Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

End of February 2012 Update

The months keep speeding by and we now find ourselves at the end of February. This has been a month filled with survey work, travel, pets and some Landmarks progress.

Typically, February has been a slow month in the survey business so we all planned some much needed R&R for February. Amanda & Eric spent a week in Florida, mostly just hanging out and enjoying the weather. Between Eric’s ankle and Amanda’s knee, they couldn’t do a lot of walking which forced them to get some much needed rest. Ron was headed to Florida with his friend, Steve, and arrived the day after Amanda & Eric left. Although his golfing vacation didn’t go quite as expected, they had a great time.

Then, everyone was home last week with me planning to head to Hilton Head Island on Friday. On Sunday, February 19th,  Amanda & Eric headed out on a one day trip to Northern Ohio.  They had decided to get a puppy after losing their beloved dog KaCee to a brain tumor back in November. Judy, Amanda’s friend, is not only a breeder involved in showing Springers but is also very involved in Springer Rescue. As it turned out, Judy’s dog Evie had a litter of puppies recently. They brought their new puppy, Vistah’s Royal Copenhagen, or Hagen, home on the same day. He is a cute little guy but he is truly all puppy. His most outstanding personality traits are persistence, tenacity and doggedness. Luckily, Hagen has brought out the maternal instincts in their older female, Avon. She is being relatively patient in putting up with Hagen and his shenanigans.

On another positive note, Amanda & Eric were notified late last week that the Horner House is now in the second phase for being listed in the National Historic Register. Indiana Landmarks had started the process before Amanda & Eric purchased the property. Landmarks did some additional documentation and submitted the application around the first of the month.  The application has successfully made it through the technical review. The next step in the process is the substantive review. If it is approved at that level it will be sent to the State Historic Review Board which will hopefully recommend it for official listing on the National Registry by the National Park Service!

The month also brought more sadness. My Springer, Kisses, suddenly became quite ill last Thursday. Instead of heading to Hilton Head on Friday, Amanda & I rushed Kisses to Lafayette to the Purdue Small Animal Hospital. Our vet, Dr. Webb, and the Purdue Small Animal Hospital did their best but unfortunately, she did not pull through. On Saturday, Kisses succumbed to a combination of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and oxygen deprivation caused by the IMHA. My heart is heavy and I will miss her lying under my desk all day, patiently waiting for a kind word or pat on the head.

My trip to Hilton Head Island began Saturday afternoon. After raining all day yesterday, the rest of the week is supposed to be sunny and in the high 70s. With a little bit of rest under our belts, we can now tackle the craziness that spring always brings. Here’s hoping March brings good things to everyone!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stabilization of the West Wing - Part 4

Although the walls and roof were technically stabilized at this point, there was still work to be done before winter set in. The next step was closing up the opening for the winter. We had originally planned to install a semi-permanent wall. Semi-permanent because it would stay in place until the final remodel work was done on the West Wing. While we still plan to do this, we needed something in place more quickly for the winter.

Bob was really worried about making sure we met the requirements for a roof in Indiana for “snow loads”. Given our typical winters, the house needed to be prepared for at least a foot of snow.

Our solution? Plywood and a big blue tarp. They boxed in the opening and put in studs. Then they put up plywood for a temporary wall. This was all covered with our big blue tarp. There are a few holes on the sides, especially at the roof line, but it’s mostly filled in. While it isn’t beautiful, it is a step in the right direction.

Behind the tarp, the collapsed floors remain. Since Bill and Bob have not been able to access and inspect the cellar in the West Wing, they wanted the lower floor (and all the rubble) left intact. The floor joists appear to be lodged at an angle between the opening and the far cellar wall. If they would be removed and not replaced, this could cause a partial or full collapse of the cellar. A collapse of the cellar walls could result in a domino effect causing the collapse of the walls of the West Wing. Needless to say, this is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.

So the rubble will stay in the cellar until we are ready to put in new floor joists. Then the plywood will be removed to gain better access. The removal of all the  debris will take place in a very controlled manner. The new floor joists will be installed, the plywood can then be reinstalled. When the surrounding brickwork is completed, then the temporary wall of brick will be put in place. Of course, this plan is subject to change. If we have determine what the final layout will be, we may not choose to put up the faux brick wall if we are going to put on an addition to the west. There is evidence that there was something out there at one time that we may choose to rebuild.

Further work will have to wait until the weather is a little warmer. In the meantime, the beam should keep the roof and walls from deteriorating any further in the snow and ice. We do have to keep reminding ourselves of several important things. The house didn’t get in this condition overnight. We won’t be able to reverse the damage as quickly as we would like. And not everything can be our first priority.

This repair also gives us more time to define what all needs to be done to finish weather proofing the West Wing and make it safe enough to work in next spring. Not only do we need to address walls, roof and windows, but we need to figure out the best materials to use. And we further have to define & plan what will get its final finish and what can have a temporary fix applied as we continue to determine long term, permanent solutions, finishes and the next priority.

