Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Historic Photo #1

I'm a family history and local history buff, and I feel like I've just won the lottery! Mrs. Debbie and Mr. Jackie (the house has been in their family since 1902) brought over an envelope of treasures for us this weekend. These photos are very important, not just for understanding the history of the family that has occupied The House at Sugar Creek for the past 109 years, but also for understanding the evolution of the home throughout the years. I fell in love with these photos, and I thought that y'all might like to see them, too. Every week (until I run out of photos) I'll share another piece of the history of this darling little dog-trot.



This photo is of the Raymond Robinson family (Raymond, Raymond, Jr., Jean, and Nobie). Notice that the front porch is still attached to the house, and the six columns out front. We're going to re-create it exactly.

Weekend #2

We are back home again after spending three nights in the dog-trot, and boy are we tired! But despite the fact that we're sore from the tips of our fingers to the tips of our toes, it was a wonderful three day weekend. We accomplished even more than we thought possible! Here is a day-by-day account... enjoy!

DAY 1
We made our way to The House at Sugar Creek just before sunset and settled in to the front room that we have claimed as our makeshift bedroom. This was our first time to experience electricity... yes, electricity! We had the power turned on this week, and it went over VERY well with the boys and I. It's amazing what a few 60 watt light bulbs and an outdoor security light can do to make you feel "settled" into your new surroundings! Our first task for the weekend was to remove the kitchen and mudroom cabinets and haul them to the front porch, where I would begin the restoration work on them. We were on a tight schedule, because DAY 2 and 3 plans included removing the old sheet rock from behind and above the cabinets.

Here is my hubby after he removed the lower kitchen cabinet, just before he reminded me that new cabinets are really cheap at Lowe's.



DAY TWO:

Here is our youngest son "helping" me (for all of thirty seconds, mind you) sand and stain the unpainted inside shelves of the cabinets.



While the little boys and I were out front working on the cabinets, my hubby and a small crew were inside the house pulling down drywall from the ceilings and last few walls in the back of the house. Here's what Shaun found underneath the sheet rock on the ceilings... gorgeous wooden boards!



Removing sheet rock is a dirty, or dare I say FILTHY, process. Here is a photo of the second load of debris from the demolition. With a little help (okay, a LOT of help from the crew), the sheet rock debris was taken out of the house forever.



DAY THREE found us medicating our oldest son for allergies. The dust was really getting to him, despite the fact that he and his brother were playing outside during the drywall removal. So with Miles in mind, my hubby and I made the decision to hurry along our plans for the front room where we have been sleeping at night. It's amazing how quickly you can work when you realize that your child needs a dust-free room asap! Here is our "process" of making the room ready for a boy that was tired of sneezing:

STEP ONE:
Remove fireplace mantle. The chimney hasn't been up for fifty years or so, and my husband has NO intention of chopping firewood. (Believe me, I tried to talk him into keeping the fireplaces-- but I figure that if he's willing to restore the rest of the house, I can cut him a break on the three non-working fireplaces (none of which have chimneys anymore.) With that being said, I removed the mantle and set it aside for a future project in the home and realized that the wood behind the fireplace would need to be replaced. Here is a photo of the wall post-mantle removal, followed by a photo of the mantle.





In the mantle removal process, I found these old SQUARE nails holding the mantle to the wall. These were definitely made in the days before home improvement stores!



STEP TWO:
With the mantle gone, my husband and our youngest son (aka "the builders") began pulling wood from the ceilings in one of the rooms that will be removed from the back of the house. Hubby cut these tongue and groove boards down to size, and our youngest son helped him to fill in the fireplace hole. Here is a photo of them working together (precious!) and then a photo of Preston smiling because of a job well done.





STEP THREE:
While the boys were working on their little project, I was busy removing old nails from the walls of the room. Can you see the tiny nails in the tongue in groove walls in this photo? The nails were there to hold up the cheesecloth material behind the old wallpaper.



STEP FOUR: We have decided to keep the original wooden walls in the front section of the home, using paint and/or stain and/or polyurethane to make them beautiful again. This room had been painted before, so we decided to paint it a creamish-beige color. I'll only show you a tiny patch of the wall this week, because next week we'll finish the room and have a grand unveiling of the completed project.

DAY THREE
The morning came quickly... here is a photo of our little sleepyheads on their air mattress beside us. You can see the walls and the floor pre-facelife in this picture.



