Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Nice Surprise September 2012

Yesterday, we received a huge, pleasant surprise in the form of a post on our Facebook page. Rather than paraphrase, I'm just going to copy & paste here.

On your blog for July 20th. 2012 you have researched well. James Monroe was my great grandfather and Roger was my grandfather. While James Monroe was living here he operated a real estate office in the home and it was called Risley & Toon. Richard O. Toon operated from the Baldwin bldg. downtown & James operated from Irvington. This photo shows the family after they moved up to 73rd & Spring Mill Rd. I don’t have any pics of the time they lived here. James son Roger married in 1916 to Ruby Messersmith and they resided in Broad Ripple. The newspaper clipping you posted shows Roger at Lafayette when he was attending Purdue graduating in 1906. We have many kin here in Indy. You are taking on an enormous challenge. Can’t wait for the open house.

This is just too cool! This is the first photo that we have of a family who lived in the house. Irene, Roger & Lula Belle were all born before the family moved into the Horner House. Percy was born while the family was living there and was just 2 years & 8 months old when they moved away. And we have a new piece of data, that the house was used as a Real Estate office during the Risley's time there.

On another note, Amanda continues about the same. After being released from the hospital, she has added a sinus infection, allergies & asthma to her list. She went to the doctor today & they've given her the OK to add back all her regular meds, so we're hoping her new symptoms will begin to resolve. Otherwise, things are no better but at least they are no worse. So for now, most of the work on both houses is delayed a little longer while we try to keep everything else going.

Thanks so much to Bob who shared a bit of his family history with us. And thanks to everyone for continuing  to hang in there with us.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Continued Scilence

We apologize for our continued silence. I (Amanda) am still ill and it is beginning to take a great toll on my family. When I went to see the specialist on the 21st she admitted me to the hospital and I was not released until earlier this week. The doctors still do not know what is wrong with me and are hoping that I can stay out of the hospital while they track down the problem. 

Unfortunately, when someone is sick and you run your own company, the others have cover for whomever is gone. Eric and Ron have been working extra hours to keep things going and Mary has been spending a lot of time tending to me. For the time being, there is little to no work being completed on the houses or research and we will not be completing any more blogs until I can become well enough that I can begin contributing to the business and household.

We appreciate everyone's continued interest in our project and ask that you bear with us a bit longer during this challenging time.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Belated Update - August 2012

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you know that Amanda has been very ill since about the first of the month. She hasn't been in the office since Sunday, 8/5. We were hoping she would get into the specialist by today but they didn't have an opening until Tuesday. Due to her illness & a busier than usual August, there hasn't been time to really write a blog. Everyone trying to help pick up her workload but it's been tough, with 10 - 15 hour days. This will be just a quick post until I can regroup and get something else pulled together.

We have a series of pictures of the stairway with a very different perspective. Our friend & employee, Mike, took these during his first visit to the Horner House. These are views from the front entry looking up at the ceiling of the second floor.

No promises at this point but I've been working on our next owner. I'm hoping to finish the first installment next week.  Enjoy! Have a great weekend and we'll post again as soon as we have a chance.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Old Cellar

  The following pictures were taken by Indiana Landmarks before the collapse. They are all pictures of the cellar under the West Wing. These pictures were taken either by looking through holes in the floor or holding the camera down through the holes and are fairly random. These pictures are the only look that even we have had, or will have, until the stabilization is finished. Many thanks to Indiana Landmarks for giving us a preview of what's to come.

I think that this is the South wall and the boarded up area is the old coal chute.

This picture was taken through a hole in the floor. Between that ans the old support post it is clear that the West Wing had some long term stability issues.

There's a lot that's worrisome about this picture including the stubbed off wires just hanging around.

In this picture and the last it looks like there is an elevation difference in the floor. Anybody have any ideas on what this might be?

Another picture of the South wall. I wonder what's up with the chain. No, maybe I don't want to know.

It looks to me like there might have been some repairs done. Some of the bricks in the upper left corner look to be new.

Out of all the pictures, I find this one the most interesting. It's an odd angle, but you can see into the "crawl" space. This makes the crawl look to be about two feet deep, but it looked much deeper than that when Bob was standing in it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Abstract & Title Part 6

On August 11, 1897, James M. & Delia P. Risley sold the house by Warranty Deed to Mary A. Thomas; Mary E. Miller, Frank W. Miller and Bertha M. Morrison.

