Still peeling away

Here are some pictures of what we have uncovered so far.  We have removed walls that covered original paneling in the keeping room, and removed the layer of bricks that were applied over the surface of the original fireplace.  Of course, the original keeping room fireplace and walls now look like a big mess!  But rest assured, we do know what we are doing.  Cleaned up and restored, all will be well again!

This look had to go!




after- original brownstone lintel – but hearth is gone :(

It is obvious that this chimney was rebuilt, fooled with, and then some – old bricks were re-used to rebuild the stack.

We peeled away newly framed 2 x 4 and sheetrock walls in the keeping room to reveal original boards beneath – even the door was still in place!


Keeping room wall, behind it is a staircase to the second floor; to the left is the back of the house.  The door and wall was hidden behind a 2×4 wall with sheetrock over it.  You can see by the green paint that the last time these walls were exposed, they had a kitchen sink and a cupboard applied right over the door!

The wall with the horizontal beaded boards have that awful kitchen window in it – but you can see where two twelve over twelves once sat.  We may remove this wall altogether (between the two posts) and continue the lean-to across the back of the house for a kitchen.  Then this whole space would be ample for a kitchen/dining area or kitchen/family room.


Horizontal beaded boards are across this exterior wall of the keeping room – you can see the green paint, top right where that cupboard hung over the wall and door. 


This is the wall to the left of the keeping room fireplace.  The horizontal beaded boards continue into the pantry/borning room.  Can’t wait to clean the paint off!  Where paint has peeled away from the boards you can see the original oxblood red color.

One of the amazing finds in this house is that it has almost all of its original wide pine flooring.  We have peeled away layers (x 10!) to uncover them, but they are mostly in tact.  Some, unfortunately, have been sanded and varnished, but some are untouched and dry as a bone.  How about the colors in this room?!


white dust – it’s powdery, mildew or something from the underlayment?

and then there’s this amazing paneled wall in here…


never saw a wall that juts in like this for the fireplace before; and that’s a closet to the left, with featherboarding inside, and some scribbling I can’t quite make out – yet. And, we have the original closet door, and passage door – this one’s a modern replacement

There’s more – but will save for the next post.  I’ll leave you with this – under the front stair (there was a suspicious opening) I found a name written on the stringer – it looks like “Grant” to me – can’t make out the first name (Asa?).  Could be one of the Grants noted for their wonderful CT Valley Doorways.  Have some research to do…


this is the underside of the front hall stair, going to the 2F; I’ve turned the picture to get a better view of the name on the stringer – if anyone recognizes it – please let me know!


Here we go again…

Now that we’ve saved it from the wrecking ball, we’re going to have to fix this old house.  Where to begin?  Just begin, from the ground up.  Pick a room and start stripping everything that doesn’t belong.  We started in the Beverly jog.  What a delightful fireplace, what a great space, just off the keeping room.  Breakfast nook?  Anytime nook.  I am daydreaming ahead!  First we have to pull up the rug, the linoleum under that, debris, etc to get to the floor boards.  The good news – they are all there!  The bad?  They’ll have to come up to see why they’re sagging (extremely) in the middle.  Broken joists?  Disengaged joists?  Rotted sills?  We expect all of it.  No worries as to falling through, the dirt floor is probably just a foot below.  (Now there’s a selling point!)  Doesn’t bother us, we live with that now in three quarters of our house.  But most buyers are not looking for that.  What to do?  We have a plan.


Beverly Jog, first floor

Oops – we didn’t find that leg under the debris – carpenter’s still working : ) which is why the room now looks like this, floor uncovered and fireplace open:


Beverly Jog has its brownstone hearth! And work to do at the back wall…

Some before pictures…


front room wall was firred out all around, and can you believe – a fake beam was added!  they modernized, then tried to make it look like an old house???


propane heater installed and exhausted right at the front wall of the house!

Oh my.  This room felt small when we first walked in, the windows were deep and newly framed.  Turned out the whole room had been firred out almost a foot to add insulation.  Even the ceiling and floors were firred up and down.  The good news, under the rug, firring strips, linoleum, tongue and groove flooring, more linoleum, etc. we found the original intact wide board flooring!  They even framed over the coffin door area, with door in place.  Terrible door, guess it was better to incorporate it than dispose of it.  Now here’s what it looks like in there stripped.


Crooked chairrail of course, lower section of wall is canted out – hmmm, rotted sills and posts, you think?  Of course.  But still can’t get over finding the original flooring in tact.  And – the chairrail has grooves on top and the framing has traces of guides for interior window shutters.  How cool is that?  And, we actually have one of them!  And there’s an original cupboard to the right of the fireplace.  Doors are missing of course, and trim, but the dark original color of the wood lining it is preserved under the neon wallpaper.


Much to do here.  Can’t wait to see the “after” pictures myself!

Some must be thinking we’re a little crazy.  At this point in our lives, I should to – but instead I find that the discovery and possibilities still excite!  Can’t wait to transform this little gem.

Stay tuned…


Old House Dilemma cont’d

Now it’s for sale!  But if it doesn’t sell before the end of July, the owners will tear it down.  They are showing what they think are the worst shots of the interior – nothing old house enthusiasts haven’t seen, or fixed, before!

