Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Getting to Know the Neighborhood

View of North 25th Street facing north from Manchester.

After several months of working on the house, we decided to check out the neighborhood a bit more. During our research connections between the people who originally owned and built our house were made with people who lived a block or two north.

Our house was built by George Washington Pridemore. He was a railroad conductor with the L&NRR who built our house at 406 N. 25th St around 1924. 

According to the City Directory, in 1912 Eugene E. Cowden, dispatcher with the L&NRR, lived at  611 N 25th Street. The same directory showed Mrs. Pridemore and Miss Sallie Pridemore living across the street at 608 N 25th Street. Cowden recounted in a Middlesboro Daily News article about how Lee Turner “was my nearest neighbor on North 25th, last two houses, me in the Chumley brick and Lee across on the 25th.”

A quick review of Sanborn maps showed where these two houses were located at.
A view of the neighborhood from the 1923 Sanborn Map. Yellow highlighted house is ours shortly after it was built. A few blocks north the Lee Turner House (right) and Eugene E. Cowden House both of which are gone.

What we found when we headed out was a bit discouraging. The Cowden House was completely gone, having given way for the Church of Christ parking lot. What happened to the Turner House was a little less clear based on our view from the sidewalk. The house likely was lost and replaced with a more contemporary house with Tudor Revival details. It is possible, however, that the older house was incorporated into the present house located on the site. Further investigation would be needed to figure that out.

Site of the Edward E. Cowden House.

Location of the Lee Turner House.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Student Lamps in Living Room Restored

A view we thought we'd never see again.
While we were in a mad rush to get the house ready to move in we suffered a significant setback. All five of our student lamps were being stored inside a large footlocker shaped piece of furniture. When that piece of furniture was being moved, two of the lamps shattered into hundreds of little fragments. All appeared to be a total loss. That is until we heard of and met the wizards with Calloway's Lamps and Shades in Knoxville. 

We managed to reassemble one of the shades using painters tape to hold the fragments together in place. The other shade was too far gone to ever brought back. We sent both off to Knoxville in June to be worked on. The process as we understood it involved using UV light and a special adhesive to bond the pieces of glass together. Knowing how difficult and painstaking the work was, we gave ample time for the restoration work to be done. That appeared to be the key. Three months later we happily welcomed the lamps home and they are hanging in our living room once again.

The whole episode proved to us that anything is possible with enough time, persistence, and glue.

Detail of our beautiful "student" lamp.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother's Day Tribute

This is the first Mother's Day in our new home, though hardly the first ever celebrated here.

Opal (Fox) Blackard (1933-2012)
We are fortunate to know some things about the family that resided here for several decades. Opal Blackard was the matron of the house. She lived here for several decades prior to hear death on June 2, 2012 at the age of 78. Opal was born in Osceola, Arkansas on December 15, 1933, the daughter of Ted Fox and Violet Fox Cole. Her husband was Jack Lee Blackard. They had several children including Mitchell, Michael and Lisa.

Opal worked at Sammons Communications. She was an avid volunteer at the Bell County Senior Citizen Center, an active member of the First Baptist Church, and a member of the Cumberland Park Garden Club. She was a lifetime member of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority.

One of the most distinctive features of the house are the extensive gardens cultivated over many years. We are doing our best to refresh these after they have received only limited attention over the past year. One of the unexpected surprises were two butterfly bushes still in their original container from the store. Our neighbor Lee told us these were a gift form family members. Upon discovering these Chrissy made a point of planting them right away. Here are some pictures of the garden to help us remember mothers past and present.

Our neighbor Lee who gave Chrissy a nice flower from her garden with a 
pink ribbon attached to celebrate Mother's Day.

Refinishing Living Room Fireplace

The fireplace in the Living Room was our first wood stripping project. We used a commercial stripping product to get the paint off. Our first attempt using foam brushes to apply the stripping agent was only partially successful. The stripping agent ate through the foam brush fairly quickly. A standard paint brush ended up working much better for us.

After the first application we got some of the bubbling of the paint, making the removal that much easier. Unfortunately this was not uniform, so when we got to scraping, some paint cam off and other paint did not.

This is a picture of the mantel midway through the stripping process. It would take countless hours more to get all the paint out of the cracks. Even a surprisingly simple feature like this can be a big challenge to refinish.

Here is Chrissy applying the stain. We chose a darker stain which she called "redish" colored. This partially disguised the fact that the grain of the original wood was not so distinct. After applying two coats of stain we put a final coat of polyurethane.

We'll show a picture of the finished product once the painters tape comes off.

Refinishing Walls in the Study

We were so emboldened by our progress removing paneling in the Sun Room, that we expanded our efforts to the attached Study as well. The paneling there had some major cracks and just didn't look right to our eye. So we took down one sheet after another until all of the walls were exposed. It was not until taking down the last couple of sheets that we saw the worst damage, especially over the fireplace.

We could have continued the newer drywall from the ceiling and upper portion of wall down to the floors. Instead we opted to refinish the wall area we exposed.

Here is a picture of the work in progress. A photo of the end result will follow.

Uncovering Windows in the Sun Room

One of our first major finds was hidden behind the paneling on this non-descript looking wall. During our closing in April 2013, the sellers told us about some interesting windows with a crank that was used to open them. This piqued the interest of me and my wife. So one of the first things we did after closing on the house was take the paneling down to check out those windows. A sneak peak is below.

This bank of windows is on the west side of an exterior wall facing towards the entrance and a covered porch. The hipped roof of the house extends over the front of the house where the porch and this sun room are. Similar windows were in two other banks of windows on the north and east side walls. Regrettably these were modernized. There may be potential, however, to bring back this distinctive three over two divided light design.

More details on this project and follow-up pictures will be added as we work to restore this feature.

Our New Home

I've lived many places, but never before have I had a place to call my very own home. And while for the past 15 years my career has been spent advising other people on how to care of their historic properties, now I finally have an opportunity to put all of that accumulated knowledge into practice on my own property.

About six months ago my wife, our two young boys, and me packed everything we owned in a truck and traveled to Middlesboro, Kentucky. This is a town with a very rich history. Daniel Boone passed through centuries ago. The whole town is built inside of a meteorite crater. Plenty of other exciting things happened here too, though I digress.

We got ourselves better oriented those first few months. About two months ago we ran across this gem of a house. Following a prolonged negotiation and nearly walking away altogether, we closed on the house April 29. The task then became to get everything ready for our family to move in ASAP. That involved me painting that first night until 1am. Several other days and nights like that followed, only to be interrupted by my already busy work schedule.

So far there have been many wonderful and unexpected surprises. The sellers told us during closing about some beautiful windows that were enclosed within a wall. Of course one of my first projects was to remove the paneling and expose the windows. That was quite a find! Stripping fireplace mantels has been a more recent preoccupation of mine.

We have some big plans for this house. As we progress I hope to utilize this blog as a tool to tell the stories of what we discover along the way with our renovation.