Archive for the ‘Italianate’ Category

Check? Check!

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Check came in today, so I guess our Chicago house has sold.  We also got an all-clear on the follow-up radon test, so the last bit should be released from escrow soon.  Whew.

Movers come tomorrow, I think.  The Little One started kindergarten this morning.  She sure is little.  She’s almost as big as her backpack.  We spent our first night in our in-between rental apartment/duplex/whatever you call it (the townhouse).  Don will be taking his mom home later this week and painting her bedroom some more.  It’s another chaotic time in our lives.  Oh, and we’ve been married 7.5 years.  Happy half-anniversary to us. :)   In those 7.5 years, we’ve lived in 4.5 houses.  (We’d signed the lease on our townhouse, but hadn’t spent the night there yet.  The houses are: Howe, Ashland, Kensington, my parents’ guest house, and the townhouse.)  That’s a lot of moving, isn’t it?  Here’s hoping we stay longer in our next house.

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Closing is closer.

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Did you miss me?  Last weekend, we hosted a 45th wedding anniversary/family reunion for my parents, and then drove 650 miles north to the orphan Italianate.  (50 adults, 15 children.  Attendees from both coasts and as far north as Detroit, Michigan and as far south as College Station, Texas.  I met family I’d never met before, including my grandfather’s younger brother — he’s only 85.  My grandfather is 92.)  Got there Tuesday.

We’ve spent the week in Chicago, visiting our orphan Italianate and the Little One and I are back in hot, hot, hot Arkansas.  (102 degrees Fahrenheit in Missouri as we went through, and supposed to be around 100 here the rest of the week.)  We drove the 650 miles back on Saturday/Sunday.  Glad to have a/c in the car.

We resolved all the inspection points (I think), and we’re supposed to close on Friday.  We are still dealing with radon (re-inspection requires 48 hours without movers, so the re-inspection won’t be complete until next week — after closing), and holding breath until closing.  Movers come Tuesday to pack us up, and they’re supposed to load and go on Wednesday.

The future owners came over last Friday, and we showed them the boiler, and discussed the finer points of single-pipe radiators, and risks of a floor-level laundry chute when you have small children, and graciously accepted their compliments.  The previous owners (well, daughter-in-law and grandchildren) also came over on Saturday and admired the house.  We had a lot of people come through and admire the house — a lot of them told us that they wished we’d had time to enjoy it before we sold it.  However, if we hadn’t moved to Arkansas, I think I would have been lucky to have a new roof and a new kitchen at this stage.  Realistically, we’d be far, far, far from having a house as habitable as it is now.

Busy dealing with real world issues (things tend to accumulate while you’re gone), so more interesting posts will have to wait.  I’m ruminating on a Coolerator we picked up in Southern Illinois.  (An actual icebox.  With deco features.  And instructions.  We think it will be great for parties, instead of using an ice chest.  Some of our family think we’re insane.  Go figure.)

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Our other houses, Part 4 Ashland house (Italianate) genealogy)

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

 lp_finished_exterior_07.jpgSo this is our orphan Italianate, all dressed up and waiting for a new family.* The house genealogy I’ve done confirms my belief that it is considerably older than the 1893 date used in the listing papers.** (The town incorporated in 1893, so that may be where that date comes from.) The Italianate style is a bit uncommon for our town. We know of three in the immediate area, while there are dozens of Queen Annes, four-squares, Dutch Colonials, center entry Federals, and bungalows. I assume the relative scarcity is due to the age — by the time our inner Chicago suburb was being developed after the Chicago Fire, Italianates had gone out of style.  Also, some of the Federal style houses may be Italianates stripped of their gewgaws.

It presently sits on 1.5 lots, and in 1885, it was the only house on the block. The deed from that year refers to a number of lots [6 or 12] sold for a relatively minuscule price, which included a barn and a house. The land and house were sold at auction after the mortgagee defaulted on a loan.

The next house on our block was probably built in 1887, based on the sale of some land to Mrs. Lyon — her house is kitty-corner behind ours. (I’m working from memory because my house genealogy notebook and clippings are in storage.) Her house is a Queen Anne/farm style. Most of the other lots were sold in turn by about 1930, except that our house’s owners kept three lots until about fifty years ago.

By the turn of the last century, our Italianate was home to a stone merchant and his family and it probably occupied just those 3 lots. (There was a limestone quarry less than a mile from the house. Our study/dining room has a lovely fireplace with limestone “bricks” which I speculate came from the quarry.) After his death, his wife and children stayed in the house for quite a few more years.  He was a Christian Scientist, probably a founding member of the local church, and when he died, Avery Coonley*** of Riverside preached the funeral from the house.

His widow apparently made something of a living as a professional whistler. (Not this kind of Whistler, although I understand that his peacocks would have been noisier.) She went to Chautauquas**** and would whistle bird songs and the like. Eventually, she married a minister (Episcopal? American Baptist? I forget, but not Christian Science; it’s written down in that house notebook) and moved back East.

