Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Strange sort of nostalgia

Entering the third year of the house restoration project, I find myself succumbing to this sometimes. I find myself feeling a bit sad occasionally about the features of the house that I have permanently erased as part of the restoration. Not the awful parts: I doubt I will ever miss the wretched rotted out bathroom in the dogtrot that I have (hooray!) completely obliterated the traces of; nor will I give a thought to the sagging waterstained accoustic tile ceiling currently over my head when its day finally comes and it is hauled mercilessly to the dump in one great big filthy truckload. No, it's the things that held a lot of Old House Character, even if there was no way to keep them. Things like the nearly-a-century-old rusty tin roof, in its shades of red, maroon, green, and dusty silver, looking so much like the bark on an old tree, renailed and patched so many times, clearly threatening imminent failure and resumption of the massive leaking episodes of the past that have left their traces throughout the house. So now there's a shiny new tin roof. That brick chimney (the smallest of three chimneys, the other two being beautiful hand-tooled limestone structures that will be saved whatever it takes) that once vented a wood cookstove in the kitchen, not quite original but probably still a century old, beautiful in its texture and color, but unsound (you could just lift the bricks apart by hand with no effort at all), no longer necessary, and poorly positioned within an inadequately supported non-load bearing wall resulting in major floor sagging. So we took it down, brick by brick, and it is no more. Someday we'll make something suitable from its bricks to honor its memory.

Today, it's the old rough tulip poplar planks that make the floor in the attic area over the kitchen. They are irregular in width, from 6 to 16 inches, about 16 feet long, an inch (give or take a quarter) thick, and just plain boards such as were a dime a dozen here in the 1880s. They were never finished, and have been taken up and nailed back down so many times as the successive generations of wiring went into the house that many of them are split and chipped badly. But when you clean them up they are gorgeous. Old, seasoned tulip poplar has a distinctive color and texture that just says "old-time Tennessee" authentically, not the disgusting way Cracker Barrel fakes it. That attic area seems to have never been used for more than storage and as a tobacco drying loft (there was still a box of 50 year old tobacco up there), but we decided to finish it up and make it our master bedroom/bathroom/closet area. Fitting modern inventions like closets and bathrooms into 19th-century houses is always a challenge. We rearranged the best of the boards to be the floor of the bedroom portion, lightly sanded and finished them, and the result is a beautiful rich warm cozy floor, even if it does rise and fall a few milimeters between planks. Today I am working on the future upstairs bathroom (tired of living with a pee bucket in the bedroom). Those old poplar boards are just not even enough and sound enough to work as a bathroom floor, where fixtures need to be level and secure, no rocking or jiggling. And the gaps between them are too big to patch well (brown recluses love that floor...). So, under the plywood they go.

Time marches on.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter