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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Treasures?

When faced with an unpleasant task I usually put my head down and charge forward.  For better or worse progress is made.  It was with this mentality that we started the major demo at the house.  While tearing out ceilings, it was only after Marci heard breaking glass and saw a bottle amidst the rubble on the floor that we actually took a moment to look at what we were doing.  The bottle turned out to be quite old, lettered in raised glass with the name of our town, kind of.  ‘Stroudsbury.’  What an exciting find, and not just because it was a good excuse to stop working.  As we picked through the rubble we found some more old bottles with various names and symbols.  Unfortunately we also found some broken glass and pottery.  We then started looking in between the ceiling and attic floor, as well as at the end of the rafters (in the tight space where they meet the ceiling joists and exterior walls) to see if there was anything there.

Clearly from a different time.

We found several old shoes.  Three, actually.  I laughed at the thought of someone not being able to find that other shoe 100 years ago, and we haven’t found it either!  As you can see in the photos, the shoes and hats are immediately evocative of long ago fashions.  Although these styles have not come back into vogue yet (at least not in Pennsylvania), we’ll see.  Marci may be ahead of the game with ‘new’ fashionable footwear!  Also found were various hats of straw, leather and cloth.

The start of a collection.

Although it is immediately apparent that all these items are quite old, it is hard to know how old.  Eighty years perhaps?  With some research I’m sure one could get a general idea of their age.  We also found some old newspapers in the ceiling as well.  One was called ‘The Metropolitan And Rural Home.’  I guess they were trying to appeal to a wide audience.  It is an old Agricultural Paper.

The Metropolitan and Rural Home, September 1892.

Although the content was rather dry, I was amazed to see a publication date of September 1892!  Either the people who lived in this house bought and saved an antique paper, or this is further confirmation that the house is older than I was lead to believe!  We also found a religious pamphlet, dated a much more recent 1906.  Time is certainly relative because we then found some ‘collectible’ drag racing cards, dating to 1993.  Although almost 20 years old, they hardly warranted a second glance compared to the 120 year old paper.

1993 collectible drag racing cards.

Unfortunately, other than the glass bottles, all of this stuff was so old and worn it was worth little more than the novelty.  However, it did put a human face on this old house.  Many generations have obviously lived here.  It was interesting to think that at one point someone pulled on these boots when new and perhaps felt proud, and quite stylish.  Happy memories must have been made in this house.  While thinking these thoughts I also realized that whatever triumphs, tragedies, insecurities or jealousies these various families and people had over the years, they were now as worthless as these old shoes.  We read quotes to this effect all the time, but holding these shoes in my hands made me realize how true they are.  We must enjoy our lives while we are living, because soon enough we’ll be no more than old shoes forgotten between the ceiling and attic floor .

We continued the demolition, but with some care.  As we found anything of interest we put it on the downstairs mantle.  This old house kept revealing its age, in the way it was built, and in the people’s possessions it held.  I look forward to a trip to our local historical society to do some research.  In the mean-time, I will continue to enjoy becoming a part of the history of this old house.

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I started this blog 8 months ago to chronicle a ‘basement up’ renovation of an old house. This was certainly going to be the biggest renovation that I had ever done, and probably (definitely!) the biggest I will ever do.  Personally, I wanted to keep a written record of it, to help memorialize the project, to have something in writing to look at years from now, well, years from when I’m done, which will be even more years from now.  Little did I know that ‘going public’ was going to be so much fun.  I decided to make the ‘written record’ a blog so that not only could I share it with those few who may be interested, but to also create some motivation for me to keep working on the project.  Sometimes I can procrastinate (I can hear my friends laughing now), and I thought by ‘going public’ I would have to keep working at a steady pace, even if just for material for the blog.  It would keep me writing too, which is something I enjoy, but also don’t do as much as I’d like.  Often I do not write, or stop writing, because it takes so much thought: what to say, how to say it, what to refrain from saying, and having to really think through my thoughts and emotions.  So I could kill two birds with one stone, creating incentive and motivation to work on the house, and write, simply by creating a public blog.  Even if the only people who read it are those I took the liberty to sign up, I would have the illusion of public expectation!

Being a person who is used to hanging out with his friends in person, starting a ‘blog’ seemed bizarre to me, much like the ‘facebooks’ and other social media.  Other than email, I was not only unfamiliar with ‘social media,’ but had no idea how to even get started.  Fortunately my girlfriend Marci is way more hip than me (technologically and otherwise!), and was kind enough to set up this WordPress account and get me rolling.  As you can see, I have rather taken to talking all about myself, and presuming others are just as fascinated in me as I am!

