuff in the attic. The whole house still had a very weird vibe to it. Near the end of it’s life as apartments the house had become a notorious drug den with frequent arrest and ODs. It was not the pleasant house it had once been, nor soon would be again.

At any rate, I was in the butler’s pantry adding a few outlets. It was getting late in the afternoon and the butler’s pantry has no windows. I had a flashlight and one of those mechanics lights with the hook on the top. The butler’s pantry has bead board going 48-inches up the walls. I cut a hole in the wall for an outlet box and then measured carefully from the outside wall. I then crawl under the house, find the proper spot and drill a hole. I then fish a wire up through the hole and pray that I’m in the right spot. It all had become very routine at this point. I go back in the house and reach in the hole hoping to find a wire and expecting to hit the wall on the other side, but instead the hole opens up into a large cavity. My arm just kept going in.

I should add at this point that I had watched Nicole Kidman in The Others just a few nights earlier and that had sort of spooked me. When my hand did not hit a wall it sort of spooked me again. I’m in this funky, darkened butler’s pantry with my arm in a dark hole in the wall. I pulled my hand out as quickly as I could. It came out covered in spider webs and black dust. I shined the flashlight in the hole and could see very little at first. After a few minutes I could see that the cavity was about 8 to 10 sq ft of floor space. The house was still a bit of a mystery. I started to look up and around trying to get my bearings and figure out where I was and what was on the other side of this wall. It was the kitchen. I went in to the kitchen and that wall also had bead board. Something didn’t make sense here.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the back stairs ran in that wall between the butler’s pantry and the kitchen. This cavity was under the back stairs, but there was a closet under the back stairs. I opened the closet and it was painted white and actually quite clean. One of the few places in the house I could say that about. However, the closet only went in about 6 feet or so with some shelves at the back and the stairs occupied much more space.

I went back to the hole and looked in some more with the flashlight. Now I saw something. It looked like a bottle. Next to the bottle there was a shoe and it looked like a bone sticking out of the shoe! Was there a body stuffed in the wall and then boarded up!?! Now I really got spooked and by this time it is getting really late. I haven’t eaten dinner and really tired from all the crawling around under the house. I really just wanted to get out of that butler’s pantry.

That night I didn’t sleep well at all. I couldn’t stop think about the possibility that there was a murder in my house and decomposed body under the stairs. How come it didn’t stink? How long has it been there? The next day I couldn’t take it any more. I pried off a few pieces of bead board to expose the cavity. There was no body. Whew! I did find a corset, a woman’s shoe (with a piece of wood sticking out) and a glove all from the same period, a mans starched cuff, some receipts from local businesses, a cigar wrapper, orange peel, and a wrapper from a woman’s face powder can. The wrapper unfolded to about a standard sized sheet of paper. It is covered with text and graphics with testimonials from Queens, Empresses and the social elite of Europe. I also found a bottle of Cod Liver Oil that still has some in it.

The question remained: Who did all this stuff belong to and how did it get there? After doing a lot of research on the house I learned a lot. The house was turned in to a boarding home by Phyllis Petch after she and Thomas were divorced. The Petch’s were the original owners. The dining room, butler’s pantry and scullery were turned in to an apartment for Phyllis and the four bedrooms were rented out to boarders. The 2 parlors and the kitchen remained as common areas. The first partition was added to the kitchen to separate it from Phyllis’ apartment. The closet under the stairs ended up on Phyllis’ side of the partition. She must have kept her belongs in there and at this time it did not have the shelves at the back of the closet and the closet extended to full depth of the space under the stairs.

In 1919 Phyllis sold the house and a few years later it was officially cut up in to apartments. At that time the shelves were added to the closet and those few trinkets that were out of reach in the back were boarded up for the next 85 years until I cut the hole in the bead board and discovered the cavity. So it would seem it all belonged to Phyllis and judging from the size of the corset and shoe, she was a petite little thing.

And that, my blogging friends, is The Tale of the Lost Corset. And be sure to tune in tomorrow for The Million Dollor Mystery! - I'm serious.

The Museum of Petch

Thursday, August 18, 2005

1915 Personal Ads

Lovely young widow. Age 21, weight 135. Owns nice comfortable home. 320 acres of the finest wheat land near the Pacific Coast. Worth $30,000. Income $3,000 yearly. Also large bank account. Good disposition. Easy to get along with. Will marry poor man if bright, honorable, ambitious and capable of managing property successfully. More particulars for any man answering quickly enclosing some postage.

