The Saga of the Porch Columns…..

When you are renovating a house right on Main Street in a small town, it will generate a lot of interest. A LOT of interest. I love this, because renovating a house is very stressful and tons of work, so it’s nice to feel like people are cheering you along. Sometimes the interest is from someone who wants to work on the house. Back in the late summer, when we were having the concrete on the porch done, my concrete contractor gave me the name of a local woodworker who said he was interested in working on the house. I gave him a call, specifically about the columns on the front porch.

The front porch, and those huge columns, were one of the things I liked the most about the house when we bought it. Unfortunately though, when we bought the house, one of the columns on the front porch was missing (see picture above). Judging from the rotted wood on the porch, the column had been too damaged and was removed. I held out hope that we might find the column in the basement or the garage, but it was not to be. I looked into replacing the columns, but they don’t make them that wide anymore. The thought of replacing those big columns with skinny new columns was not all that appealing.

The sunporch had a half column at each corner so I came up with the idea that when we tore out the sunporch to re-do the foundation and windows, we could take the two half columns and make them into one column to replace the missing one. The remaining columns also had rotted wood at their bases and some other damaged areas and I wanted to repair those to make them structurally sound. Let’s just say my contractor was not excited about that idea. So when I got the name of a woodworker, I was hopeful that he might be able to save my columns. Alex came out and took all my columns with him, since they had already been removed from the porch for the concrete work, and returned my old rotted columns, with renovated sturdy columns! He also gave me these great pictures of the work he did. After seeing all he had to do, I can see why my contractor didn’t want to take this job on…..

Here is what the porch looked like without columns….not good.
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When my contractor took out the posts we were surprised to find that unlike today’s columns, which are decorative and have a support post up the middle, these columns were structural and were supporting the entire weight of the porch. That was a little scary since they had so much rot at the bottom. In this picture you can see how the columns were assembled.
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Now the two halves have been joined together to make my new column!
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This shows how rotted the base of the columns were. Alex had to recreate these pieces to make our columns sound. Although they were built to support the weight of the porch, because they had been repaired we decided to run a support post up the middle of the columns. I don’t want to hear a crashing sound in the night and discover the porch has fallen off!
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Aaaah, the columns are back! Next spring I will sand them down and repaint them. Alex raised the bases so rain water will flow under them and not rot out the bottoms again. These columns would be nearly impossible to recreate so I am happy we were able to save them.
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Drywall…..in the HOUSE!

IMG_4383The building inspector scribbled his signature at the bottom of the paper and then held it up for me to see. “You are cleared to drywall,” he said, and then broke into a smile. “How long have you been waiting to hear those words?” I laughed, “Since the day we bought the house.”

Ok, so when I write the novel of the renovation (which will never happen), that’s how the scene will go. Which actually is how it all went down – our building inspector has quite the sense of humor! Those words were probably some of the happiest words I have had said to me since the project began, since drywall marks us starting to put the house back together, rather than tearing it apart. My house is full of drywall stacked against the walls waiting for Monday when it can actually be put up. I would be at the house every day this week checking on the progress, but of course this momentous week falls when I have to go to Chicago for 4 days to present at a conference. Luckily, my Amish contractor is very good at texting me pictures.

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Our insulation is finished and we went to check the work, and James (age 5), who has been very against moving to the “scary, old house” is actually seeing that the house may come together and look good at some point. Quite a relief to me, since he has been very opposed to us moving there.

In other news, you may remember Russel Downey, the young man who received the letters from the wanton strumpet Gertrude in 1914. I have been in correspondence with his great-grandson, who emailed me to tell me he had traced his family geneology back to Martin Luther. THE Martin Luther, as in founder of the Lutheran church. (I did have a rather confusing conversation with my husband who thought I told him he had traced his geneology back to Martin Luther King….) So now I own a house that was owned by direct descendants of Martin Luther – I feel like I should nail a manifesto to the front door. In my case it would most likely be a grant report or an annual fund letter….I will leave you with a quote by Martin Luther that I find particularly applicable to this house reno, “Everything in the world is done by hope.” IMG_4384

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Adventures in Renovation

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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 Ancestry.com 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:  http://www3.nd.edu/~wcawley/corson/walktochicago.htm

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….
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