Monday, May 30, 2005


The plumber came on Wednesday and drained the boiler, which led to Lisa asking, "Does this mean we're commited to geothermal heating?" My answer was, "Yes, but we're can still back out up until we start dropping the pipes." I was itching to get to the next step of finishing the music room: getting the floor stripped.

I'm an old guy, and I tend to work alone on this house restoration stuff, which can be difficult when it's time to tackle (cue sinister music) THE RADIATOR. The radiator in the music room has 29 fins and is just over six feet long. It's two feet tall and over 10 inches wide. When asked to estimate it's weight the plumber said, "Gee, I dunno, 500 lbs?" I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Fortunately, I used to teach 5th grade, so I have more than a passing familiarity with simple machines. Borrowing a low clearance jack from my brother, I went to the rental store and got two heavy duty roller trucks. I set out by trying to lift the radiator as close to the middle as I could to maximize the lift on the upper end.

I soon realized that I would soon be hitting the underside of the window sill, so I very delicately tried to move the raised end out away from the wall. As soon as I did that I heard creaking noises from the down end and knew that I was probably tearing up the floor on the other end. So I lowered the radiator and went to get some scrap wood. I raised the other side (previously the down side, and put wood under it and went back to the original end which was away from the wall and raised it enough to slide the truck under.

I then lowered the radiator onto the truck and proceeded to raise the other end and wiggle it away from the wall, getting the truck under the other end too.

Knowing I needed to make sure the radiator stayed secure on the trucks I wrapped a rope among the fins. I could then turn the radiator so I could move it out of the music room.

I put it in the living room and let it hang out with its biggest brother

That puppy is eight and a half feet long with 41 fins!

I was feeling pretty good, I had done this in well under an hour and could work on stripping the floor. Then Sunday came and I started thinking about how can I get the trucks back to the rental store by Tuesday? I was certain, I couldn't get that thing out of the house myself, so I talked to my brother and he and his sons came Monday to help. Once again using simple machine knowledge I put 2 fourteen foot 2x12's down on the back porch.

and we got it down pretty easily. We rolled it onto boards in the yard, and removed the trucks.

Now all I have to do is find someone who wants it! Seriously if you want a set, let me know, every one has the original metal cover that came with them, see the pic of the big one, it has some pretty bad contact paper over it but the covers are cool. One idea I had was to make them benches in the back yard, but Lisa isn't buying that one, yet.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

And There Were Roses... (And Indian Girl Tents)

It seems that one benefit to getting rid of the overgrown arbor vitae is that the two rose bushes in front of the house are blooming. I don't know a lot about roses, we have a great rambler at the old place that is a white Dorothy Perkins, which is unbelievably vigorous. We never bury the canes for the winter or do anything that I've read about for ramblers, and this thing will have canes that grow nearly 20 feet a year. Anyway, there are two very old roses on either side of the walk coming up to the porch. Here is a picture of them spliced into one shot:

Anyone out there have any idea what these are? Lisa thinks they may be in the primrose family as they seem to close at night and open up again. The white ones bloomed first and now the red ones are just starting to open up. These things look like small trees the main trunks at the base are nearly 2" in diameter. I'm wary of chopping away at the old stuff without knowing what they are, and the best way to maintain them.

Another byproduct of vigorous whacking away at our overgrown yard is a good collection of tree limbs, I'd been saving the bigger ones, and have been making various tepees and tents with the girls. Here is our latest model:

I have to think that Helen is smiling on these activities. One leftover from the estate sale was a burlap sack Indian dress that given other things we found was probably an old campfire girl uniform, probably circa 1922. A bead weaving loom and some campfire girl patches that were found with it were sold. I just found some Girl Scout books from the 1930's in the attic a few weeks ago, it seems she was an adult leader too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Back to Square One

Well, our prospective buyer on our old place pulled out, citing the contingency that it was cost prohibitive to meet current code for a medical office. (Our neighborhood is zoned residential office, due to its proximity to Mercy Hospital) So we are back to square one on that front. If anyone wants a great place in a town that's consistently in Top 10 lists for places to be (last week's news was that the Iowa City Community Schools are ranked as the #5 public school district in the U.S. by some national economic development consortium) drop me a line!

At Foxcroft Lisa and finished stripping the old varnish off baseboard and around the French doors. I then rented a floor buffer and stripped the floor too. Next step will be wood bleaching some water stains, then staining and varnishing the baseboard.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Frank Lloyd Wright for SALE!

I am here in Mason City, IA this week being an artist in residence. MC is one of my favorite places in Iowa to visit,with so much great architecture both public and private buildings.One of the most prominent is the Park House Hotel,the only standing FLW hotel in the world, and it's for sale here is a link to a web page about the hotel:

The city council was having a private group restore it, but got impatient and now are thinking of selling it on ebay. Get your checkbooks out folks!