Anyone want to live in a peaceful, quiet historic neighborhood along the Connecticut River on almost two acres of land in an 18th century home for $249K?  Of course you will first have to reveal the original treasures to be found beneath peeling paint, later walls,and  do some sill work and other restoration, but in the end you’ll have a historic gem.

or you can weigh in at the save the Olcott House page –


a hidden gem – for sale


Posts are few and far between these days, but came across something so special I just had to mention it to whomever might still be checking in to this blog.  We recently were invited to tour an old home on the market in the Mystic, CT area.  The realtor sent me the link to the listing and when I saw the photo I couldn’t believe it, we had to see it in person.  The 2 story front vestibule, if original, is a rare feature and certainly a sign of 17th century provenance.  The homeowner has done the genealogy and traced it to 1664.  The Culver house, sitting on over 42 of its original acres, still maintains the features and atmosphere of the original owners.  The front entrance mimics its New London neighbor, the Hempsted house, and because the large cooking fireplace in the rear is so close to the back wall of the house it makes me wonder if, like the Hempsted house, it too had a lean-to at the back.

Either way, the large stone fireplace, the exposed beams throughout, the plaster walls, wide board floors, front staircase with stone chimney wall exposed – will tempt you to move to this hidden 17th century paradise!

Yes, it will need some work – but for $399K and 42 acres – goodness, it’s a deal!  It is liveable now, and lived in lovingly by its delightful and knowledgeable owner.  But for most folks, it will need a new kitchen.  There are other items we would address to bring it back to its true original look, but they are optional.   Apparently, it can be subdivided, but gosh, would hate to see that happen.   We did not walk the entire property, but there’s a little bridge and I’m told there are stone walled open meadows beyond.  It may not be in the most popular, and pricier, location close to downtown Mystic, but that can be a good thing!

If you know any purists looking for such a gem, please spread the word.  If anyone needs advice, consultation or restoration for the house – just call us, we know exactly what to do with it.  While we LOVE our own 17th century house, one like this sure was tempting.  It’s a pretty rare find.

history adventures

Finally, Spring.  Time to ready the garden, clean out the cobwebs and best of all go on an adventure.  A simple, New England style one, in search of country ambiance and colonial architecture.   A pleasant drive on a sunny day, at the ready to detour down forgotten roads – what could be better?  Roads with names like Old County, Horse Hill or, like one in my own town –   Beelzebub.  You’re bound to find a story there – a building, a church, a landscape, to stimulate the senses, tickle the imagination.

On a recent drive to Brooklyn, CT, a place we’ve been so often, we decided to take a road never traveled, and happened upon this.

Old Trinity Church How sweet the lines, how bittersweet the atmosphere.  Old Trinity Church.  Google has provided some history, (there’s way too much about hauntings), but I found there several good reasons to return:  Putnam Farm,  Putnam Elms, The Israel Putnam Monument (and grave) and of course a visit inside these gates.

Happy Spring!


Happy Holidays Everyone!  In the spirit of the season – I have a few presents to share.  First, a book suggestion, from my all time favorite old house photographer, artist and writer, Samuel Chamberlain.  He did a series of books for Hastings House – all photographic documents of how these homes and rooms looked in earlier days, before we truly began modernizing them.  The black and white/sepia photos have a wonderful atmosphere.  I can just imagine him knocking on doors of strangers with his camera, hoping for a peek inside.   His books are beautiful, and an invaluable resource for the homeowner as well as the restorer.  You’re sure to find one in an antique book shop somewhere.  I found this one on Amazon.

Chamberlain Book

And here’s a link to an article about very early Christmases in New England by one of my favorite editors – New England Antiques Journal’s John Fiske.  It’s an interesting and fun read.

Lastly, you must try this pumpkin pie recipe!  It’s the best I’ve ever tasted.  It’s from an old cookbook I bought at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston many years ago,”The Fine Arts Cookbook I.”   I hope they don’t mind, and I thank Mrs. Curt Gowdy, of the Ladies Committee, for entering the recipe.


Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 baked pie shell

1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin filling)

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 package plain gelatin

1/4 cup ice water

3 egg whites*

1/2 cup sugar

1 pint heavy cream

sugar and flavoring to taste

In a saucepan, mix pumpkin, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks and spices, and cook over moderately low heat for 6-7 minutes. /Dissolve gelatin in water. /Stir into hot pumpkin mixture. / Set aside to cool. / Beat egg whites until stiff. / Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff. / Fold into cooled pumpkin mixture and spoon into baked pie shell. / Chill until firm. / To serve, whip cream, adding sugar and flavoring to taste, and pile this on top of pie.

*I first made it years ago with real egg whites and it was delicious.  And obviously – I lived to tell about it.  But because of concerns with raw egg white,  you can substitute meringue or egg white powder.

when bad things happen…cont’d

I couldn’t resist continuing this conversation after coming across a house that has been castrated, bastardized, sterilized, and all but ripped from its roots.  Sorry about the language folks, but just when I think sometimes I’ve had enough, said enough, this happens.  Of course it’s not the only one, but ohmygosh, all I can ask is why???

Why would anyone turn a house built in 1720 into a sterile cookie cutter concoction?  Why make antique walls flat and straight, clean and new, or sand color, character and wear from floors that took two hundred years to achieve?!  Why expose brick where it was never meant to show, and put ugly wood over fireplaces where surely lovely paneling had been?  What is the mindset here?

Are there really not enough buyers out there looking to live in the real thing?  Is the only way to sell an old house these days to open it up, sand the hell out of it and paint it a sterile white?

I call it Nantucket contemporary.  I’ve seen a lot of them, new and old, in magazines, and in person.  Not quite as bad as this one, but definitely made to look like half asylum, half home.

The bright side? At least it’s still standing.  At least the outside covering is still those wonderful weathered shingles, and the proportions of the house are great.  The chimney seems good – but too bad about that metal flue sticking up.  The walkway, the paving, the garage doors, ugh.

Just had to vent.  If nothing else, this is an example of what not to do to an old house.

Maybe someday, some kind soul will save it, again, the right way.