Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Have Water!

Several people have mentioned that it's possible that someone following either the blog or Toad Hall on Facebook may have been responsible for the most recent breakin. Let me just start out by saying "THERE ARE NO COPPER PIPES OR WIRES LEFT IN THE HOUSE!"

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, we can move on. While I've been overwhelmed with work at my regular job, Ron has been moving forward with the electric and plumbing work in the Bungalow. In addition, Amanda has led several intensive work days trying to get the 2nd floor cleaned out. And demolition has started in the kitchen. They have all been quite busy.

Let's start with the electric and plumbing. Progress on the electric has been moving forward slowly. With just little stubs of wire hanging out of the fuse box, it's not easy to know where to begin. Ron has rewired the bathroom on the first floor and it has a working ceiling light. He's also finished cleaning out the drains from the first floor bathroom and they are now running freely instead of backing up. The plumbing has been repaired to the old sink. For now, it's just the cold water side but they can at least wash their hands. And they'll soon need the water for cleaning. Until Ron has a chance to take a look at the hot water heater and get it repaired/replaced, he won't be working on plumbing for the hot water.

This is the old sink which we will continue to use as we do work on the house. When we're about ready for Amanda & Eric to move in, it will be replaced with the new one we bought. We don't see any reason to take a chance of messing up the new one just yet.

But the best part is...(wait for it)... Ron's installed the new toilet and it's working! This is huge. They no longer need to lock everything up, turn on the alarms and drive down the street to the filling station everytime they need a bathroom break.

And like nearly all our projects in the Bungalow, this one was not easy. The floor is not level and he had trouble completing the install. The toilet now tilts forward so badly that the lid doesn't want to stay up. His other option was to recess the tank back into the wall but that didn't seem like a good idea. The floor/flooring needs to be replaced and the toilet will need to be reinstalled and leveled at that time.

Ron's next project is to get more of the wiring fixed. He will be repairing everything that was torn out during the breakin. The new fuse box will need to wait a while since he has about a million other projects that we continue to prioritize & reprioritize as things continue to change. We'll be catching you all up with our other undertakings shortly.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

In the Good Ole Summertime

Saturday evening, Amanda, Eric, Ron & I had a chance to attend a concert in Circle Park in Irvington. It was great fun visiting with Linda & George and meeting new friends. Irvington appears to be a great neighborhood to be moving into!

This spring & early summer has been very warm and dry. Yesterday was no exception with a high of 89 and no rain in sight. As we sat out on my porch, my mind began to wander. I began thinking about what the weather was like the summer Horner House was built. Since we know the Mechanic's Liens were filed late in 1875, the house was likely built between the spring and early winter of that year.

So yesterday, I did a little internet surfing to see what I could find about the weather in the Spring & Summer of 1875. Of course, Irvington was quite small in 1875 so the best I could find was information for Indianapolis. Although Irvington is only about 5 miles from downtown Indianapolis, the weather can vary by quite a bit. So this information is part speculation but the weather trend should have been similar.

Indianapolis is rather unusual in that they began recording in the early 1860's. I found a study, History of Weather Observations, 1861 - 1948. Here's a quote from the Introduction on page 1.

"The motivation for the earliest weather observations in Indianapolis is unknown. It seems certain to have been a scientific interest in meteorology. It may have been a natural curiosity about the environment or a desire to be part of the Smithsonian Institution’s climate network that served the public. Or, perhaps, it was to understand a recent severe weather event such as the one that the Indianapolis Sentinel reported that caused roosting chickens to freeze hanging upside down. They reported that on New Year’s Eve 1863, the temperature was about 50°F and raining when the chickens flew up to roost in some orchard trees. On the following morning, New Year’s Day of 1864, the chickens were found, "upside down, hanging by their claws to the twigs, frozen hard and stiff." During the previous twelve hours, the temperature had fallen seventy degrees to a morning low of twenty degrees below zero. It was reported that fifteen Confederate soldiers being held prisoner at Camp Morton froze to death that same night and twelve others were found frozen on a train that was delivering them to the Camp." 

Yikes! We've seen some pretty good weather swings lately but this one is pretty extreme. But what about 1875? The National Weather Service has a number of ways that the 1871 through present data can be searched.

