…and We’re Back

Y’all.  We know we haven’t posted in over a year.  We know you have missed our ramblings and photographs of mostly-destroyed things.  We know many of you have wondered if we are throwing in the towel. We. Know.

So, without further ado, feast your eyes upon a sight that made ours well up with tears:

See that big gaping hole on the left?!  Let’s look at that from yesterday’s viewpoint:

For the last year we’ve been waiting for this day.  Rachel and I set out to find a contractor who we felt could appreciate our scope of work, priorities, and who wouldn’t be afraid to question our decisions when he/she felt their experience was leading them to a decision contrary to our initial plans.  Enter Jim Herr.  We met some really great folks in bidding process, but in the end we chose Jim because from the start he offered insight and a perspective on our project that seemed to be the best fit for us.  This meant at one point “going back to the drawing board” and making some changes to our proposed plans to accommodate what Jim had determined we wanted…and we are grateful that his thoughtful consideration of our plans lead him to suggest changes we know will make this project all the better for us in the long term.  And that he made those suggestions before lifting a hammer (or drafting a change order)!

Today was Jim’s first day on the job, and this phase is being termed “selective demolition”.  This is the process of physically detaching the house portion of the Big House and Summer Kitchen structure from the addition that was built to connect those two original buildings.  We know as far back as the 1940s there was an open-air breeze way that connected the Big House to the Summer Kitchen, and we suspect it had been there all along.  In this picture from circa February 1965, you can see an arial shot of the Edge Hill from the front, complete with breezeway (below, it is the one-story portion that extends off the right of the house):

…and in the following picture of the rear of the house, you can catch a glimpse of the breezeway to the left:

Over the years, the breezeway was expanded by our predecessors into a precursor of the modern “open concept” living, kitchen, and dining area:

Here and below, you can see how the breezeway was enclosed and expanded. Today’s demolition provided a great cross-section, showing how they merged the old with the new:

On the right of the picture above is the roof of the original breezeway, and then shedding off to the left is the expansion that roofed over the living and dining space.  Here is a close up of that original breezeway roof structure:

Unfortunately there were some structural problems developing in this area and our plans called for a complete re-design of this transitional space.

This choice was one of our big struggles.  We loved the classic look of the simple breeze way connecting the Big House to the Summer Kitchen.  As you likely remember from history class, early kitchens were housed in separate buildings to minimize the risk of fire in the main house, and often a breezeway such as ours served as a somewhat sheltered path from the kitchen to the house. We thought about reverting back to this open-air walkway for aesthetics, but we couldn’t imagine ourselves cooking and eating in a building that is so removed from the rest of our living area (not to mention trucking over there in all seasons and weather).  Even if we climatized it, we felt it would still be too removed from where the rest of our living will happen – we’d need an intercom to call the kids to dinner.  We explored the idea of not having the kitchen over there, but we couldn’t imagine trying to fit a modern kitchen into the historic Big House.  So, at the end of the day, we decided to re-imagine this liminal space into our dream kitchen “pavilion”, which will connect to the Big House and to the Summer Kitchen by two hyphen structures that resemble the small dependency on the south side of the house.

Here is a view of the enclosed breezeway from the back side (looking through the screen you can catch a glimpse of the portico on the Big House that faces the river) where the previous owners tied the expanded breezeway (through the gap in the middle of the picture), Summer Kitchen (on the right), and a large screened-in area all together, anchored around a large chimney:


And this is a shot from the front, looking through the expanded breezeway to the screened in porch (waaaay in the back).  That chimney is going to shake the ground when it comes down!

Opening this area up also re-opened a space long inaccessible at Edge Hill.  The Summer Kitchen has an attic/loft and the access to that space was closed in by the addition of the screened-in porch area:

Re-opening that space yielded a treasure trove of stored items, including 4 screen doors, an original full-size interior door complete with hardware, half of a missing closet door pair with hardware, completing a set we had thought lost, and some great lengths of baseboard.  Jack. Pot.  Below you can see an closet door pair in the Big House that was missing its “other half”.  All of the built-ins in the house came in quartets, and one of the other doors in the quartet was also repurposed in that very room, so we knew we were likely missing a small door: 

And below you an see a lonely repurposed door, which can now be reunited with its long-lost match!  We plan to reincorporate those doors into a built-in in this very room, getting them as close as we can guess to back to where they were originally installed.

Today was the first step in our next big adventure, and we hope you are able to enjoy the ride with us!