It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

Until now, the most fun we have had with demolition was in the upstairs, mint-and-black, goose-border, mold-covered bathroom.  We decided it was time to amp it up a bit and undertake demo on a larger scale.  If the bathroom was bumper cars, this project was a monster truck rally.

You may remember that Edge Hill has a few dependencies – we’ve spent a lot of time restoring the smoke house, but the property also has a summer kitchen and a smaller house which we have nicknamed the “slave quarters.”  It should be noted that this is a point of contention: I am actually highly skeptical that this building was a dwelling place for the farm’s slaves; it sits within a stone’s throw of the main house and has a second story, both of which are highly unusual for Virginia plantations.  Chad, however, disagrees.  He notes that it is also highly unusual (and ostentatious) for smoke houses to be built of brick; our smoke house and “slave quarters” are both built of brick, and thus the other extravagances might be explained by the James Madison Hite Beale’s overall flare for the expensive.  Regardless, John Wayland noted that Edge Hill had as many as 12 slaves, so we are still hoping to one day find an answer to our dilemma!

The original brick house has two rooms on the first floor, one to the left and one to the right, and two identical rooms on a second story.  This is where Holmes Fowle’s daughter, Mary, grew up!


A one-story addition was added on the back at a later date – based on some newspaper we found backing the linoleum, we know it is at least as old as the 1940s, but might even be older than that (the addition is where the electric and plumbing entered the house).


By the time Chad and I arrived on the scene, the inside of the slave quarters was in a sad state of disrepair.

The downstairs room on the right:



This was originally the kitchen, and although the floor and ceiling are rotted, the fireplace still has its original working swing arm!



The upstairs room on the right (above the kitchen):



The downstairs room on the left:



The upstairs room on the left:



And the addition:



As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done.

Our first job was to remove the addition.  We had the electricity turned off:


Very, ahem, professional…


and then called in the Grave Digger – well, that is, Paul and the telehandler!  With the fork attachments, Paul was able to simply pop the addition off the back of the house.  If only it was all that easy…


IMG_0005 IMG_0006


Afterwards, it looked like the aftermath of a tornado, but all we had to do was load the pieces into a dump truck and wave goodbye.



We saved the hard part for Round 2.  Time for us to call on Steve and Gina again!  Isn’t this what all American families do in their spare time – shovel, scrub, and wreck houses that aren’t their own?  Don’t know what we would do without them!  We split into two teams: Chad and I tackled the roof on one half of the house, while Steve and Gina worked from the inside to tear down the ceilings in the second-story room on the other side of the house.

Luckily, Chad and his brother, Gio, had bravely removed the metal portion of the roof a few months ago:



And yes, they rode up to the roof in the bucket of a telehandler.  So, up we went again:


While I am not typically afraid of heights, being raised up two stories on the bucket of a telehandler, balancing on the edge while watching Chad scamper up on potentially rotten roofing boards, and hefting 14′ beams over the edge of the bucket and past the roof of the porch without heaving myself over the edge with it – well, this raised my adrenal levels a little higher than the average weekend chores.



Chad worked with a crowbar and a saw to pry off each roof board, one by one.  He had to be very, very careful about where he put his weight so that he didn’t end up going through the roof.


Eventually, it looked more like this:


And even these pieces came down at the end, but were stacked and saved for later use:


Possibly to be used as aesthetic exposed beams in the bedrooms of the renovated slave quarters?

Meanwhile, Steve and Gina pulled down lathe and timbers from underneath.  It started like this:


And with some crowbars, safety goggles, and elbow grease, it finished like this:



With a lot of this in between:


Luckily, Steve only fell through the floor once or twice, with no physical injury :)

And finally, it looked like this:



Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better!