My old house

All posts in the My old house category

Look what blew in overnight

Published February 23, 2012 by housecrazy

You know a storm is approaching Colorado when it gets really windy.

Last night, it was REALLY windy.

The wind howled all night long as I curled up in my bed and prayed that the power didn’t go out or that an old window didn’t blow out. Things go wrong when the weather is bad around here. The pipes freeze, the power flickers off, and I get very grumpy.

But my old house always quietly assures me, “I’ve been here over 130 years… I’m not going anywhere.”

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Kids and old houses: Don’t try this at home

Published February 15, 2012 by housecrazy

my kiddos

The first time I owned an old house, my son was just an infant. Now he is six and I have a two-year-old. Living in an old house with two very active, exuberant, destructive young children is making me old and grey before my time.

In fact, I often liken our house to an old, old woman when I explain to my kids how we need to treat her.

Would you jump on an old lady that way?”

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My old house (PART TWO)

Published January 17, 2012 by housecrazy

Come on in to my lovely (but ramshackle) old house…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

It’s humble, it’s homey, and not a designer house by any standard. But I love it just the same.

I’m going to use some photos that the realtor took when it was listed back in 2010 because she uses a very good quality camera. (And I use a small, sucky-cheap camera that doesn’t do the house justice).

Let’s start with the front hallway which features a curved, spiraling staircase:

photo courtesy of Joann Grenard

We have since put carpet on the stairs because they were a safety issue for my two young kids. There is much more traction now and my kids have only tumbled down the stairs one time each.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The living room before we bought it:

photo courtesy of Joann Grenard

Note the purple lace curtains. They were cute with all that white wicker but way too Stevie Nicks, even for me. So I replaced them with some white lace curtains that were surprisingly hard to find. I guess lace isn’t in-the-fashion right now. My bad. (I’m always about 20 years behind – notice that I don’t even have a flat screen tv!).

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The living room has nice warm hardwood floors, but they are not original to the house:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The sign over the television reads: The Queen is not accepting an audience today! I thought about hanging it on the front gate, but decided against it because that might scare off the pizza delvery guy.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

There are three large windows in the living room, so it gets wonderful sunlight.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

These pictures are not exactly up to date… I’m always tweaking the living room. I plan to paint it a nice soft green color this winter. The purple-y-mauve-y-lavender-grey shade on the walls is rather drab. I’ll share pics when I get around to it.

The dining room has that same purple-grey paint on the walls, but it also features these nifty black-and-white checkered floors:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

When my six-year-old son first saw this room he ran in and said: “I can play checkers on the floor!”

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

(Pardon the bright blue booster chair)

Here’s a more current photo of the dining room:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

We haven’t done much in this room except put quarter-round on the baseboards, paint all the trim, patch the plaster walls and build some shelving into the fireplace. That’s right – we built shelves for my books right IN the hearth! Why? Because the chimney had been capped in the attic several decades ago, thus rendering the fire-place non-functioning in its current state. Also, my two-year-old kept climbing into the fireplace and was subsequently covered in black ash. Problem solved with bookshelves.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The picture above the mantel was another one of the things passed down with the house. I don’t know how long it has been there but it fits the space well and I’m actually afraid of what might happen if I take it down and replace it! It’s not really my style – and it’s kinda creepy in a way – but it belongs to *her* so I leave it there out of respect.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I change-up the mantel decor based on the season.

Moving on to the kitchen…

The kitchen is bright and sunny – and large – but not exactly “updated”.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Joann Grenard

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

In fact, as you might be able to tell, there is no dishwasher. Yes, we do things the old-fashioned way here – by hand! (Don’t be fooled, living like a pioneer is not always fun.) But there is a really neat vintage porcelain sink & surround which probably dates from the 1950’s.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

My mom sewed the sunflower curtain on the back side of the kitchen island. She’s crafty that way.

The cupboards were also hand-made looooong ago – as evidenced by their many, many imperfections and layers of paint. They were bright blue at one point in time.

Off the kitchen is a large bathroom that was probably a summer kitchen or storage room back before plumbing was invented. (This house did not originally have plumbing or electricity so everything has been haphazardly installed over the last century or so.)

photo credit: Joann Grenard

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The downstairs bathroom actually has new drywall – which is nice because most of the home’s walls are still composed of the original plaster which has badly disintegrated and is only being held in place by numerous layers of old wallpaper. Old wallpaper that has been painted over many times. Yuck.

Anyway, the downstairs bathroom was nicely done a few years back – complete with custom-built cabinetry and lovely beadboard wainscoting.

photo credit: Joann Grenard

The imported European washer & dryer are also located in the downstairs bathroom. They are smaller than they appear in this wide-angle shot. I guess the North-American-sized washer & dryers wouldn’t fit in that little alcove, so previous owners went the European route.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

 

The downstairs bedroom is painted a nice rich tan color, which I happen to really like, so I patched the walls and repainted them the same color. The carpet is berber-esque but old and nasty and needs to be replaced. I’ve had it professionally cleaned (twice) since I’ve lived here but it still grosses me out.

photo credit: Joann Grenard

We now use this room as an office/guest bedroom. I also hung some lace curtains in here for a little extra privacy:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

 

Upstairs, we have two bedrooms and another large bathroom:

photo credit: Joann Grenard

Here’s a photo taken (since we moved in) of the “pot” area of the bathroom:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

And below is a photo of the lace curtain valance I found at a thrift store for $5 – is that not a perfect fit for that window??

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

This bathroom has also been updated and it is lovely. Probably one of my most favorite places in the house.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

It also has a sweet, dainty chandelier:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I just cleaned that sucker, and it was not fun.

The master bedroom was in dire need of some work when we bought the place.

It went from this:

photo credit: Joann Grenard

To this:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

We installed beadboard, crown moulding, picture rail, updated the electrical, lined the closet with aromatic cedar, and painted the walls, trim and ceiling.

The result is a very pleasing and calming little nest for me.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

A more recent (and less fuzzy) pic:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

My mom made the quilt – how lovely is that?

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

This is the only room in the house that still has the original wide-planked wood floors exposed (although they are painted)…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

In some spots old-fashioned square nail heads are still visible. The floor in the master bedroom is painted a soft lavender/grey color. (Someone must have really liked that color because it was ALL over the house when we first moved in.) Perhaps in the future we will have the bedroom floors sanded & re-finished. Or perhaps not. I don’t know if those ancient floors can handle another sanding!

Moving on to the other upstairs bedroom, “the kid’s room”, you can see how it looked before:

photo credit: Joann Grenard

Sweet right? How about those vintage linoleum floors!!! I estimate they date from the 1930’s or 1940’s, based on the pattern and condition.

This the after shot from another angle…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

(That’s my baby girl in the crib.)

We painted the walls a light neutral yellow – the shade was called “Banana Cream Pie”. We built shelves for the kid’s toys, replaced the window treatments, installed a new light fixture/ceiling fan, and re-did the closet as well. We had laminate wood flooring installed right over the old linoleum. We did this because the flooring contractor would not remove the old linoleum due to it containing asbestos.

Anyone who has ever dealt with asbestos knows that you run into problems once you disturb it and it becomes “friable” (carcinogenic particulate matter floating in the air). If you leave it alone, it’s not supposed to pose a health risk – in theory. So on the advice of a flooring specialist, we left the old linoleum in place and just covered over it with new flooring.

I also figured that if a house “purist” came along in 20 years, they might want to rip out the laminate to reveal the older floors underneath. Under that old linoleum was a Victorian era oil-cloth rug! Now it’s all neatly tucked away underneath, waiting for a future owner to find it.

This bedroom was lovely in a vintage way when we bought it, but we had to lighten it up and make it a little more kid-friendly.

Recently, we added crown moulding and painted the ceiling and window frame:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The pretty hanging quilt was hand-made by none other than: my mom.

And that brings us to the end of my virtual house tour.

There are many projects I want to tackle in the interior but I am limited by my pocket-book and… motherhood. We’ve gotten the house to the point where it is comfortable enough and truthfully, most of the money we have blown on the place has been on invisible safety issues (such as updating the electrical wiring).

It’s not a show-piece, but it is a darling little house. And I am just crazy about it.

My old house (PART ONE)

Published January 16, 2012 by housecrazy

Now that I have a few posts under my belt, I would like to introduce you to my own lovely house.

I officially named her Anna Maria, but she is more commonly known as “Ye Olde Money Pit“.

Here she is with her Christmas decorations:

photo by Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

My house is so old we don’t even know how old it is. It pre-dates real estate records in this county so it shows up automatically on county assessor’s records as being built in 1898. However, we know it is actually older than that because it starts showing up on the historical record in 1882.

Re-print of an article featuring a photo of my house from the west side (Canon City Daily Record)

It may have been built as early as 1874 – which is pretty darn old by western United States standards. (Remember western/euro – non-indigenous – history is much newer in the west as compared to the eastern United States).

Anyway, it is old. It is one of the oldest surviving structures in this region. It is located right in a historic district in Canon City, Colorado.

Canon City is infamous for being home to one of the largest concentrations of prisons in the world. There’s about 15 of them in or near here. (I say “about” because I can never keep track of the new ones or which ones are shutting down due to budget cuts). You can read more about the prison history of Canon City and Fremont County here and here and also here at the Museum of Colorado Prisons. Gory stuff.