Mary A. Thomas died on or about June 9, 1898 as appears by affidavit of Bertha M. Hooper recorded in Misc. Record 111, page 558, which is shown in a subsequent continuation to the abstract of title.

NOTE: No letters of administration issued in the Clerk’s office of Marion County, Indiana, upon an estate of Mary A. Thomas, deceased. No will of said decedent filed for probate in said County.

March 29, 1900: Frank W. Miller and Belle Miller, his wife; Mary E. Miller and Charles E. Miller, her husband; Bertha M. Hooper and Harry Hooper (signed & acknowledged Henry H. Hooper) her husband to Silas F. Fleece.

The 4 items above are all part of the Abstract.

Since Mary Thomas, Mary Miller & Frank Miller are such common names, I decided to see what all I could find on Bertha Morrison first. During the time Bertha lived in the house, she had married Henry H. Hooper becoming Bertha M. Hooper. They were married in April 1899 in Indianapolis. Their 1900 Census shows that Bertha had 2 sons by a previous marriage, Ralph Morrison born in 1879 and Clarence Morrison born in 1884. Then I found an obituary in the December 9,1918 Indianapolis Star for Charles Miller. Bertha Hooper is listed as his daughter. His address is 1143 College Avenue. So Bertha is really Bertha Miller Morrison Hooper.

Searching on Bertha Miller in the 1870 Census, I found Mary Carpenter born 1816 along with Mary born 1844, Frank born 1863 & Bertha born 1869, all  Millers. The date for Bertha is consistent. So it appears that Mary E. and her children are living with who may be Mary A Carpenter (Thomas). Which gives us Mary A., Mary E., Frank & Bertha, the same as is on the Abstract except the last name for Mary A doesn’t match.

And then we hit pay dirt. In the 1880 US Census, we find William Thomas, 69, and wife Mary A. Thomas, 65. They are with the Millers: stepdaughter Mary E., 38, and boarders Charles E., 44, Frank, 17 and Bertha, 11. The "boarders" are obviously Mary E's husband & children. So we do have validation that this group is really 3 generations of the same family.  The grandmother, Mary A. Thomas passed away 10 months after they purchased the house. She had $60,000 listed as the value of her real estate in 1870. Twenty one months later, the children sold the property to Silas Fleece.

In the 1915 & 1916 Indianapolis City Guides, Bertha Hooper is listed as the widow of Harry H. and is living at 1143 College Avenue, her father’s old house.

This takes us up to 1900, when the house was just 25 years old. If you are interested in more information & pictures regarding what Irvington was like during the early 1900's, go to Bill has some extraordinary pictures and stories of the Irvington community at the turn of the century.  One of our next blogs will be about the Silas Fleece family. This is one of my favorite Horner House families, probably because they live there for a relatively long time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Old Wagon

When we purchased the Horner House, there was an old wagon on the Brookville Road side of the property. It’s a very interesting wagon. It looks like it is very old but we haven’t had much time to do any research – there are just too many things to do…  If you look very closely at the picture below, you can see the wheels and a little of the wood that remained. This fence is an interior fence on the North side of the property.

We spent some time last week, untangling the wagon from the trees and weeds. Once untangled, we moved it into storage for safe keeping until we begin doing landscaping. At that point, we hope to restore the wagon and return it to the property. (And, yes, the scrapers were at it again which is why this is now in storage.)

Hopefully, we can get some more detailed information from what remains to determine whether this wagon is, if not original, at least a wagon that matches the early years of the house. One more “project” added to the ever growing list.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Abstract & Title Part 5

The last time we wrote about the Title & Abstract, we ended with the sale of the property on November 22, 1893 to James M. Risley.

It has been difficult to find out a lot about Mr. Risley & his family. The following information is from posts on & James Monroe Risley was born to Herod & Elizabeth Ann Hodgen Risley in Knox County, IN in 1844. It appears that his family was in Indiana as early as 1839 when his grandmother Sarah Crooks Risley was buried in Knox County.

He married Frances Adelia Piety (Delia) on October 26, 1881 in Knox County, IN. Their daughter, Bertha, was born August 17, 1882. A little over a year later, they had a second daughter, Jenny, born December 14, 1883.

The year 1885 appears to have been a tragic year for the family. In July, Bertha died at just 2 years & 11 months old. Just 3 months later, Jenny died at 1 year & 10 months. They are both buried in Knox County, however, we’re not sure whether they were still living there at the time. In December, James Maurice was born in Marion County.

Then in March 1887, they suffered another death when James Maurice died at just 1 year & 3 months old. While there are many people today who say that people were much more prepared to handle the death of their children in the 1800’s, my great grandmother never recovered from the deaths of 5 of her 8 children.

Just 9 months after James died, Florence Irene was born on December 15, 1887. Twenty two months later Roger Ashley was born on October 20, 1889. And 26 months later, Lulu Belle was born on December 26, 1891.

When the Risley’s purchased the Horner House on November 22, 1893, their children were just 5, 3 and 22 months old. I don’t think I would have purchased a house with such a narrow steep staircase with such small children. Perhaps the children only used the back stairway which was gone before we saw the interior of the house.

Anyway, just 13 months after purchasing the house, Allen Percy was born on December 19, 1894. These last 4 children lived pretty long lives, Irene passing at 60 years old, Roger at 98, Lulu at 93 and Allen at 83.

The family sold the house on August 11, 1897 just 3 years and 8 months later. The children were 9, 8, 5 & 2. In the 1900 US Census, the family was still living in Washington Township, however, it appears they were living in a rural area. Their entry includes a boarder who is a farm laborer. James & Delia remained in Marion County until their deaths in 1912 & 1943.

On August 11, 1897, James M. & Delia P. Risley sold the house by Warranty Deed to Mary A Thomas; Mary E. Miller, Frank W. Miller and Bertha M. Morrison. But these new buyers will need to wait till another day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Aren't We in a Severe Drought - Part 2

We have good news tonight! Amanda has been in contact with several people at the water company (including the CEO of Citizens Energy Group). They were very apologetic about the miscommunications over the past week. Apparently, having 2 homes on 1 property (with separate addresses) added to the confusion.

The leak has been fixed and there is no more water running into the street. The leak was on the other side of the meter and no water was running toward the house. The spokes person was very helpful and apologized several times for all the confusion.

The gravel doesn't look great but given the drought, it's probably the best patch at the moment. And the water in the street should dry up soon.

We owe a big thank you to Linda Cuff for giving us some great suggestions on how to get this issue resolved. Without her suggestions, who knows how long it would have taken to get the leak fixed.

And while we're on the subject of water, our area of Franklin Township got about 2 inches of rain tonight. We were at the Irvington Historical Society where there was plenty of lightening & thunder but no rain by 9pm. We're saying more prayers that the East/SouthEast side get more rain in the next several days. And then, hopefully, all our water problems would be resolved - for now.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Aren't We in a Severe Drought?

According to the Saturday night news, we are in a severe drought in Indianapolis with about 0.08 inches of rain in the past 45 days. The water company started the first ever Indianapolis mandatory watering ban. Why are we writing about this in our Horner House blog? Because we are not very sure that Citizens Water understands that we are currently in a drought.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ron went to the Bungalow to mow the few tall weeds and noticed some really lush green grass in the grass strip between the sidewalk in front of the Horner House & Emerson Avenue. A four foot square area was muddy and water eventually spilled out into the street flowing down the gutter to the corner. Now, even if we weren't in the middle of "an Historic" drought (per WTHR), we would be worried about what was obviously a water leak.

Real green grass in the strip between the sidewalk & street.

So, Ron called Amanda and she called the water company. They answered the call very quickly and were very helpful saying that they would get a truck out the same day to take a look at it. The conversation went very well until Amanda asked about whose responsibility this is. They told her anything on the property side of the water meter is our responsibility and the rest it theirs. Now this would not normally be a problem, but we have no idea where the water meter to the Horner House is. So Amanda asked several more questions was told that anything is possible and yes there could be water running to the Horner House, but that they couldn’t tell us anything until someone came to look at it. She could call back after 4pm and they would know more then. Since she only called it in at 2:45 that seemed like a reasonable response.