The author with his #1 fan.

What I did not expect is how much I am now interested in the blog itself.  This blog allows me to check certain stats, such as how many people view the posts, and what country they are from.   Frankly, I thought that the only person who may be kind enough to follow my blog, if I kept sending her the link, would be my Mom!  I never even considered that people from other countries may read about my little project.   So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that someone from Iraq viewed renovationtravels!  I am thrilled that to date I have had views from 15 countries!   My delight in international viewers is attributable to my mother and father, who were born in England and Spain, respectively.  Further, they bought an old house in England in 1969, which required a major renovation.  I was very fortunate to enjoy the experiences of travel and home renovation from a young age.    

With regard to my blog stats, unfortunately I do not get any additional information, such as what city in the country they/you are from.

All the countries that have viewed renovationtravels.

I would really like to know more about you and where you are viewing from – the name and size of your city/town, what project if any you’re working on such that you find yourself here, and the type of house and neighborhood you are living in  [My project house is in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, a town of about 6,000 people, but there are 180,000 people in the County, and it’s 90 miles to New York City.  It’s an old wood sided farmhouse (c. 1860?), re-sided with asphalt shingles and then ‘masonry’ shingles, with walls inexplicably filled with stone.  The house is in a residential area, within walking distance to grocery stores and schools.  It is a ‘basement up’ renovation and I have a blog at WordPress].  

I would really enjoy (and appreciate) if you left a Reply/Comment below, as would, I’m sure, the many fans of renovationtravels (my Mom).

With legions of fans waiting for the next installment, I must  persevere, I must work on the house, and I must write, no matter what it takes. Writing these posts has increased my appreciation of the process,  forcing me to take the time to think through not only the work itself, but the emotions and thoughts behind the work.  It is for this reason that I find myself sitting in front of the computer on a regular basis, enjoying the reward of writing, and enjoying recounting the fun of the renovation project.  I like the idea of sharing this, and would love to share in the experience of your thoughts and projects as well. Thank you for reading!

Scary! Oddly less so in the dark.

Rarely is one happy when there is no electricity.  However, I must confess that for one project I was glad there was no light.  I had to remove all the old wiring and plumbing from the basement.  Part of this job entailed reaching into the bays above the foundation, a foundation of old stone that is a couple of feet thick. Obviously, with my arachnid fueled phobia, there were any manner of creatures (read spiders!) lurking in these dark recesses. 

Ready for creepy crawlies.

I donned gloves (rubber gloves under cotton work gloves), tyvek suit, face mask, goggles and other gear, and clumped down the stairs into the dark basement.  I worked for several hours, constantly urging myself to think happy thoughts as I cut wires, pulled various staples and hangers, and did what I had to do.  Only after that was done did I fire up the propane lantern for light to prepare an area for the new electrical service panel.  I scrubbed down the wall, painted it, and installed a board on which to mount the panel. Scary, especially without light!That day in the basement I was like an Indiana Jones movie, all the fear without any of the good looks or derring-do.  I was happy when that was over!

I also didn’t miss the lack of electricity during the major demo, other than the lack of music.  When one is wearing a huge mask, a hood, goggles, and all the other clobber, fiddling with headphones, or tripping over a large radio, may have been just another distraction.  Music or light would not have helped us breathe any easier, or sweat any less.

Clearing the way.

Ready power at the outlet is so ubiquitous that one rarely has to do without, or even contemplate life without it.  I guess when the power goes out and one is reaching for a candle or the flashlight, it is only then that we realize how much we depend on it, and take it for granted. However, I am now happy to announce there is electricity.  Without inconsiderable effort and some hiccoughs, there is now music, and light, and power tools!  Okay, I may only have two outlets, but for me it is a big step forward.  

Perhaps the rigmarole of actually acquiring electricity makes me appreciate it more.  Call the power company to shut off and disconnect old service.  Prune tree to allow for running new wires.  Get permit from Borough and give power company permit number. Install new panel and meter. Beg, plead, and cajole the Borough Zoning Officer to inspect, and more importantly, approve, the new electrical panel. Then beg, plead and cajole the power company to come hook up power to new equipment.

Let there be light - and all manner of powered devices.

Phew!  Turning on the radio  never sounded so good.

New electric meter on left, ancient one on right.