My house has a historical connection to the oldest and most notorious prison in Canon City (the Colorado State Penitentiary). This house was formerly home to one of the surviving prison guards of the grizzly 1929 prison riot in which 13 people were killed, including 8 prison guards.

Here is a history of previous owners and tenants that a – previous owner – was able to compile:

Author unknown - this document is passed down to current owners along with the title records

We acquired my house in 2010 when it suddenly came up for sale. Here’s what it looked like when we bought it:

photo courtesy of Joann Grenard

A view from the backyard:

photo courtesy of Joann Grenard

Here are some exterior shots since we have owned the house:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

(Darn weeds ruined the picture!) That’s my two-year-old daughter sitting on the back porch.

This is the back part of my house in the heat of the summer – look at all that greenery:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The house is somewhat of a local landmark – as evidenced by people’s’ reaction when I tell them what house I live in: “Oh! You bought that house? I know that house! I’ve always loved that house!” Me too. In fact, I remember walking by this house when I first moved to Canon City and taking a good long look at it and remarking how amazing it would be to own it. My husband (Lupe) loved it too, but he thought it was too close to a mortuary (one block over).

The mortuary is a non-issue. The bigger issue with my house’s location is the bar around the corner on Main Street. The second night we were in this house, Lupe’s truck was hit by a drunk driver when it was parked out front. We now park in the back.

Apart from that memorable house-warming present, there have also been wild brawls out front, crime scenes on the block, and creepy cretans crawling around in the back alley.

The up-side is that we also get tourists taking pictures of our house (sometimes even looking in the windows!) In fact, the first day after we moved into our house a large Amish family knocked on the front door and asked if they could take family pictures with our house as a backdrop. (Heck yeah!)

One of the things that makes this house so unique is the washed-paint treatment on the brick part of the exterior:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The story on the paint is one of those happenstance things. A neighbor told us that a previous owner painted the house all white.

House painted solid white - circa 1980 (from historic home files of the Royal Gorge Museum and History Center)

Another previous owner did not like the white paint so she hired a paint contractor to sand-blast the paint off. Halfway through the process, the owner decided that she liked the look of the chipping paint (part red brick, part white paint) so she told the contractor to stop where he was at. I’m very glad she did that for aesthetic reasons, however, chipping paint is an issue from HELL when you are trying to get a mortgage loan!

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Yes, those are the original windows. We freeze our asses off in the winter.

Old houses are drafty, yes, but the entire back section of our house is wood frame and in 130-plus years of its existence, had not been insulated.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

We suspected this right away (common in old houses). But it was confirmed when our six-year-old son punched a hole through the interior plaster wall when he was in the “time-out corner”. You could see day-light through the hole.

We then decided that we needed to be the ones where the buck would stop, so we paid to have the whole back of the house insulated. (The front section is all brick – about three feet thick, four in some areas!)

The process was rather painful – for the house and me – because holes had to be bored into the old clapboard and insulation pumped into the space between the lath boards and the exterior wood.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

This not only left bore holes all over the back of my house, it also kicked up a hell-storm of disintegrating plaster dust INSIDE the house! What a mess.

But that was only one of the many, many projects we have tackled in the year that we have owned the place.

Other completed projects include:

Remodel of the master bedroom, new hot water heater, updated electrical, some plumbing updates, new exterior paint, front & back porches painted, new interior paint in some rooms, remodeled kids’ bedroom, carpeted the staircase, new flooring on upper level, sub-floor in the cellar, water-proofing basement, gutter repair, duct work professionally cleaned, new roof on garage, and a million other little things.

I won’t even bother to list the ‘to-do list’ (it is incredibly long).

We actually decided last summer that we couldn’t afford to spend any more money on the place so we put it up for sale. We figured that another owner might be able to give her the monetary attention that she deserved and that we could not adequately provide. There were a lot of interested parties and the house even went under contract at one point, but it all fell through. In the end we figured that the house did not want to be sold, so we decided to keep her. And put more money into her.

If you own an old house you know what I am talking about. We love her but she is a royal pain-in-the-rear.

It is the little things about her that captured my heart. The whimsical one-of-a-kind details like the wooden flowers someone made for the window-sill:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Or the “pig-cow-bell” that is fastened to a pillar on the back porch:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

And the bird house on a vertical beam in the side yard (recently repainted by my mom – including her signature mini-maple leaf):

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

These were all little presents left behind by previous owners. Obviously, this house was loved.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

As you can tell, I enjoy taking pictures of my house. It just sits there – never moves, never complains. And I can do-so as much as my little heart desires because I own the dang place (well, me and the bank).

Since this post is becoming exceedingly long, I am going to break it up into two parts. Tomorrow I will post interior pictures.

Stay tuned!