A jolly, trustworthy bachelor, stranger. Good character, Bohemian tastes. Presentable to the best with substantial financial sufficiency. Desires acquaintance bright, entertaining young lady under 25; must be naturally pretty, sweet and stylish (no cosmetics), good dancer, musical preferred, although not essential; nice girl employed no objections. Theaters, automobiling, balls, exposition amusements; doubtful characters, agents, keep out; references exchanged in confidence; matrimony if suited. RIGHT OFFER Box 3355

Young Lady desires to meet Gentlemen who will loan her $75 immediately; object, matrimony Box 3273

A woman employed would like the friendship of a man of means or good disposition between 40 or 50. Matrimony considered. Box 3316

A foreigner, 30, good habits, speaks very good English. Desires acquaintance of a working girl who is not afraid of work. Object matrimony. Box 3304

ALL SINCERE parties – marry here; call or write Mrs. Lueder. 1935 Geary Street; details 25 cents. Phone West 3573

MARRY – Hundreds wealthy, anxious to wed; des. Free. MRS. HYDE 2730 Mission Street.

While I was running new wire and copper, and just generally cleaning out all the Post 1895 crap out the house I found many items in the walls and under stairs. One of them was the classified section of the Sunday, January 10th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. The “Matrimonial” ads are a hoot to read. I found the one where the woman wants to “borrow” $75 intersting. There are also a few columns of ads for clairvoyants, which are fun to read.

Apparently there was a lot of unemployed people in 1915 because the paper has a large ad that says it will run any “Help Wanted” ad for free for the employer. It goes on to say that it is doing it’s part to help the many, many unemployed find work. This could be because of the 1906 earthquake or maybe it was just a recession. Male and female help wanted ads are run separately.

Then of course, there are the real-estate ads.

Magnificent Marine View Residence
$13,500 – 10 beautiful rooms with 3 large bathrooms. Billiard room or social room with open fireplace. Lower floor finished in mahogany, with tapestry wall coverings; dining room in Circissian walnut; hardwood floors in every room; every window commands a wonderful unobstructed view. Garage on rear. Automobile drive. Located in restricted “Windsor Terrace”. Motor out through Golden Gate Park to 8th Av & “L” Street, and thence into Windsor Terrace. Buildings open to inspection Sunday.

California st., 5322, between 15th & 16th aves.- Brand new 6 room residence; solid mahogany and satin walnut finish; oak floors; piped for furnace; garage; large garden;$1000 cash; $40 a month, including low interest, BUYS this $6000 home.

Large tract for subdivision, right in Eureka; will clear $200,000; every advantage; nothing else to compare with this; action must be immediate; this is all we can tell you here; write for full particulars.

The real-estate ads just go on and on. Reading about all these properties on the peninsula makes me wish I had a time machine. They are all worth a fortune now. There are a lot of ads for Berkeley and Oakland, and as you can see, even one for Eureka!

The really interesting thing about all the stuff I found was that all of it was from the time when the original owners, The Petch family, lived in the house. I found nothing dated later than 1919. Nothing from the time when the house was apartments.

I dug all my wall-finds out to display them for the party next week. It is kind of like a little museum set up. Here’s a picture.

The Museum of Petch

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Voice Activated Phone System

This stuff is really high-tech. I called in pros for this one. They were here all yesterday morning installing it. The best part is – no more dialing! You just pick up the receiver and say who you want to talk to and you’re automatically connected. Here is a picture of it. This is mounted on the wall in the kitchen.

There is the phone and the control unit above it.

Here is a close-up of the phone.

Here is a close-up of the control unit.
There must be some microchips in there or something.

Here is how it works. You pick up the ear piece and crank that handle on the right. In a few seconds (This thing is super fast) Mable comes on, and in a sort of sing-song voice asks, “To which party would you like to be connected to?”. Then you just tell her the name and she connects you! Its great! No more dialing. No more numbers to remember. The convenience of these high-tech gadgets is just wonderful.

The best part is, if the lines busy you get to chat with Mable, and she knows everything about everybody. It is gossip central. For instance, did you know that last Saturday young Jim Fowler was seen down and the Bijou with Peggy McCall. Every one knows he’s been courting Jane Summers for 6 months now. What is he thinking!?!? Also, Mr. Druker from the hardware store broke his ankle hunting last week. Some say he was drinking too much. And, the Johnson’s prize pig Junebug just had a litter of 8 piglets. Everybody wants one of those. Old jack is going to make a killing at the next hog auction.

It is a great system, and I’m very happy with it. The funny thing is, though, both the phone and the control unit have a patent date of 1894. That must be a typo or something.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tile Mania

The house came with 2 fire places. While the surround tiles were in very good shape, the hearth tiles really took a beating over the years and will need to be replaced. The original 1895 tiles were quite eclectic. There were square, triangle, and rectangle tiles. Some were marbleized and others were solid color. There were 2-inch and 1-inch boarder tiles. Some tiles were incised with a design and some had face portraits on them. It was quite a work of art.

I could duplicate it but it would be very expensive. I could have everything custom made by professional tile restorationist, but that ain’t gonna happen. The other option is to buy antique tiles. There are a lot out there but some can be very expensive, especially the portrait tiles.

I ended up buying antique tiles but I hunted and searched for deals. After a year or so I had almost enough tiles to do both hearths. I ended finding some new tiles on Ebay made by a woman in Mississippi. She makes custom tiles in small batches and occasionally has over runs. I got a very good price on them.

I’m getting ready for the party in about a week so I want to show off some of my tiles. I made a cardboard template of the hearth and laid out some of the tiles.

Here you can see the tiles for one hearth
The tiles with frogs and dragonflies are new. All others are antique

Here is a close up

The other hearth will look similar. These tiles will be the center

Monday, August 15, 2005

Restore & Preserve

The Restore & Preserve article came out today. This means that I could now be considered a minor celebrity in town, and I may cause a minor stir as I head in to the Minor Theater to watch a movie staring minors - but who knows.

For those of you that don’t have total recall of every word I’ve ever written, here’s the gist of what is going on. Restore & Preserve is a monthly insert in our local newspaper. Every month it profiles certain people or properties in the area that stand out for reasons of restoration or preservation. After listing my house on the Local Register of Historic Places I found that there was a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about what it means to have your house listed. I emailed the Editor or Restore & Preserve and suggested she do a story on what it means to have your house on the list. She emailed me back and says that sounds like a great idea, why don’t we do it on you and your house. At first being reluctant because I normally shun the lime-light, I was eventually brought on-board through threats and intimidation by the newspapers hired goons (just kidding).

Anywho, several months passed and eventually Kathy Dillon, the editor, and a photographer showed up at my house and the results of all this is a very nice article in the newspaper about me, my house, and the insane amount of work I’m doing on it. I’ll never forget the very first question out of Kathy’s mouth, along with the look on her face - “You’re doing this all by yourself?” (The Look: You can’t be serious)

Restore & Preserve is the size of a folded newspaper. This months issue is 12 pages, so that would be 6 pages of a full-size newspaper. Two properties were highlighted in this issue – mine and another. There was also an article about historic gardens, one about the 1897 Pioneer Hall getting some restoration work (it is home to a fraternal orginization called The Native Sons), and another short piece about a benefit for The Clark Museum. And of course, gobs of advertisements. The last three pieces took up a full-page (with adds) and the rest was devoted to the two houses.

Both of the properties high-lighted got 4 pages each, and then the front cover makes up the 12th page. The title of mine was, “Rise, decline and rebirth of a beauty”. Kathy does all the writing and she did a very good job of conveying the house and the work I’ve done. It was a flattering article with many quotes by me. If you hadn’t noticed, I can be long-winded. There are 7 photographs and one with me in it. I’m standing in front of my dumb-waiter door looking at it longingly and lovingly ~ sigh ~. All in all it was a lot of fun.

I did buy 5 copies of the paper today so I can send off a few copies to family. I really didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself so I bought newspapers at several different locations around town today. The really funning thing about all this was that I’ve really been waiting for the past few weeks to see what Kathy would write about the house. I couldn’t wait to read the article. Then after I read it, it was kind of like – well, yea, I knew all that. It was as if I expected her to reveal new secrets to me or something. Essentially she was taking what I told her and put it down in her words in the newspaper. No big surprise for me. Still, a lot of fun, though.

I’ve started doing hand exercises because I’m sure many, many people are going to want my autograph over the next few days. Any second now my adoring fans will be lining up at the door – wait, what’s that - oh, never mind, it’s just the cat. Well, I’m sure the parade of fans will start and any second. Yep, any second.

Oh, and, I will be only sending 1 copy to my Mother.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Last Minute Project

Yesterday when I went to pick up the doors I decided to stop at this other little “antique store” around the corner. It is actually more of a junk store. They have some useful stuff, but a lot of it is just absolute garbage. About 25% of the store is completely inaccessible because the stuff is just piled in the corner. And I do mean piled. The pile must be 10-feet tall and it occupies a large part of a rather small store.

Anyway, I pop in there from time to time just to poke around. I probably haven’t been in there in 8 months or more. Towards the back, on the floor, was an old Eastlake style mirror in pieces – not the glass part, but the frame. They wanted $30 for it. I offered her $25 and she said yes. I wasn’t planning on spending any more money, but for $25 I couldn’t resist. You can see my point, right? I am only human, after all.

Here is how it looked when I got it home

The mirror part is separate form the frame and pivots on a horizontal access in the middle. I really do need this for the bathroom because I only have a small mirror in there now. Even though this is not large it almost acts as a full-length mirror because it pivots on the horizontal axis.

Also, I have a marble top Eastlake commode (?) in the bathroom that has very similar designs on it. The little commode used to have some type of top, but it was missing when I bought it about 2 years ago. The new mirror, while not a perfect fit, is close enough that it won’t look odd.

But back to the mirror.

I took it apart and removed the mirror

I then stripped the paint and cleaned it with alcohol

And then put it all back together

I think the wood is white oak. It originally had a very dark stain so I got a small can of walnut stain. Because of the detail on it I don’t think I could have sanded everything back to bare wood. Perhaps I should have tried, though. The hope was that the lighter parts I exposed from sanding would darken to match the darker stain. This didn’t happen the way I’d hoped. I’m not accustomed to working with stain. I’m now stumped as to what to do next. Arguably it looks better than when I started but it hardly looks good.

I’m going to have to ask around about a solution. I think I may try and apply more stain to the lighter areas and let it sit longer and see if I can even it out. The two light circles at the top are two missing rosettes. I’m not worried about those right now. They can be replaced.

It is a nice mirror. You can see in the last picture how the mirror pivots. It has little stylized floral carvings on it that are a very close match to the commode (I hope I’m using that term right). It also has a nice crown detail at the top. I hope I can get it to work.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Meet The Doors

That is Jim on the left and Ray on the right

These will be the cabinet doors that go above the sink. I bought them at an antique store in Old Town. Because I am…well, you know who I am… I paid them off in installments over the last few weeks. I just brought them home today. They were $75 for the pair, which I think was a little over priced, but they are in very good condition, and they fit the space perfectly.

Two Cabinets on Either Side of the Window

They are nearly 4-feet tall which means the cabinets will extend high enough to clear the window trim. This is important because if they didn’t clear the trim there would not be enough room for the crown molding to go around the top.

You can also see in the picture where the dishwasher (Ooo Baby!) and sink will go. Aaand there are my real imitation wood blinds from Smith+Noble. Where that box of trash is there will be another cabinet. All of the cabinets will be made out of bevel board. It is like bead board but just has two bevels and no bead. I have a ton of it that came out of the 1920s addition I dismantled. The 1X4 Bevel board was in all rooms in the addition. I probably won’t start on all of this for a few weeks.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Legend of El Broke-o

(Narrated by Ricardo Montalban)

Many thought he was just a legend. He came out of the west spending money like a mad man. It did not matter to him, for he was El Broke-o! The brokest man in all of California! He would laugh as he piled up supplies on the cashiers counter at the hardware store. His wallet flush with ATM receipts. It did not matter how much he spent. It was all for his Casa de Grande. “More, more, more!”, he would cry. He then he would laugh as he swiped the card through the magic box. Town folks watched in awe as he loaded more and more supplies in to his truck. They would hear him exclaim:

Budget!?!? I don’t need no stinking budget!