STEP FIVE:
We needed to stain and seal the floor in the front room to make way for an allergy-free zone for our son. Here are a few photos taken during our very first trip to Lowe's since we've begun the project! In one of the photos, Miles is standing beside our shopping cart full of floor supplies. In the second photo, my brother and his fiance are in the background. He's a home-improvement addict too, so he jumped at the chance to make a trip to Lowe's with us. While we were there, we hit a MAJOR clearance sale and stocked up on other items that we will need for the house. I actually found textured wallpaper (quite by accident) that looks very similar to the original living room wallpaper, and it was on clearance for $5 a roll. In the immortal words of Charlie Sheen, "winning!"




STEP SIX:
After our supply run, I dove in and stained the entire "bedroom" floor while the boys all slept through the night. When I finally laid my little head down on our blow-up air mattress, the sun was just beginning to rise. Here is a small photo of the newly stained floor, but I will not show a better view of the room until I install the refurbished cabinets and paint the ceiling and repair / paint the trim this coming weekend.



WHEW! What a weekend! We did a lot of work on the house, but we also had a few surprises. We met a few of our "new" neighbors, had a visit from a DARLING couple that lives in our current historic neighborhood a half hour away, and another dear friend stopped by with her two daughters-- AND she brought hamburgers! While Jenny was taking the grand tour, she noticed something amazing about the wood in the upstairs bedrooms. Her family bought and completely restored a historic home from the 1830's only a few parishes away from The House at Sugar Creek, and the second that she saw the "stained" wood upstairs she knew exactly why the ceilings were "dirty." She explained that when carpenters installed green wood (fresh from the mill and not thoroughly dried) the oils from their hands slowly stain the unsealed wood. Over the last hundred and fifty years or so, the fingerprints and hand prints have become obvious. The historic home that Jenny grew up in had hand prints just like these, too! Here's one of the photos we took of the ceiling in Miles' future room, and I'm so excited to share this little piece of history unique to the dog-trot.

Friday, May 27, 2011

DOWNSTAIRS FLOORPLAN (pre and post renovation)

Y'all can walk through the House at Sugar Creek online! This is a nearly-perfect to scale model of the renovation plans for our little dog-trot. (clink on the link)

http://floorplanner.com/projects/21284315-the-house-at-sugar-creek/#share

Below you will find a drawing of the house's current floorplan.
The front four rooms and hallway are the original home.
The four tiny rooms in the back of the house were added on during WWII.
And the middle section of the house was already in place by 1902.

We will change up the layout in the back half of the house (being careful not to disturb the original dog-trot and the front four rooms). The two tiny rooms at the very back of the house (added on in the 1940's) will be removed.





Here are the renderings of the house post-renovation.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Our first weekend of work...

How exactly do you begin the restoration of a mid-1800's dog-trot?

Outside of the home, of course! We spent DAY ONE of our project clearing away overgrown shrubbery and weeds, cutting down saplings that had sprouted in the fenceline, and "bush-hogging" the field beside the house. Here is a photo of the house before we cleaned away the overgrowth. Sorry, but I forgot to take a photo after we finished because I was too exhausted!



Amazingly enough, we finished mowing / weed eating / bush hogging ahead of schedule and began working on the second project-- pulling down the old sheet rock from the back three rooms of the house. We spent DAY TWO by beginning the messiest part of the entire project. Here is a photo of the old kitchen during the sheet rock demolition this weekend. Notice the old wallpaper that we left on the walls temporarily. That will come down soon, but I just couldn't rip it away without capturing the history first.



The photo below is my hubby mid-swing during our sheet rock demolition in the first room that we stripped clean. Of the fourteen rooms in the house, only three have sheet rock. (Thank the Lord above for this small mirace!) Termites invaded the sheet rocked walls years ago, and thankfully they were only there long enough to eat away the majority of the wallpaper that was sandwiched between the sheet rock and the original wooden walls. We were very happy to find that only about 10% of the wood was destroyed behind the layers of wallpaper, termite trails and sheet rock. Our original plan was to remove this section of the house due to termite damage, but after closer inspection we may adjust this plan and keep the four back rooms after all!



This is what we found in the "living room" behind the sheet rock. I'm not sure about the exact age of the wallpaper, but it is no newer than the 1940's.



Here is a photo of our oldest son helping me to clean out the root cellar. The boys and I found jars of homemade blackberry preserves, peaches, green beans, and tons of old Seven-Up, Coke and Royal Crown Cola bottles. I also found a few plates (one that has a pattern with the beautiful fleur-de-lis we love so much in Louisiana) and even an old cake platter and cover from the 1950's!



So that's it, folks. It's the end of Week One. Check back often for more updates and photos, along with a lot of interesting local history that I'm uncovering in the backwoods of Northern Louisiana.