It has been very rainy but I hope to get out today and shoot some of my favorite buildings, especially Rock Falls Rock Glen.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pass the Hash

Lots of little things to report on:

  • We had our first party at the new place. Lisa's staff came over after school on Friday, and some of my fellow tech people did too. The house is a great place to host a party, the key in the future will be to not move in any more furniture! I had the camera and neglected to take any pictures.
  • Also on Friday I got my bill from the foundation contractor which stated all work had been completed, but they had never come back to finish sealing the inside cracks. I called and the receptionist said that Terry was in Iowa City and would call me. Imagine my surprise when I pull up to the house after picking up the girls at school to find a huge truck and backhoe in the driveway. Of course Lisa's teachers had already begun to arrive as well. I came in and two guys were in the basement patching. I told them to be sure and grab some food on their way out.
  • Saturday morning was my parents garage sale, they have moved out of their big foursquare and are selling what was left over from their 3 day big time tag sale. My station was the garage itself, as opposed to the first floor of the house or the basement. Imagine my surprise when my father hands me an apron emblazoned with "Gordon Van Tine" advertising on the front. (Art and Crafts enthusiasists know that these folks were a major seller of pre cut "kit homes" in the early 20th century, and were headquartered in Davenport, Iowa.) All the millwork in our old house is from one of their catalogs that I happen to have found at Foxcroft. I'm certain all of Foxcroft's millwork is from there also.
  • Saturday was the first playgroup at the new place as well. Rowan has two other friends who also live in neighborhoods without many kids so we rotate getting them together on Saturday mornings. Two other new neighborhood kids came over also. There are lots of children our kids age here, and since it is basically a dead end street, they just run wild around the neighborhood. That will be a huge change for us.
  • I will be in Mason City, IA all next week, I will take my camera and post photos from there, it is the home of the only extant Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in the world, and Rock Falls Rock Glenn is the only Prairie style subdivision in the U.S. both are really fascinating.

Friday, May 06, 2005

War Council

Last night I got my architect, builders, and geothermal contractor together to talk about our plan for finishing the upstairs and renovating the heating system. I think it was time well spent. We now have the beginnings of a timeline and are able to think out what needs to happen when. The first step will be to bring in new electrical service, the geothermal needs 200 amp, even though it won't pull nearly that much. We'll put in a 200 amp 40 circuit box. The builders will start on June 9th and open up the back roof for the 2nd floor gable. That will need to be framed and covered by June 20 when the roofers will arrive. I will start pulling radiators on first floor as I am finishing floors downstairs, and once the framing is in place upstairs ductwork can be run throughout the house. Drilling for the geothermal pipes can happen any time this summer. Now the plan is in place we can begin to watch it fall apart!

Monday, May 02, 2005


I was moving the barrister bookcases last week so I could start on painting the library ceiling. The bookcases were moved into the house in 1928 and probably hadn't moved since, judging by the dust. As I was lifting off a section I came across an advertising piece touting "University Heights: The Coral Gables Sub-Division of Iowa City." The piece is big, 21" x 27" and folds up to be mailed. The lots are advertised as being $500 and up. I know I have an earlier one somewhere that says $300 and up. I think this was produced in 1925 or maybe as late as 1926. The maps have Foxcroft shaded in pencil, likely done by Bess herself. Koser Brothers were the developers and Mr. Lee Koser, the real estate half, built his home next to Foxcroft, and Mr. George Koser, the lawyer half, moved his home from Manville Heights to just down the street. The writing pushes all the modern advances and notes that "A future home here, overlooking the Golf Links and some of the largest buildings in the world. Drive out and inspect this location." Well, the Golf Links are why our street is named "Golfview," but in 1929 the golf course was moved farther west and north so that a new Iowa football stadium (currently known as Kinnick Stadium) could be built. The largest buildings in the world would be the new University Hospital, which was at it's competion in 1925 the largest structure in terms of area covered in the U.S.

Here is the text from my favorite portion, which is on the side not pictured above. It's a mixture of facts, hype and a dash of greed thrown in for good measure:


West Side real estate now offers the best opportunity for good investment since the beginning of Iowa City. The immediate building program of the University on the West Side is almost equal to the amount of buildings done by the University on the East Side during the past fifty years. The resale value of Real Estate on the West Side has been as high as 300 to 400 per cent. (this does not however include buildings, because their value is governed by cost of labor and material.) On March 1, 1918 we purchased an acre of ground from the Cannon estate for about $2,000. 1921 we sold this acre for $4,000, and last year this acre was divided into lots and sold for a total amoun of around $14,000. About 12 years ago Byington's Addition was laid out, covering the ground now occupied by the Quadrangle and new Field House. Lots were offered for $300 to $500. Only a few lots were sold until the University purchased the land for $5,000. Today a lot would be worth $5,000 or more. Around 1920 we were offered the land now covering Melrose Circle for $5,000. Today, this land, now divided nto lots could not be purchased for less than $23,000. About ten years ago we sold a lot on Melrose Avenue and South Grand Avenue for $800. Two years ago the University paid around $5,500 for this lot. In the year 1921 we were selling lots on Melrose Avenue for $700 to $800 that are now priced around $4,000 and $5,000. On March 1, 1916 we sold thirty acres of the land now a part of University Heights, for $350 per acre, and in 1923 ---only seven years afterwards--- we purchased it back at $1,000 per acre. Many other illustrations could be given of the wonderful increase in value of property along Melrose Avenue, and yet the building program of the Univerity on the West Side has just started. It is now too late to buy lots close in on Melrose Avenue for $700 or $800---the time was 1920. Now is the time to buy lots on Melrose Avenue in University Heights to sell in 1930. Unless you buy you cannot sell. Unless you take some chance you cannot reap the profits. The building program of the University on the West Side is assured and for that reason an investment in Rest Estate on the West Side near University Campus must increase in value.

The football stadium is currently undergoing an $89 million dollar renovation, and an undeveloped chunk of ravine between Iowa City and University Heights sold last year and is going to be developed into sports condos starting at $200K.