Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Look At Someone Else's House 2009 Edition

It's time for my annual appeal to attend Friends of Historic Preservation's 3rd annual Parade of Historic Homes on Sunday May 17th from 1-5 PM.

This year will again feature homes that have been restored using materials from FHP's salvage barn.

Here are a glimpses of the properties:

(1029 Bowery St.) an excellent example of adaptive re-use

(614 Clark St.) a residence that formerly was a church

(416 S. Summit St.) an example of a rental house returned to a family home

(519 S. Summit St.) shows off how an historic house can be updated

But probably most impressive:

(1208 Marcy) Plum Grove Inn, this house is a unique project combining the vision of architect Thomas McInerney with the passion and drive of Shelley Slaubaugh to have an historic Bed & Breakfast.

In the Spring of 2006, Friends of Historic Preservation had salvaged the interior of what was commonly called the “the old castle house” in Belle Plaine, Iowa. This was no ordinary house. Inside the dining room there was solid walnut wainscoting with a triple plate rail, sideboard, china cabinet, butler and pocket doors, as well as a coved press tin ceiling all in one room. Treasures like leaded glass windows, a walnut library, quarter sawn oak stairs, beveled glass doors, a skirted tub, pedestal sink and rooms of walnut and oak baseboards and molding were saved.

As Thomas McInerney recalled, “While going to the city landfill, one usually does not expect to find timeless treasures there. I noticed the Salvage Barn there and was curious if I could find inspiration to define the interior character of the house I was designing. I was not disappointed. Friends of Historic Preservation had recently salvaged a collection of stunning walnut cabinetry and trim from a demolished house in Belle Plaine, Iowa. Shelley is a fan of walnut furnishings and I thought she would enjoy seeing this incredible selection. After calling her, I figured we would chat about it later that night. To my complete surprise that night, she informed me that she agreed to buy the complete Belle Plaine house’s door, cabinetry and wood trim package. I knew she was serious about the Bed & Breakfast now!”

As an architect, Thomas McInerney understands how things are built and was able to envision and adapt the use of the salvaged materials for the interior of the new house he was building. As the house took shape, it was difficult to find contractors who shared this same vision. McInerney commented, “Incorporating this understanding onto construction documents for contractors is very time consuming and required an intimate knowledge of the millwork. It soon became evident that with the amount of millwork we had on hand, a contractor hired to reinstall the trim would greatly exceed our budget and schedule.” Consequently, McInerney and Slaubaugh invested their time and skills to complete the carpentry work on the house. As McInerney noted “With full-time careers grabbing our attention throughout it, we experienced work hours from sun-up to after sundown to the point of exhaustion.” The results are stunning and visitors to Plum Grove Inn may never realize that they have spent the night in a new old house.

I worked to salvage at Belle Plaine, and have seen the results, I was so happy to see such beautiful historic house parts go to such spectacular use!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

4.5 Tons of Salvaged Goodness

Pete and I moved 4.5 tons of salvaged material today. The house we worked on with other members of Friends of Historic Preservation, will be taken down for a new elmentary school.

Here is a photo of the house from the county assessor's site:

Pete and I took the six porch pillars and the blocks below them. The pillars are made of cement and with three courses of blocks, and a two piece cement cap below come to a toal of eight feet in height. My plan is to take these and make a pergola in our back yard.

I was really worried about how heavy the pillars would be. We had my brother's dump truck to haul them, and I had made 5 T- shaped support posts by screwing together 8 foot 2x4's to put in as we took the pillars out. We used a John's bottle jack and worked like we did last summer in taking down the pillars on the back porch.

First we used the jack to raise the porch roof next to a pillar. When there was a visible gap we would wiggle the pillar toward the inside until we could get it clear of the cap at the top of the pillar. Then we would tip in down and support the end on the bottom cap. After re-adjusting we would move the pillar to the porch floor. We would take the T support post and get it into place then lower the jack to take the porch roof down to the temporary post. The two piece cap was also cement, we would wiggle them off. The take out the cement blocks. These were made with a mold so that the outer face looks like cut stone.

We got the six pillars out in about an hour and a half. We then loaded them along with two of the base caps and 8 blocks into the truck. We stopped at the landfill to get a total weight. Truck and all came to 4.9 tons. I called my brother and left a message asking how much the truck weighed.

We unloaded all that and went back for the other blocks and caps. I'll need a total of 36 for the six pillars, but since they were built below the porch floor on the house I was able to get an additional 12 blocks. I have another idea for those. We loaded 40 blocks and 4 caps into the second load.

While unloading the second time, Pete asked how much I thought the blocks weighed, I guessed 30 pounds each. We were stacking three onto my dolly and wheeling them into the yard to pile up. My daughter came out with the bathroom scale and we discovered they were really 60 pounds each. That made our second load somewhere in the neighborhood of 2400 pounds for the blocks and probably 800 more for the caps. for a total of 1.5 tons.

When we talked to my brother he said the truck weighed 2 tons empty, so the first load was 2.9 tons. With 1.5 in the second we came in at 4.5 for a total.

I'm tired tonight!

Besides the porch pillars FHP salvaged: 2.25 inch wide pine flooring, 5.25 inch wide pine flooring, window and door headers, a pine collonade, newel posts, window and door casing, leaded glass windows, exterior doors with leaded glass, and five panel interior doors

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Fish Letters #3

November 25, 1933

My dear Miss Fox:

Your aquarium and stand with all the other accessories, plants and heater were shipped on Wednesday November 22nd. We could have shipped the fish now but owing to the fact that they may have been stranded over the weekend we decided to postpone the shipment until Monday November 27th. We shall rush them to you in an insulated thermos jug.