But it left her worried. The only plumbing in the house was in the West Wing. Since there are broken floors and walls, we are certain that there are broken pipes. What if water is collecting in the cellar as well as the street? Anything that impacts the cellar has the potential to literally bring the house down. And how is it possible that there could be water coming from our side of the meter? We never had it turned on. 

So, Amanda planned to make the call as soon as she returned to Indianapolis from Valparaiso. Unfortunately, as you may have seen from the Facebook page, the car had some issues on the way home and it distracted her. It was a bit after their 7pm closing time when she remembered that she needed to called back.  

On Wednesday morning (the 11th), as soon as she could break away from the immediate needs of the company, Amanda called to find out what the status of the leak was. She was told that someone had been by and noted that it looked like a water meter leak and ordered another truck out to look at it. Now, things were starting to look worse. If this is a meter leak, why is it leaking and could there be water running to the house. When Amanda explained the issue and the concern, she still received the same “party line” that they didn’t know anything and wouldn’t know until it was looked at. And call back after 4pm and before 7pm.

Knowing that the cellar could be full of water and the foundation of the entire structure in danger, we began trying to figure out how we could check for water ourselves. Our contractor & engineer had left us with strict instructions NOT to disturb anything around the cellar. Indiana Landmarks was called and notified of the issue and asked some questions about any other information that they might have in their records. Other calls were made and a last resort of crawling through the crawl space back to the cellar to try and see or hear any water was considered. This being the most dangerous choice, it was decided that we would wait until after 4:00pm and see if we need to do it then.

At 4:05pm Amanda and Ron called again. After speaking to a customer service rep., being put on hold for his manager, being hung up on (they did eventually try and call back and leave a message), calling back, speaking to another customer service rep. and transferred to her supervisor (think 65 minutes later), they thought they had finally found someone who could help. They educated the supervisor on the importance of understanding where this was leaking & why. (Perhaps it was something about Ron stating that. since we had notified them of the issue, that if this historical building was damaged then they would be responsible and dealing with several news stations and our lawyers.) The supervisor finally agreed to send someone out to find the water meter and make sure that the water to the Horner House was turned off. They were to come out the next day, Thursday, but they wouldn't tell us when they would be there. Their policy is for the workers to hit & run - they don't let anyone know when they are to turn off your water and they do not knock or let you know they are there. It makes their workers "uncomfortable" when they have to turn off someone's water. Even after arguing that we were the ones asking to have it turned off, they refused to let us know when they would be there. The only detail we got was they would be there between 7am & 4pm the next day.

After Amanda and Ron got off the phone they looked some more to see if there was a way to check things out without going into the crawl space or the cellar. Ron was finally able to contort himself enough to shine a light into a crack (without touching anything). He was able to see a small part of the cellar floor and it was dry. This brought some level of relief; however, the water still needed to be checked since we couldn't see the entire cellar.

On Thursday Ron & Tristan staked out the front of the Horner House so they could speak with the water company when they showed up. The water company was a no show. A note was left on the door on Friday at 3pm, however, as far as we can tell, they didn't do anything. So when we’re in the middle of a severe drought, when people are severely restricted on what they use water for, is the water company not concerned with a leak? The water continues to flow into the street at about a gallon a minute by our estimate. Amanda is going to try to determine whether they can capture or divert some of it to the trees on the property that have taken a big hit with the drought. There are several large trees that might be lost without some water - lost right into the middle of Brookville Road.

Oh, per the Supervisor at Citizens Water, it could take up to four weeks for the leak truck to come out and fix the problem.
Notice how brown the yard is and the amount of water in the gutter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012

Normally Mom writes the blog posts for us, but she has been granted a rare and special night off.

On this day, July 10th, 42 YEARS ago, Ron and Mary were married. It many not be a "milestone" year, but I believe that every year of a marriage should be. Happy Anniversary to two of the most loving, amazing and generous people out there. We love you both!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

End of June Update - July 5, 2012

It has been a very hot, dry, busy month both at work and at the Bungalow. Although there has not been much progress made on the Horner House, the Bungalow is getting close to the end of the demolition phase which will lead into the more dreaded cleaning & painting phase.