After that family sold the house in the 1920s, it was owned by several (4? 5?) families over the next thirty years. Often, they had a boarder. The second upstairs bathroom was there quite early as there was a clipped advertisement in our house file for a boarder, and it mentioned the private bath. At one point, a piano teacher lived there. Her student concerts were in the double parlor.

Then, in the 1950s, the owners sold 1.5 lots (the corner lot plus half a lot) to our present neighbor Caroline who built a nice ranch on it. Just before 1962, the owners remodeled a bathroom or two, installed olive green sculptured carpet throughout the downstairs, and sold it to our immediate-past POs, who lived there until 2005. Mr. PO died in the 1990s, Mrs. PO stayed there another ten years while developing dementia. When we bought the house, she had moved to a nursing facility nearby.  Several of their children still live in the area, and one lives just a few blocks from us.

* We’re hoping our orphan will soon be adopted!  We have a signed contract with people who had been waiting for their house to be adopted.  We are in the inspection, attorney review stage.  The full house inspection is today.  (Already had bugs inspection and radon inspection.  They waived lead testing.)  Will be holding breath until later in the month when/if we close.

** Our local historical society has a phenomenal set up. They have for years clipped articles from the local papers and filed them by address. So, if you want to know something about your house, you go there and ask for your house’s file. I had the file for our Italianate long before we had closed on it. (I just wish I had an ancestor who lived here so I could do some easy person genealogy.)

*** Yes, that Avery Coonley. Don and I have toured part of the Coonley estate during a Riverside house walk. Coonley had Frank Lloyd Wright design it and it was apparently Mr. Wright’s favorite Prairie style house.

**** My own great-grandmother and her father (my great-great-grandfather) used to play violin at Chautauquas.

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What to do about the radiator pipe?

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Our entire first floor had 11 foot ceilings, except for the add-on family room area in the rear, and the kitchen / butler’s pantry / powder room in the main part of the house. I knew why the family room ceiling was lower, but the 8 foot ceiling in the kitchen area made no sense. One day I couldn’t stand it any longer. I climbed the ladder with a hammer and a flashlight. Let’s just say there was no reason the ceiling needed to be so low. This action hastened the kitchen remodel, as well.

Kitchen Before (West Radiator Pipe Wall)Kitchen (before)

A short time later I pulled the ceiling down. The original plaster ceiling was in bad shape. It was not clear if it had been covered for that reason, or if decades out of sight had caused the deterioration. The other problem, which we had anticipated, was a distinct difference between the walls below the 8 foot line and those above. The walls had been re-plastered after the ceiling was dropped, so there was a ridge where the newer plaster met the original. We solved this with beadboard and a piece of horizontal trim covering the joint at the 8 foot line. Lisa found some beautiful antique beadboard on Ebay at $5.00 per square foot, which is about the price of new oak beadboard at the big box stores. It was unpainted heart pine, about 100 years old, from a cottage in Georgia (or so we were told… you never really know). It just needed a good cleaning with furniture refinisher and a couple of coats of shellac. We covered the ceiling itself with tin, but that’s another story.

A small section of wall was curved. One winter day (before the ceiling exploration) Lisa leaned up against it and found it to be quite warm – a radiator pipe! Apparently the wall was curved around the pipe after the ceiling was dropped, because there was nothing but a bare pipe sticking out above the 8 foot line. What to do?

We found a piece of antique tin on Ebay just the right size to cover up the pipe. I had several pieces of oak trim left over from the Kensington Avenue remodel. A few cuts with the miter saw, a little spray paint, some stain and shellac, and presto! A decorative feature! I think I spent about 50 dollars on materials, which includes the tin piece. As all renovators know, the homeowner’s labor is free.

Radiator Pipe In ProgressKitchen radiator pipe, beadboard, and decorative tin


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Our orphaned Italianate: Let’s do the numbers

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Feb 2001 (Before) Before

lp_finished_exterior_07.jpglp_finished_exterior_01.jpg After (front and back)

We’ve left our Italianate all alone in Chicago, hoping that it will buck the slow market soon.  Our helpful real estate agent did some counting for us last week:  61 agents, 5 broker open houses, 20 weeks on the market, and an ”average [of] a showing a week.” 

Additional numbers she didn’t mention:  two price reductions, zero offers, two mortgages, one lease, six months in a commuter marriage and commuter parenting, eighteen months without a kitchen, forty years of benign neglect in the house, four large rooms of olive green sculptured carpet gone, six overgrown yews and one elderly crabapple removed, four bathrooms gutted, one leaking roof replaced, one garage replaced, 5 gazillion antique clay pavers (6 pounds each) moved five times (usually in the rain), one complete rewiring, one front porch rebuilt, one back porch re-created, 644 miles from the orphaned Italianate (and Don’s family) to here. 

On the other hand, one dream job, 50% reduction in housing costs (if we ever get to buy), two actual snow days last winter, the Little One getting to know her maternal grandparents and relatives, and the knowledge that we can rehabilitate an orphaned house.  It all adds up to the knowledge that we can do some pretty amazing things and explains why we’re willing to do it again.

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