Little House, Big Question

Loyal Blog Readers-  Thanks for your patience!  We’ve had to exercise some patience ourselves as our fears of a winter slow-down have come true.  But nevertheless, we have made SOME progress.  When we last left off, we had gotten the house exterior walls all framed up, and were hoping to plow forward with framing the roof with yellow pine.  Unfortunately, the weather these last couple of months have been difficult for harvesting the timber we need for the roof.  We are currently exploring our options on that front, so, in other news…

In taking apart the last bits of the little house for the framing, we made some interesting discoveries.  If you recall the original layout of the little house, there were two rooms on the first floor, and two rooms on the second.  In the rendering below, the original structure is the two rooms to the north.  Our new kitchen will be on the left, and the living room with the original stairs in the corner is the room to the right.

Downstairs Floor Plan

Those two rooms connect via a doorway to the north of the fireplace in the rending above, shown below:

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We have always assumed that this doorway was original, connecting the two rooms of the downstairs.  However, when we got to demoing, we began seeing ghosts!  Architectural ghosts, that is.  We actually found our first clues from the other doorways in the structure.  By examining the brickwork around a door frame or window, we can clearly see where a door was in the original design of the building.  The bricks that form the door openings are all smooth, and there are distinct notch outs where a brick is missing:

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During demo, we found wooden, brick-shaped blocks wedged into those notches, and then the frames of the doors were nailed into those wooden blocks; nails into brick and mortar tend to fail quickly.  This wood block system was also used on the downstairs baseboard.  You can see the perfectly missing brick voids below in the course just below where the plaster ends (the wooden blocks came out with the baseboard when we removed them for storage and restoration).

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In moving to the other doors and windows in the house, it became clear that the two doors that connected the original brick structure to its 1940s addition (shown in an older photo, below):

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And here is a shot of one of the connecting doorways, sans door frame and 1940s addition:

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And here is where the distinction between original and added-later becomes clear:

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As noted above, the bricks along the top portion of this doorframe are smooth-edged, indicating that they were part of the plan from the start.  The lower half of the doorway has bricks that were clearly broken out.  Thus, it is our theory that there were originally windows on the back walls of the downstairs rooms, and that when the 1940s addition was constructed, those windows were expanded into doors!  Also, the wood used on those later door frames is about 1/2 inch thick, whereas the wood on the original doors is at least 1 inch thick (shown below):

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Now, returning to the door connecting the two original downstairs rooms, the edges of those brick are ALL roughly hacked.

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Thus, our theory is that this interior connecting door was added later.  This theory is also supported by the fact that the little house has two original front doors, which would provide independent access to each downstairs room:

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Also interesting: during our demo, we discovered that the stairs are physically built right into the baseboard of the downstairs living room, and their upstairs railing and pine paneling attach directly to the upstairs floor joists, above where the lath and plaster ceiling originally hung, having never been painted!

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Thus, we have a high degree of confidence that the stairs are also original to the structure.  So, here is the big mystery, what was the little house originally used for?!?

Our current theory is that it was a combination of a laundry/kitchen and sleeping/living quarters.  This seems to fit with the general description of laundries as being close to the main house.  This need for proximity might also explain why this structure, partially used for housing workers, is made out of brick rather than timber.  It seems that the builders of Edge Hill, having already gone to the luxury of building a brick smoke house, may have similarly spared no expense on this structure that needed to be close to the main house.

What do you think?

In closing, I want to thank all of our readers who have followed our progress!  There is so much more to come in 2014 and beyond, and in times when it seems that the going is slow, I look at these few pictures:

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Chad & Rachel DA-108

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We have already come so far!