So what all did we accomplish in June? The basement demo is complete. Multiple cans of Lysol have given their all to reduce the mold population and smell. The main basement floor drain was cleaned out as well as the drain to the 1st floor bath. The water to the 1st floor is partially complete. Some wiring was fixed up to the1st floor. The remaining trash has been removed and we have a fairly clean slate to work with. Next steps include completing the work on the wiring, drains and water and a thorough cleaning.

                                         This is what the entire basement pretty much looks like now.

                                         New water & drain pipes.

On the 1st floor, we concentrated on the kitchen & bath. In the kitchen, all the base cabinets and counter top have been removed. And the kitchen sink and plumbing....And layers and layers of flooring...And the ceramic baseboards. Demo will be complete when the tiles on the East wall are removed. We're getting close!

                                         Layers and layers of flooring in kitchen.

                                         Here you can see the subfloor in several places.

In the 1st floor bath, the old toilet was removed and the new one installed - complete with water. The decision was made to keep the old sink for a while and cold water was plumbed in. The drains were all checked and are now running free. And we have lights which is good & bad. It is no longer a small dark room, however, we can now see just how much remains to be done.

                                         This is as good as the bath will get for a while, except for some cleaning.

Moving up to the 2nd floor, all the old carpet was removed....And the linoleum....But not the tar paper. Which leaves a thick layer of nasty goo. Yuck!  Most of the goo has been removed from one room but the others still need lots of TLC. Can't yet tell whether all the original hardwood flooring will be salvageable.  

                                         Second floor carpeting which had seen better days.

                                         The goo...

                                         Progress in the front bedroom.

So there has been much progress during June. Ron leaves tomorrow to pick up his antique motorcycle. When he returns, it's back to the wiring. It will be interesting to see how much we can accomplish in July. If the weather stays excessively hot, it will be difficult to work on the first two floors without any fans or air conditioning. There is still soooo much to be done. Wish us luck and stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bungalow Kitchen Demo - In Progress

 Before the big shopping expedition back in September, Amanda & Eric took a quick look at the kitchen and planned to leave the cabinets pretty much intact. They wanted to add a dishwasher and a new kitchen sink. They were going to move around the appliances and try to make the layout better. Bottom line was we originally thought that we could get away with a major cleaning and just some minor changes in the kitchen prior to moving in. (It was actually pretty scary dirty. There were syringes with the needles still attached. And opened bottles and jugs of cleaning chemicals all over the place.)

We went shopping and brought back a whole truckload of our initial purchases including a new kitchen sink and dishwasher. As we were carrying in the purchases, I took a peek under the sink. Oy Vey! The pipes had burst and there was mold everywhere. (And there was no gooseneck. Later we found a gooseneck in the basement but this is definately not up to code!) Given Amanda's allergies, it looked like a ticking time bomb. We began to do a more in-depth assessment. The base cabinets on the East wall weren't really built in. They were a free standing cabinet just pushed up against the wall. On further inspection, Amanda found that the feet weren't even wood, they were styrafoam! (See green cabinet below.) The base cabinets on the south wall were all in pretty bad condition as was the countertop. The floor was white ceramic tile with lots of stains & broken tiles. So we determined we needed to do some real demo and remodeling in the kitchen.

Below, you can see the East wall of the kitchen. These are the old upper & lower cabinets. If you look real close, you'll see that the wall has some very unusual tiles covering it. This also gives a good view of the tiles on the floor. The partially open door leads to the basement.

The South wall has two upper cabinets plus the bases. There is a broken window between the upper cabinets with the sink beneath it.

And then the work began. The past couple weeks, we've had several people working in the kitchen doing the demo. They've been removing pretty much everything, including the kitchen sink. In the picture below, the base cabinets on the South wall are gone and the green cabinet has been moved. A better assessment of the floor resulted in the decision to remove and replace it. All the layers. You can see that the tile has been removed from the kitchen floor.

We knew there were several layers but it was hard to tell what all was beneth those large white ceramic tiles. The next layer had a strange mesh on top & bottom with large grey cement stuff in-between, which might have been used to level the floor for the tiles.

Then under that was Masonite... And under that was old fashioned linoleum... And under that was the old sub floor. 

