LONG BEFORE THIS ANCIENT HOUSE WAS OURS, its west wing — which I use as a Music Room — had begun to deteriorate. Would you like to see what my partner and I are doing to restore and save this piece of Victorian history?
I should probably mention that the Music Room is a “modern,” 1850 addition to the house. It features 14-foot-tall walls, a ceiling with elaborate plaster-work, two sets of mahogany pocket doors, and an over-mantel mirror that extends to the ceiling. Here’s a tour of the room.
Naturally, before we purchased the house, we had it inspected. And when we asked about the sagging corners in the wing, the inspector told us not to worry. “The sloping floors were caused by settling,” he said. “But this wing has settled as much as it ever will.”
Ah, famous last words.
Indeed, over the past 11 years, the floor has headed nowhere except south.
Signs of distress:
We hired Joseph Iuviene, an architect, to assess the situation. After showing him the music room’s many flaws, he headed directly to the basement.
This is what he found:
The structure beneath the main core of the house — the part that Nathan Wild built back in 1826 — is strong and secure.
But the foundation under the music room — the wing that was built by Nathan’s son, Charles Wild — is in dire condition.
Furthermore, the foundation isn’t a “foundation” at all. It is merely a hodgepodge of loose stone that was never mortared. When the architect pointed this out, I became enraged. Did Charles Wild hire the village idiot to construct this foundation?
To make matters worse, dirt from the 19th-century excavation was never carted away. It was simply shoveled into the center of the space. The architect surmised that Charles Wild was too cheap to hire carts and oxen. (Charles, was, in fact, a very wealthy man.) As a consequence, we had to hire — 163 years later — a crew to remove much of the soil in order to gain access to the areas that require work. And that soil had to be carted out, bucket-by-bucket, up a flight of stairs. Our contractor hired Chris (pictured above) and Corey — two very nice, and certainly intelligent fellows — to help out with all aspects of the restoration project.
Now that we know what we are dealing with, the real work can begin. First, cement footings will be poured. Then, inch-by-inch, the sunken corners of the wing will raised.
I look forward to showing you the results of this massive restoration-job. Like pocket doors that close properly. And walls and floors that are stable, and crack-free.
As for the torn wallpaper, would you believe that I found extra rolls tucked away in the attic? Thank goodness the owners who installed this paper in the 1980s left their surplus behind.
Now, if you’d like to see more scenes from this
hideous necessary project, by all means let me know. I’d be happy to show you what a footing looks like. Frankly, I’m curious myself.
Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter.