1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

The Secret of the Old Outbuilding

Just call me Nancy Drew. Gary suggested I look for evidence of a wood stove in/around the workshop to support the theory that it was once a residence or was built on the spot where a residence once was.

Armed with my digital camera and a flashlight, I went hunting for clues. I found an area of the brick patio with lots of charred wood chips in the crevices and extending under the lattice. Nearby is an area with sort of baked-on black char. This photo turned out blurry, but you can get the idea:

To the right of the workshop is a brick something that looks like it might've been part of a foundation once.

Near this thing, I found a long metal tool of some sort sticking out of the lattice. It is rusted to death, but it looks like it is made very similarly to the wood stove tool I found in the attic. Anybody know what this is?

I tried to peer under the building with the flashlight for more clues, but the lattice got in the way too much. I couldn't even get a good look at the underside of the floor.

But based on the evidence I have so far, I think the workshop is not the same building as the outbuilding labeled as a single family residence on the Sanborn maps. I think it was built on almost the exact same spot, probably even using some of the same materials. Two of the doors in the workshop are old, and the patio bricks are definitely old.

I'm still not sure whether the brick patio is 1. an original part of the old building or 2. constructed from old bricks that once made up the building's foundation.

Evidence for Conjecture #1:
  • Charred wood chips between the bricks right up next to the side of the building ... surely not done by someone grilling out because you wouldn't put your grill that close to the vinyl siding, would you?
  • Sanborn map showed the building had a porch across the front.

    Evidence for Conjecture #2:
  • Under the workshop steps is a concrete slab laid into the brick patio. The concrete has the date '74 (as in 1974) written in it.
  • Many of the bricks have leftover concrete/mortar stuff on the tops, making them look as if they've been assembled as something else before.

    Evidence that could go either way:
  • That bit of leftover foundation to the right has the same type of bricks as the patio.

    Friday at work I was regaling a co-worker with my troubles in figuring out the age of various parts of my house. He looked confused and said, "Why do you care?"

    The question surprised me. I guess people who don't live in old houses don't care how their houses got the way they are or what they looked like before. I, on the other hand, can't imagine NOT caring.



    Gary said...

    Evidence of a wood stove would be a chimney, stone platform or a 8 inch hole in the roof sheathing or side of the building for the smoke stack. The concrete to the side of the building may have been a foundation for some steps. I would guess that the structure is original but was probably modified to make it into a workshop. Without removing the siding or panelling you will never know. It would be cheaper to track down a previous owner! If it wasn't used as a dwelling then it may have been a wood shed or a laundry. Are there any cisterns next to the building? Wish I could help more. We still have soooooo many questions about our place. Buying that 1909 copy of "Household Discoveries" has helped because it puts you in the role of a 1909 person without any modern equipment and goes through the routine of wash day, sewing day, cleaning day, kitchen work etc.
    Four years ago I would have made the same comment about not caring. Acquiring a piece of forgotten local history and playing history detective is so much more fulfilling than watching TV though.

    12:02 PM  
    mindy said...

    Haha - Kristin, good detective work. We could use your help on ours!

    We are pretty sure that the back room we're tearing off isn't original to the house - no basement under it, it has a different roofline, etc... but it's still quite old because the back wall had a layer of old clapboard attached with the thick square nails. Teague's father thinks it may have been an outbuilding that they then closed in and attached to the kitchen. We're as curious as you are about our house's history though - you're not the only one!

    Can't offer any help with the clues, but it looks like you're getting somewhere!

    12:36 PM  
    Kasmira said...

    We have a similar one-eyed, pokey tool in our basement. It is not bent or rusted, so I didn't think it was too old. I have no idea what it's for. I always thought it was for the furnace. (Furnaces are a mystery to me.) I don't think it is for a woodstove because I don't think we ever had one. Maybe it is for a coal furnace? (Which our house, presumably, had at one point.) I use it to keep the washing machine hose from flinging itself out of the utility sink. Surely not its intended use.

    3:26 PM  
    Anonymous said...

    Shoot, I care about my 1964 house and its origins. Mainly, I'd like to ask the builder/first owner: what were you thinking?

    – Texas T-bone

    4:11 PM  

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