More to come!

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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

End of May Update - May 31, 2012

May has been a fairly productive month at the Bungalow. We've made progress and we've had some setbacks. On the whole, I think we've ended on a positive note and we've done a lot with the opportunities presented to us. Considering this has been an unusually bad spring allergy season & our business has been so busy, we've made more progress than I would have expected.

                                        Rose bush in side yard in full bloom.

Ron has spent a lot of time this month doing demolition in the basement of the Bungalow so we can repair the wiring & plumbing. I've posted a number of blogs regarding the demolition and there are more to come. We even found a bathroom that we were previously unaware of. The basement is now mostly cleared out and ready for the next steps. All the walls and the ceiling are stripped down to the studs. In some cases, even the studs have been removed.  We now have a clean slate in the basement and Amanda & Eric have begun planning for the new space.

Now that the demolition is essentially complete, work on the plumbing & wiring has started. The wiring in the basement is easier to address because there isn't as much planning required as opposed to the plumbing. On the other hand, wiring to the first & second floors will be more difficult since we'll need to fish the wiring up through the walls. We need to develop a general plan for the plumbing or there will be a lot of rework to do. Unfortunately, it won't be just be a matter of attaching the plumbing from the first & second floors to the new pipes in the basement.

In addition to the work completed on the Bungalow, we have been slowly moving forward on the Horner House. Some of the stabilizing boards have warped, allowing the outer walls of the West Wing to move. More brick has been lost from the top of the west wall in the West Wing. Amanda & I made a quick trip to the property and noticed the changes. Panic immediately set in. We felt a little better after Bill came by and said it might not be as bad as it looked.

Amanda & Eric met with Bill, Bob & Sonny (a brick mason) on site to see what all needs to be done.  Sonny thinks the majority of the bowing in the walls of the West Wing is due to the second course of brick pulling away from the first course, and believes it will be a relatively easy fix when they start work on the masonry. He did, however, emphasize that we need to get the interior flooring reinforced and stabilized in order to keep more damage to the exterior walls throughout the entire building.

Also, according to the Sonny, the debris behind the limestone facing at the Southeast corner was probably put there during construction of the house, and is not the foundation beginning to crumble. Most likely the proximity to the railroad and the many years of vibrations just brought the broken bricks and debris to the surface over time.

Another new complication also arose this month. Amanda & Eric's house in Beech Grove was hit by the hail storm earlier this spring, causing damage to the roof & siding. Bill and the insurance adjuster met Amanda one afternoon to assess the damage. It was fairly substantial and the insurance may not cover everything. It now appears that it will cost them several thousand dollars to fix the damage. Since part of the plan was to use the money from the sale of this house for work on the Horner House, our funding continues to shrink. We trust that God would not have presented this opportunity without providing the means. We just need to work hard and keep our hearts open to the possibilities.

Ron's on his way to Ohio to get his antique motorcycle worked on. Once he gets back, he plans to get busy again on the plumbing. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Work on the Bungalow - May 24, 2012

Descending from the kitchen stairway, you enter the room in the south east corner of the basement. This is the room that is behind the back shower wall of the bathroom.

In the photo below, you can see the dark wood paneling on the walls and a built in cabinet with broken doors. There was a lot of trash removed from this room prior taking these pictures and beginning demolition. Once we determined that these walls were not load bearing, the demo went into full swing.

                                         Room in South East corner of basement prior to demolition.

In the next photo, you are looking under the stairs from the kitchen. It is behind this green wall under the stairs where the bathroom is located. You can also see the utility area, one of the furnaces and the chimney.

                                         View under the stairs from the kitchen.

Here's a view through the wall into the next room after they had removed the walls on both sides. This is looking into the big room on the north side of the basement. As you can see, there is a pretty nice bar area. The north side was much more finished than the south side.

                                         View from room on south east side to the room on the north side.

 And here are a couple views into the south east corner after tearing out the whole wall. Everything has been removed - cabinet, walls, studs, ceiling - the works. We're looking forward to a fairly blank canvas in the basement so we can then design what the space will become.

                                         South east corner after demo.

                                         South east corner after demo.

And next time, we'll take a look at the work being done on the north room and the progress that is being made there.