Monday, June 04, 2007

Our House's Cousin

Saturday, we went to an open house in our neighborhood and got to see sort of what our house used to look like. It had the same staircase and the same fireplace that our house does. The house had been in the same family for at least 80 years also.

Some of the difference in histories:

1. Additions. Our house was originally a single family home. But, between the wars, the former owners of our house added on an addition. (currently houses the kitchen and back bedroom for both units). After the addition, both units at some point were rented out. (I think in the 50s). Because of this, there was a kitchen and bath on both floors. In the other house, it stayed a single family home. It was great to sort of see the original floorplan.
2. Staircase. When the upstairs of our house was converted to a two flat, the banister which curved around stopped at a new wall. We found in our basement a number of spindles that were removed in this process. We knew this is what happened, but it was really neat in the other house to see perhaps what the floor plan may have been initially including the full staircase. (in the other house, the staircase was covered in carpet and a whole bunch of paint)
3. Marble fireplace. Our fireplace was bricked in and painted a whole range of colors-orange, black, white. Some of the paint peeled and I noticed that it was marble. I've spent many hours stripping it, and I think it looks a lot better. Why someone would paint it, I have no idea. The house we visited took it one step further. Instead of paint, they decided to put many many layers of something on it, ultimately having a light brown varnish color. (a treatment that under normal circumstances I hate as it looks really fake and not like wood) The paint treatment included the iron grate. (actually, I didn't see the actual grate, it was more the grate surround. I forgot to ask if they had the grate. The fireplace supposedly still works, but was boarded up at some time.
4. Access to the basement. In our place, in the front hall, there's a door leading to the basement. There's no stair landing, which is inconvenient, hazardous, etc. Eventually we might see about how we could make this better, but it is not on the priority list. In the house we visited, they removed access inside to the basement except through a cubby hole, instead putting a 1/2 bath where the doorway to the basement would have been.
5. Bedrooms. The single family home had many bedrooms though access to some of the bedrooms was through another bedroom. they also had ample closet space. (obviously had to have been something they tweaked with over the years as older homes are known for small bedrooms and little closet space).
6. Bathroom. Our bathroom on the second floor (our unit) has a skylight and is located in the same location as the single family home bathroom. The tub, toilet, and vanity are situated the same way as when we bought the place. The tub has been updated though. (ours was originally a claw foot).
7. Radiators. Nope -our cousin house had ripped them out. Central AC and heat. Can't say I mind the AC, but the radiators, though annoying with the floorspace they take up have more charm. (particularly the highly decorative ones like several of ours are).

All and all the visit was really interesting. I'm glad we were able to go in. The problem is, when you make a visit like that, you are almost compelled to start work. I really wanted to head over to that fireplace and bring it back to its original glory, strip the staircase, strip the woodwork, take down some walls, improve the floorplan upstairs, create an interior entrance to the basement...the list goes on and on. But, it's not my house-just its cousin.

They sit next to a vacant lot, so one worry is that someone will just try to buy both lots, raze the house on the market, and build a McMansion.

Oh, and another interesting thing we found out was that the vacant lot in question used to have a trucking company, then a werehouse that was torn down. The owner apparently is off in Bermuda and happy to pay the fines and fees for the city cutting the growth every so often.



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