As the legend goes, one day it all came to an end for El Broke-o. The eating out 3 meals a day. The wild spending sprees. The bills piled up and the ATM receipts too. I must tell you now that he was not just a legend. There really is such a man and he is me. For I truly am El Broke-o.

But there was another legend of a lone hero that would one day come to the rescue. Many had heard of him, but few dared to utter his name. He was known only as Lotto. I dream at night of finding the elusive and mysterious Lotto. Then my life will be perfect. So far, it has not happened, but maybe someday…maybe someday…

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Homemaker, Suzy P. Homemaker

Yesterday I transmogrified from John Q. Constructor in to Suzy P. Homemaker. I am cleaning like there is no tomorrow. I have 2 big events coming up in the next few weeks. On Monday the 15th the article on my house will be in the newspaper. While I don’t expect hordes of people to be lining up at the door to see my (almost) spectacular new kitchen, there may be a few neighbors that I’m on speaking terms with that may want a closer look. I don’t want them to know that I normally reside in a feculent hell hole.

There was a flurry of last minute emails between myself and Kathy Dillon, the editor of the Restore & Preserve newspaper insert that my house will be in. In one of the emails I mentioned to her that I had much of the kitchen completed and she may want to come by for more pictures. When she and the photographer where here the last time the flooring had only been delivered that morning and all the hutches and stoves where still piled up in the other rooms. She said that sounded like a good idea, so yesterday Kathy and a photographer came by and snapped some new shots of the kitchen, dining room fireplace, and the dado in the dining room.

The next big event is on the 24th when I’m having the big shin-dig with all the Old House Enthusiasts. I can expect anywhere from 20 to 30 people to attend. I had a similar get-together about 19 months ago, and many of the same people will be attending. It will be fun to show off the (almost) completed kitchen, the completed bathroom, the stripped paint in the dining room, and talk about the 1920s addition removal and all the history I dug up on The Petch Family. Boy, it is kind of hard to believe I did all that in the last 19 months, along with replace all the water and natural gas lines in the house. I suddenly feel very tired.

Also, it is serendipitous that the tenants in one of the 1920s apartments over the garage are leaving on the 24th, the same day as the party. If it all times out well, I will be able to give a tour of the apartment as well as my house, and I will be able to snap a few digital photos of the apartment to post on my website and blog.

So now, as Suzy P. Homemaker I must clean, clean, clean, clean, clean.

Dining Room Before

Butler's Pantry Before

Dining Room After
(Should be built-ins in the big opening)

Dining Room After

Butler's Pantry After

This is the other wall in the dining room. You can see the other side of the dumb waiter style door.

Boy, this Suzy’s got quite a body on her. I hope all my t-shirts don’t get stretched out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fine China For A Fine Kitchen

Well, actually it is crystal and porcelain. My Great Great Grandmother’s to be exact. Her name was Henrietta Bannon and she came from Ireland in about 1860. She and my Great Great Grandfather met while he was visiting Ireland and she moved here and they married and lived in Louisville, KY.

Most of this was hers but it was added to a little bit by both my Great Grandmother and my Grandmother. When my Grandmother died in the late 70s it all went to my Mom’s cousin in Tampa, FL. My Mom’s cousin passed away about 3 years ago and it was all willed to my Mom. My Mom now lives in a small apartment and has no room for it, so she asked me if I wanted it seeing as I’m restoring an 1895 Victorian. I said yes. It arrived from FL about 2 years ago and has been stored in the attic ever since. Now that I have a kitchen – well, almost – and a cool hutch, I thought I’d haul it all out and have gander at it.

My Mom tells me that it all predates the turn of the century but I am far from an expert. I don’t think there is anything too valuable. The best pieces by far are the ones painted by Henrietta Bannon. It was a popular pass-time in Victorian times for ladies to paint porcelain. French factories pumped out tons of plain white porcelain that was shipped to the US for the sole purpose of being painted by woman.

I also got Henrietta Bannon’s parlor furniture, a set of silverware, and pretty cool carving set. Eventually all this stuff will go in the built-ins that still need to be built in the dining room. Honestly, a few years ago this would have done little for me, but now I really like it. Not just because I think some of it looks nice, but more because it is nice to have continuity to one’s past.

Painted and Signed by Henrietta Bannon