So the first data I found was for yearly averages (see below). This document gives an average for the entire year. For example, the 4th column in the first row is for the Most Precipitation averaged over the entire year. While 1876 comes in 1st with 57.5 inches, 1875 comes in 6th with 54.51 inches. That's a lot of wet and would have had the potential to delay the construction. Years ago, when we first moved into our current house, our neighbors were delayed for several months when building their house. The hole for their basement filled up with rain several times. After the floor & walls were poured, it filled up several more times before they could get anything built on top of it. Amanda was in high school at the time and reported that, "We got us a new cement pond." And 1992 didn't even show up as being unusually wet.

And 1875 was cold. It was the year with the coldest average max temperature per day as shown in the first column, second row. If you look at the third column, second row, you'll see it was also the 7th coldest for overall average temperature.

Next, I decided to look at some specific data for June. The wettest June recorded was - 1875 - by almost 2 inches! This year seems to be about the opposite of 1875, which was much colder & wetter than we're experiencing.

Given what I had found so far, I just had to take a look at the Maximum Precipitation Record for the month by day. Sure enough, both on the 1st & 15th, the winner was 1875. Then I ran out of time and had to stop surfing. 

What did I learn in this trip through time? Well, 1875 was a colder than normal year and one of the wettest. This type of weather is not construction friendly. This leads me to wonder whether the weather was partially responsible for the early issues with the house. Did the weather cause delays that resulted in the Mechanic's Liens? Or would there been just as many issues in a good weather year? And given that the warmest average year is 1921 with 2011 only coming in 8th, does global warming truly exist? Guess I'll need to return to the website next year to see whether 2012 truly is unusual or just uncomfortable.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Old Kentucky Home

For the first time since opening our company Eric and I made arrangements to take Memorial Weekend off. This time of year we are very busy and try to complete as much work as possible. This year we chose to put family first.

Most of Eric’s extended family lives in Ashland, Kentucky. We travel down there several times a year to spend the holidays and other important events with them. Every year, in the Spring, several members of the family get together and head over to West Virginia to tend the cemeteries and put new flowers on the graves. This year we went to help. While there was a lot of work involved it was also a lot fun to learn about the family history and go to the old cemeteries. We even went to the Hatfield cemetery to take care of two graves there.

When the weather and time permit (not all that often) we will take some sort of detour on our way home. Look at houses, drive a more scenic route, stop at a couple of antique stores, or even just stop to eat a quite meal together. That Sunday Eric decided to detour through a town that is reported to have some spectacular older homes. And did it ever. Unfortunately, many of them were in at least some disrepair. One home in particular caught our attention.

This house is on a regular street in an old town. It’s not especially visible from the road due to the trees in the front yard. Eric was driving and we decided to go back and stop so that we could walk by it on the sidewalk and get a better view. As we stood looking at the house, we noticed many similarities to the Horner House. While there were no boarded windows, it is obviously not being lived in and needs a significant amount of work. The grass is being cut, but that looks like all about the only recent maintenance.

We took a few pictures while we were there and looked in a couple of the windows. It looks like someone just up and left one day, at least a decade or more ago. I got excited thinking that maybe the current owner would be willing to part with a few of the items in the house. Not the things that make it a great house, like fireplace mantels and hardware, but maybe a few of the pieces of furniture.

Unfortunately, when we returned home and began to look into the ownership of the home, it became apparent that this is not very likely. The home is owned by a family that is very prominent in that town. I know that everyone is struggling right now and most people would consider it a “waste” of money to put it into refurbishing a mansion, but to me it’s very sad that they are letting such a beauty molder away.

Here are a few pictures that show some of the current decay:

 This picture shows the side door to the house. There is a transom above the door that is blocked up. The screen door no longer shuts properly and stands open as a testament to the neglect of the property.

 This picture was taken though a window. As you can see there is either a problem with leaking or moisture as the plaster is cracking and the paint is peeling.

 This picture is a bit dark, but it reminds me greatly of the Horner House. Just as with our aging beauty the front corner where two different elevations come together is one of the first places the gutters begin to leak. Then the moss grows on the brick and the mortar gets damaged. On this home it has already been repointed some time ago and is in need of it again.

 This is a close up (as best as my phone camera could do) of the roof. You can see where they have repaired with shingles. I am not sure what the center section is, and the rest of the roof is slate.

 This last photo shows a damaged section of the box gutter and part of a third story window. There are two pigeons sitting on the gutter. What can't be seen from this photo is that these pigeons are currently living in the house. They were flying in and out through the opening in the gutter. The attic of this place must be a real mess.

It always breaks my heart to see an old house neglected. This three story beauty is seriously in need of love and attention. I hope that its current owners find it in their hearts to get it some help soon.