The attic!

When we bought the house, we knew it had a nice, tall attic.  However, there was no access into the main part of the attic, and the only access was through the back addition.   We could go up the little pull-down access stairs, stick our heads into the space above the addition, and through the rafters, just glimpse the main attic.  However, when the second floor ceilings were pulled out, we had an unobstructed view of the attic, since most of it had no flooring.  This is how we think so many things ended up in the walls; falling off the small floored part of the attic and going down between walls.

As soon as the second floor ceilings were down, my contractor Jonas and I climbed up the access stairs, walked across the floor joists, holding onto the rafters above, and went into the main attic space.  And what a space it was!  

The entire second floor has a tall attic space above it.  Since my plans to turn the second floor over the garage into an apartment for my oldest son fell through, the attic became my new apartment space.  Jonas put down plywood so we had floors and could lay out the space.  We are putting in a full one bedroom apartment.  Then we extended the main staircase up another floor – which made getting into the attic a whole lot easier, but not as much of an adventure as climbing in from the addition was!

The more time I spend up there, the more I think about using it as my escape when I write my dissertation – as long as my oldest isn’t still living there.  This will be an incredible space for guests and long-term adult children moving home for a while.   When you have 7 children, having a separate space for them to stay when they visit becomes a necessity.  Someday there will be grandchildren visiting and having their own bathroom and kitchen will be wonderful.  Yes, this is all part of my master plan to make sure I get to spend lots of time with my future grandchildren! BTW, the guy in the attic is my husband, Mark, who is not as enthusiastic about the attic space as I am. Maybe if I told him it could be his private guitar storage space he might get more excited….. IMG_3492 IMG_3490 IMG_3489 IMG_3488


Adventures in Renovation

back door
So this is what I see when I get to the house today – several areas where people have wiped off the back door to be able to see in the house! I cannot fault people for doing this because I would be doing the exact same thing. There have been very few times that I have been at the house when someone hasn’t stopped by and asked to see it. My contractor said when he stops at the gas station down the street they always want an update on the work. The question I get asked over and over again is, “Will you be having an open house?” Yes! Although at this point, I think we may need to have people enter in shifts. So far I have invited all the neighbors, my co-workers, the former owners, my realtor, and everyone who has sold me something for the house or is working on the house. That’s a whole lot of people.

An update on the old letters I found. Thanks to and several other sites, I was able to track down Russel’s great-grandson. Turns out anyone with an unusual name, or a name that is spelled differently than the norm, is much easier to trace. All my life I have been annoyed at being Holli with an “i”, but 100 years from now it will be easy for my descendants to distinguish me from the Holly Seaburys. And I happen to know there are at least two other ones, from Facebook messages that clearly aren’t for me. Anyway, I sent an email to Russel’s great-grandson, Dixon, who didn’t think I was a nut job at all (contrary to what my husband believed would happen) and he has been very kind in sharing family details and even sent a picture of Russel in uniform!  I have found quite a bit of information on Russel’s grandfather, William Geiger, who owned the house, and will be sharing it with him.  It’s been incredibly exciting to first find these old letters and then connect with a descendant of Russel.  I am going to get in touch with a contact at Lincoln Life and see if they have archives and maybe I can track down Gertrude and share the letters with her descendants.

The picture on top is Russel in uniform and the one on the bottom is from a Notre Dame archive.  Russel is on the far right and the article is about how he and three friends walked from South Bend to Chicago to see a Notre Dame football game. You can read the article here:

Later this week I will post an update on adventures in the attic!  Mark just turned on the TV and the Money Pit is on.  It’s not a sign, it’s not a sign….
russel in uniformrussel downey pic

Letters in the walls….


As my contractor, Jonas, is pulling out all of the plaster in the house, he has been finding some surprising things in the walls.   One of the most exciting finds has been three letters dated from 1914, written from Gertrude (last name unknown) to Russel Downey, while he was at Notre Dame.  Gertrude was working at Lincoln Life and writing to her boyfriend Russel, whose mother Nettie grew up in the house.  I am not sure how the letters came to be in Russel’s grandparent’s house, or why he saved them at all, since he and Gertrude never married.  Maybe Gertrude was the one who got away, or maybe the letters just got shoved aside to be found nearly 100 years later – who knows!  Russel went on to be quite successful, staying in South Bend, and founding the Marquette Lumber Company in 1919, which is still run by his family to this day.  Russel’s parents, Omar and Nettie, moved from Churubusco to South Bend in 1923, and are buried in Churubusco.   I have found many more exciting facts about the previous residents of the house, which I will share later.

I first read these letters with a group of Amish contractors, while we stood on the back porch of the house.  We were taking turns reading snippets to each other – let me tell you the part in one letter where the car Gertrude is riding in breaks an axle and they had to take a horse and buggy home – was about the funniest thing those Amish guys had ever heard!   I have to rank reading letters from 1914 with Amish guys pretty high up on my list of awesome life experiences!