Thursday, July 1, 2010

Front Porch Remodel: A Make-over Flashback

In 1996, my husband and I bought an old farmhouse. When I say old, I mean pushing 200 years old. The woman from whom we bought the house casually mentioned, at one point in the purchasing process, "The original house was down below" meaning in the hollow below our house. Our title search only went back 75 years.

However, we had a craftsman out early on to do some drywalling for us (a task we have long since mastered for ourselves) who told us that his great-great-great?? grandfather had built the house and he brought us an autobiography of this man, the venerable and colorful, Mark Gordon.

Turns out, the house is circa-no-earlier-than 1814.

Pretty stinkin' cool.

The house has been added on to and "modified" repeatedly over the years and of course we've been working on it since we took over stewardship. We took out the old nozzles for the gas light fixtures as well as the remaining original electrical work- knob and tube that was added some time after original construction.

I had started a photo album to document our progress and the funny thing is that the very last photo in the album is of my husband pulling our toddler daughter through the yard in a wagon.

Once she was born, all work on the house came to a screeching halt for "a  few" years.

We eventually picked back up where we left off and our little darlin' came along for the ride. She can now include drywalling, cement work, and tiling to her resume. She does not clean her room with near the gusto with which she helps on our projects.

Our house has an enclosed front porch, which we had always thought we would open up again in order to have a nice sitting porch up front from which we could wave to the occasional car. You know how country folk are- wave at every car from your porch. My husband had even traded his old dirt bike to a wood craftsman for a custom porch swing.

I happened to see a house in Winchester, VA once that, from the outside, is an exact copy of our house, only in a smaller, cutey version with an open front porch. Oh, and it was pink, which my husband over-ruled.
One morning, about June of 2004, I started ripping paneling out of the porch.

My husband, Big 'Un, soon got in on the action and by the afternoon we had it all opened up, the roof supported by a few studs. It looked really awesome and Big 'Un spent the rest of the day strolling up and down the road past the front of the house to see how nice it was going to look when people drove by.

Now, it hadn't rained in our neck of the woods for weeks but it poured that evening.

Directly under the porch is what we call the cellar. Someone once told us it used to be the cistern but it can now be accessed from inside the house via the laundry room in our basement. Our realtor optimistically called it a wine cellar but it's a good place to store things like canned goods, paint cans, step ladders, Shop Vacs, etc. It's like a garage attached to the laundry room. At any rate, the porch apparently served to weather-proof the cellar because once it was opened up and the clouds let loose, rain poured into the cellar. I don't mean it dripped into the cellar. We called off work that day. The end result was that we decided to enclose the porch again.

Little Darlin' helped with the drywalling.

The previous owners had added a small bathroom on the porch. The funny part is that when they went to put in the little shower stall, they just pulled the blinds down in the windows and put in the pre-fab shower unit. From the outside it looked like a regular window with closed blinds but on the inside there was no greenboard or anything. I don't mean to be unkind, but some of the work done in the house over the years was probably not up to code.

Like the wiring.

Can you believe the house never burned to the ground? We found this kind of thing all over the house. Turns out the previous owner, once a local sheriff, used to bring the drunks from the county jail out to the house to work essentially as a personal work crew in exchange for a reduced sentence. Really, this house, the previous owners, and our time in it could be a blog unto itself.

Anyway, we chose to remove the shower but kept the rest as a powder room, mainly because there is no other restroom on that floor. Kind of funny, I know, to have a bathroom on the porch but you do what you can in an old house on a limited budget.
So now I have my private reading spot. The light and my benign neglect make it the perfect place for orchids and the Blue Knight Butterfly bush right out the window makes it a great place to spy on butterflies.

So, what's our next project?

1 comment:

  1. What fun to have photos and history of your house! I grew up in an 1880s Victorian, but we had NO past history on it prior to our stewardship of it, and sadly, the new owners are letting it fall apart. Love this!