Thankfully it’s been a mild winter thus far. We’re hoping for a relatively dry spring and the funds to make some serious progress.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Stabilization of the West Wing - Part 3

November 10th started as a cold but clear day. The lift was available so it was a “go” to do the beam placement. Bill and his staff arrived to do the actual raising of the beam. Bob was there to assist with any questions and for consultation in case of issues. Chad Lethig, from Indiana Landmarks, and Amanda & Eric, homeowners, were there to observe and pray.

The lift was huge! It was amazing that it could be controlled so carefully so as not to start a chain reaction, knocking down the whole wing.  The placement of the beam was a very delicate process. The beam had to be inched into place so that no additional damage was done. With such a heavy beam and large lift, this is more impressive to show than to try to describe.

Very slowly, the beam was moved into the opening and then lifted up toward the roof. Finally, the beam was actually touching the roof line. Once it held a little weight, they had to tweak the position of the beam so that they could get the beam and the roof aligned perfectly. This was especially difficult on the north side where the roof appeared to be twisted. Once everything was aligned, it was important to slowly move the beam up about an inch, then wait as the roof itself shifted. With the first lift, there was a small shower of wood and plaster that showered down causing everyone to catch their breath. It was tense for a minute while waiting to ensure that nothing else was going to fall. Then they repeated and the beam was raised another inch.. Repeat. Gradually the roof began moving back into its proper position. And keep repeating until the beam lined up with the top of the walls.

After working all afternoon, the beam was finally in place. The final step for the day  was to add the bracing to the beam without causing anything to shift. Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief when this was done. The beam was in place, the roof & walls were stabilized and not one disaster! Thanks to Bob & Bill for their meticulous planning and execution. And we were almost ready for the long winter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Floor Plan

I had planned to do a blog on the Stabilization Part 3 next, however, our server decided it needed a vacation. Since the pictures for the stabilization are on the server, it wouldn’t be very interesting without them. So let’s take a look at the floor plan that Eric just completed. And let’s hope that the server is back by the end of the week.

As a preliminary, you’ll have to understand that the back or West Wing had already collapsed the first time we had access to it. At some point in the future, we’ll ask Chad at Indiana Landmarks to do a sketch of what it used to be like when he first entered the house. Even after many conversations, we haven’t yet determined exactly how it will be configured  in the restoration.

The first floor of the Horner House contains 3 rooms in the main part of the house. There is a small entry hall that contains the tightly turning stairway. The hallway runs the length of the main part of the house to the West Wing.

To the left or south of the front door, there is a nice sized formal parlor approximately 16x16. The parlor has a fireplace on the south wall opposite the doorway into the room. At the present, there is a large hole in the floor of this room.

The dining room, which is also to the south of the main hall, is also 16x16. There is a fireplace on the west wall and a huge hole in the south wall. We don’t yet know what the original configuration of this room was. There is evidence of a foundation of a bay window, similar to what is in the sitting room. There is also evidence of a porch or patio that looks like it provided a third entry into the ground floor, possibly for the apartments and probably a later change. There is no doorway between the living & dining rooms currently. We suspect that we will find evidence that there was a doorway there at one time. We would LOVE to see a large pocket door installed during the restoration.

Across the hallway from the dining room is the sitting room. It has a bay window and is approximately 12 feet, before the extension of the bay, by 16 feet. There is a fireplace on the west wall. Amanda & Eric plan to use this room as a Music Room because of the natural light and unusual configuration.

We do know that the kitchen and  utilities were in the West Wing on the first floor. In addition, there was a back stairway in the West Wing. All the plumbing was originally in the West Wing. There was some piping upstairs that was run from the West Wing, across the first floor ceiling and up through the floor to allow upstairs apartment kitchens in the fifties. We’re also not sure about the original configuration of  the back wall of the West Wing but we know there were 2 doors. When the back wall fell, it appeared it was the area between 2 exterior doors. By the placement and size of the large hole, the doors would not have aligned with the upper story windows but would have been somewhat offset.    

On the second floor, it appears there were 5 large bedrooms. The main part of the house has a bedroom over each of the main floor rooms. The 2 rooms to the south appear to be identical to the main floor, including the placement of the fireplaces, with the room size shortened only by the closets. For the bedroom over the sitting room, there is no evidence of either a fireplace or a bay window. There is no evidence on the floor of a hearth ever being there and the floors appear to be original. We’ll be doing more “digging” to see if a fireplace may have been removed when it was divided into apartments. Oh to be able to go back in time and see the original house and to be able to record each of the changes as it was made!

The rear stairway came up into the West Wing, however, we have no idea what the original configuration may have been. We’re pretty sure there were at least 2 rooms there due to the stairs. It does not appear that there were ever any fireplaces in the West Wing and we’re fairly sure that these  coal fireplaces were the original heating system for the house. Perhaps these were servant quarters or just storage originally.

And up to the third floor. There is only a ceiling access to the 3rd floor. It does not appear that there was ever a stairway to the 3rd floor or to the original 4th floor tower. The 3rd floor attic is in fairly good shape. It is just a large open room with the exception of the tower area. The flooring is in pretty good shape and it looks like the roof only has a few leaks. The biggest area of concern is near the windows which are not even close to being water tight. The ceiling is over 7 foot which will allow us to open it up if we can figure out a configuration for stairway access.

We hope to be able to hire an architect to assist us in doing some further planning for the rebuilding of the West Wing and gaining access to the 3rd floor. Hopefully, they can also help us to plan the access to a rebuilt 4th floor tower. That would be very sweet!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Some Other Indiana Second Empires

Back in July, we were all having problems being patient while waiting to close on the Horner House. Amanda & I decided to spend some time visiting house museums to gather ideas and  keep our spirits up as the wait dragged on. Since we didn’t have time to travel very far, we stuck to a few house museums around the central & southern part of Indiana.

We thought our Indiana followers might find some of the same places as enjoyable as we did. So here’s a quick rundown of some truly special places. I’m only including exterior shots of four of them but there are links to each of their websites.

We spent an afternoon at the  Morris-Butler House in Indianapolis. This Indiana Landmarks owned Second Empire, built in 1864-1865, would be a great way to spend an afternoon. Just driving around the Near Northside was inspiring.

Morris-Butler House, Indianapolis, IN

One weekend, we decided to drive to Richmond, IN to visit The Gaar House. This spectacular Second Empire farm house was built in 1876. It is amazing that the Gaar family still owns the property 136 years later. They even have the original architectural plans on display. We met some of the family and they couldn’t have been more gracious. It makes a great day trip from Indy.

 Gaar Mansion and Farm Museum, Richmond, IN

Then we decided to do a 3 day 2 night Southern Indiana tour. We left Indy and headed to Evansville to visit the Reitz Mansion. This beautiful mansion built in 1872 was so fascinating that we walked the tour twice. There were so many breath taking homes in Evansville, we wished we had planned to stay longer. We left Evansville and headed east to stay at The Market Street Inn in Jeffersonville, IN. This stately Second Empire, built in 1881, had been badly damaged by a fire when the owners purchased it. They’ve converted it into a wonderful inn and the breakfast was fabulous.

 Reitz Mansion, Evansville, IN

The following morning, we headed to New Albany to see the Culbertson Mansion which is maintained by the State of IN. This Second Empire was built 1863 – 1867 and contains 25 rooms in 3 stories. The ceilings and crown moldings are incredible. Ironically, the docent called in sick the day we were there and we had  the  new Site Director all to ourselves for several hours.

 Culbertson Mansion, New Albany, IN - Side View
Although we hated to leave, we headed to Madison, IN for the night. We finished off our trip with tours of the Lanier Mansion and the Sullivan House. I’ve loved the Lanier Mansion since my first visit at 10 years old. The Sullivan House is a new favorite, the original owner actually gave Indianapolis its name. By the time we were headed home, Amanda and Eric actually had a tentative closing date.

Tell us about some of your favorite house museums in Indianapolis, Indiana or where ever. Thanks for your support of my ramblings and the work on the house. It helps to keep us motivated!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stabilizing the West Wing – Part 2

When preparing to continue the story of the West Wing, we realized we’ve learned a couple of good lessons. We should have been writing down dates and a quick overview of what was done as soon as we could. Then we needed to complete the blog BEFORE we forgot all the details. Because we’re just now realizing how easy it is to forget the details, this part of our story is going to be much more high level than we had intended. And of course, we’re hoping there are no more broken bones, falls or other mayhem leading us to be even more forgetful than normal.

In Part 1, I had stated that Bill & his crew were on site on November 10th to begin the clean-up. They were actually on site on October 25th beginning the clean-up. They came back the following day to do some more cleaning, digging and to put up some temporary posts. They also returned on a third day to complete the prep work.

 Back area after cleanup and temporary posts for bracing.

As mentioned in Day 1, brace boards were needed to help stabilize the side walls. The complication was how to attach them when there was no way to enter the West Wing to secure the bolts. Bob, however, suggested using a cement that he had worked with on the interstate job. Although it means losing a few bricks, the cement allowed us to achieve the goal in the safest manner possible.

Bracing boards.

The brace boards are the horizontal boards that the posts are attached to in order to equalize pressure on the walls and to stabilize them.

And some last minute adjustments were required due to the further deterioration of the roof causing a rotated look to the back windows.

Ready for the bracing to begin.

The site was finally ready to begin the work to stabilize the wall. The on-site meeting to finalize the plans took place on October 28th. The agreed upon beam was ordered and quickly arrived. Then the delays began again. We were very worried because we knew we needed to get the stabilization completed before any appreciable snowfall or we could loose the entire wing. In order to safely set the beam, we needed dry weather on a day when the lift was available. Then finally on November 10th, we had the perfect day. And that’s where we’ll begin in Part 3.