We trust that the aquarium and other accessories reached you in good condition and also that you will have the aquarium set and planted, having the proper temperature so that the fish may be placed in the aquarium when they arrive.

If the temperature of the water in the jug should be low, increase it gradually to 75 degrees before the fish are placed in the aquarium prior to putting the fish in. We would also suggest that you add 2 or three tablespoonfuls of Turk’s Island Sea Salt.

Yours very truly,

J T Charleson (signature)


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Controversy Rages!

According to the screaming headlines of our local paper:

Proposed University Heights Development Controversial

Here is a view of the proposed commercial building at the front of the site:

Here is the condominium tower to the back of the site:

Here is an arial view of the property with the adjustment made to Sunset Street:

I went to the third and final open meeting that the developer had scheduled to tell community residents about the plan and solicit feedback. I wrote about the first one here: A Grocery Store! This one had about the same number of people as the first, it sounds like the second one was similar.

Lots of people are dead set against this. They do not want the community to change. I guess as a relatively new resident of the community, and someone with young children, I view it a little differently. I think in general the proposal is a good one. I think the commercial development is very good, and understand that to make it profitable and viable the upscale condominium has to be there too.

Just a few quick ideas

* Shouting at a developer, and interrupting a presentation at a voluntary meeting to share information is just plain stupid and rude. I don't care if you are a doctor or lawyer (as two of the worst offenders were, I kept looking around for an Indian Chief to join in with them) The time to engage in those tactics will be at Planning and Zoning Comission and City Council.

*The inital proposal for the residential tower was 9 stories in the middle, stair-stepped down to 6 on the wings. Their presentation at the final meeting was 7 stories stair-stepped down to 5. People are going crazy over how this will stick out. But Kinnick Stadium's new pressbox on the eastern border of University Heights is taller than the 9 story tower. I haven't heard people complain about that.

*I suggest that if this gets approved the first thing the city council does with increased tax revenue is create a fund for the purchase of the woodland on the north edge of town to create a permanent green space there.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Cilla: Siberian Squill

Our cilla is blooming all over the yard again. The crocuses and snowballs are all in full force too. The irises and tulips have begun to poke up out of the ground.

Today we're supposed to get up to 6" of snow...

I was able to work outside quite a bit yesterday. I have put up a new section of fence in the garden to accomodate more heirloom peas this summer. I kicked around some dirt and hope to plant potatoes and peas next Friday if all goes well.

Other recent yard work has included spreading a little over a ton (1500 lb load two weeks ago, 800 lbs last week) of wood chip mulch in the flower beds. The far back yard and near back yard are covered. We still need to do both sides of the house and the flower beds in front and on the hill. The first load was easiest. My brother and I took his dump truck out to the Iowa City landfill and they load you up FREE. Having the dump box meant we unloaded in about two minutes at home onto a tarp in the driveway. Last week I got more free wood chips from the landfill in Pete's pickup truck. That I have to shovel out of the bed and it takes quite a bit longer. In total we have dumped 75 wheelbarrow loads.

I got a load for myself and then went back to fill Pete's truck again to bring a load to him in exchange for the use of the truck. I put his cover on the back and left it at his place. His daughter, not knowing the back was full, took the truck back to college. I talked to Pete yesterday and he said his well travelled mulch came back home Friday night and he had unloaded it yesterday.

So in case we do get all that snow, I'll just look at this blog instead of my own yard. (His pictures and descriptions are way better anyway)

An Iowa Garden

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Fish Letters #2

November 20, 1933
Miss Helen Fox
315 Golfview
Iowa City, Iowa

My dear Miss Fox:-
Your letter of November the 15th and valued order was received for which please accept our thanks.
We shall comply with your request by sending the aquarium, the stand, plants and the accessories a couple of days ahead of the fish. The fish you have ordered will live peaceably with one another. We have a nice supply of Black Hybrids this Fall and are including a pair with your order free of charge.

An aquarium, in which tropical fish are harbored, should be covered so we are sending you a glass cover to use on the top of your aquarium, the price of which is 65¢. We shall refund you the $2.35 as soon as the jug is returned.

On our heaters, we have changed from the original Watchman Model and are using a thermostat heater made by Edison Electric. We find it much more satisfactory and although this heater sells at $8.25, we are including this with your order. I am sure that you will like it very much and if you are well pleased with it, we wonder if you would wish to pay the difference. Our aim is to please you and we would appreciated the opportunity of hear from you at your earliest convenience.
Very truly yours,


JT Charleson (signature)


Sold To
Miss Helen Fox
315 Golfview
Iowa City, Iowa
Your Order Was Shipped Today By Express NOV 28 1933

1 #120 Eureka aquarium with Imperial stand 24.00
1 1 ½ gal. handy aquarium 1.25
1 Coll#34 E 3.15
1 Watchman Model heater 6.00
1 Four inch net (Tropical) .35
1 Spirit four inch floating bulb thermometer .35
1 Lb. dried shrimp .75
1 Tin Fish Vim .20
1 Tin Tonic .25
1 Tin dried Daphniae .20
1 Tin Hygiene .25
1 Pint Turk’s sea salt .35
1 Pint German fungus cure .35
1 Ounce bottle C.D.T. .40
1 Each of pink and blue chemical shells .20
1 Pair dwarf Gourami 2.00
1 Pair Angel fish 2.50
1 Pair Zebras 1.00
1 Pair Silver Barbs 1.25
1 Pair Mex. Swordtails 1.25
1 Pair Betta Trickeri 3.00
1 Pair B. Cambodia 2.50
1 Pair Betta Cyana 5.00
1 Pair Black Hybrids n/c
1 Glass cover .65¢.