Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bess' Diary Dec. 8th 1941

40 Mon. Windy Washed Heard Pres Roosevelt message to Congress. War declared on Japan. Took car over town for boxes + a little shopping. Ordered 80 Christmas cards from Mr. Kent.

Gretchen here for tea. Made 125(? can't tell what the word is)cookies - Fran phoned about seeing University play this week.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


a child of the slums who spends most of his or her time in the streets: contemptuous term applied to anyone regarded as having the manners, morals, etc. of the gutter

Origin: orig. (Brit dial.), the common snipe, which picks food out of gutters

Yes in the five years we have been at Foxcroft I have been a guttersnipe about our front gutter. Since the first winter I have known that there was a problem with the gutter in that it leaked over the front porch steps and created a gigantic ice hazard that made it nearly impossible to use the front door.

I'd had several people offer advice on what to do, but got nowhere. Finally I mentioned it last summer to Tim, a fellow member of Friends of Historic Preservation, who is a highly regarded handyman. He came over this fall and said, no problem, if I got him some copper to patch with, (our gutters are made of copper and are original to the house) he'd drop the gutter at the end where the downspout was (Which over time had become the HIGH spot) and patch in the bracket. Well he came and discovered that unlike most gutter systems this one has a continuous flap that must run a foot under the entire roof. There was no way to do what he had originally planned. I asked what our options were, he said really the only thing that could be done is to move the downspout to the low spot on the gutter which is over the steps. Tim came last weekend and we did just that.

First I carefully removed the downspout and set it aside:

Then we sweated out the downspout from its place on the North end of the house.

Then we cut a patch for the hole and cleaned it:

And hammered it to make sure it would lay flat:

Then after fluxing everything it was soldered into place:

Then we cut a hole at the low spot just north of the porch steps post:

And soldered the downspout into the new location:

At this point Tim was ready to call it an afternoon. I set the downspout back in and realized I would need some elbows to push the bottom of the downspout back out so it would clear the post steps pillar. I went to the hardware store Monday during my lunch hour and then set that all up. As I drove back to work it started to rain. When I came home Monday night I got out the ladder and went up to look, and there was nearly no water left in the gutter. I am hoping for a much safer winter!

I really don't like the way the gutter looks, having lost the symmetry, but in this case safety is much more important.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Slowly winding down

Just like the days getting shorter, my time working on the south side continues to diminish. With school starting I have slowed to nearly a stop, but I'm not yet ready to admit defeat and put the scaffolding away yet.

Most recently I painted the new screens from Adams Architectural and hung them on the kitchen windows:

These are the "little" windows above the sink and are quite a bit smaller than the dining room windows or even the second floor bedroom windows:

The other piece I'm still working on is to repair the rot at the end of the barge board toward the front of the house. When I removed the aluminum that had been tacked over the barge board I found that quite a bit of the original board had rotted away. At some point a big chunk was chiseled out and a piece of replacement wood had been added. Of course just covering that with siding gave a great place for moisture to gather. I chipped away at the worst rot and hit everything with wood hardener. I then have been slowly building up the voids with bondo. I'm pretty close to having it all filled in.

With any luck (and no Iowa home football this weekend) I may get the rest of the barge board sanded and ready to paint.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rope a Dope

I continue to plug away at painting this summer, even if I haven't said anything about it. I'm working on the Southeast side of the house. This is the side that shows the most damage from weather. It is also where the triple dining room window is. Here is the window in the midst of being heat gunned/scraped:

The far left side hadn't been done yet

Here is one of the center sections

After heat gunning the paint off the boards in the center sections were in bad shape. I knew I'd need to sand down to bright wood in order to get any new paint to stick. Since they were so loose anyway I decided to take them off, which of course exposed the window sash weights and cords.

It was then that I realized how much easier it would be to replace the old sash cord FROM THE OUTSIDE. I wouldn't have to knock open the channel pocket and reach in and up or spend nearly as much time threading the cord through the pulley. I went and bought new cord, since I was nearly out and I found a thicker cord than I'd ever seen before. It was so thick I could barely get it through the holes in the weights. but it sits very nicely in the pulleys.

So the center window is completely re-roped and the two outside windows have their inside ropes replaced. In other words of the 12 ropes in the window section 8 have been replaced. I'll do the outer ropes on the outer windows when I'm ready to reglaze those windows in the future.

After getting the outside boards clean I put them back into place. I used bondo to fill in the cracks in the board to get a smooth surface again, and sealed them up at all the edges. I did the same to the chimney window next to the fireplace. Here is that one ready for priming.

So how does it all look now? Here are the dining room windows completely painted and with my new screens from
Adams Architectural in place. (Storms will go up this winter)

Here is the chimney window.

I have been back up working in the eaves and repairing the lookouts that hold the barge board in place. I'll post on that next.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

(Way) Better Than Nothing Post

I have photos of housing scraping and painting and stories in my head, but just haven't gotten them down yet.

In the meantime, last week Sunday was the University Heights Garden Club tour, and we were one of the stops. The University of Iowa's student paper, The Daily Iowan, sent photographers. Here is one of their shots:

David Scrivner/The Daily Iowan
Guests view the backyard of Mike and Lisa Haverkamp’s home during the 2010 Garden Tour hosted by the University Heights Garden Club on Sunday. Around 150 people toured the nine locations in University Heights.

Photo can be found here, scroll to the very bottom:

Today's Photos, June 28, 2010

Here is the full story. The slideshow has lots of photos of our yard. (Photos 1, 3, 6, 9, 11 & 12) The other photos are all from the two other gardens on our street. The video clip also has me babbling about Foxcroft, while wearing my goofy Mountie hat:

Back to the garden in University Heights

We had a great time hosting the tour. Then last Wednesday everyone whose garden's were on the tour walked and had our own tour. That was was even better.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy 99th Birthday, Pergola

I finished painting the pergola last week. The final part was painting the cement columns, which I did in "Lambswool" the same color as our window trim and back porch columns. Here is a column taped off at the capital:

And taped off at the base:

So now that it's all complete here is a view from the south:

A view from the east:

A view from the north:

And a view from the west:

So if we put this in last summer and just finished painting it now why celebrate its 99th birthday? Because I found a forgotten piece last week, that I had stashed away in my carpenter's box when we were salvaging the columns from their original location. You may remember that the columns were originally here:

I wrote about it here:
Going Vertical

When we were knocking apart the cement blocks on the porch I found this inside one of them:

In case you can't read it:

Built by
Bart Easlon
June 14, 1911
For Mr. M Wolbe

So I can say "Happy 99th Birthday, Pergola!"

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The 5 W's at Foxcroft

For the last several weeks I've been dealing with the 5 W's at Foxcroft they are:

Of course this is the first "W" it's all we know around here. I stained the boards in the pergola. I'm using the same old lumpy stain (Oxford Brown) that I've been putting on the house. I've also now painted the capitals above the columns in the same color as the bargeboards and rafter tails. Next will be painting the columns "Lambswool" same as the house window trim.

For Mother's Day we bought Lisa two wisteria plants. 17 years ago we planted Hardy Chinese Wisteria at our previous house, but right when it got big enough to bloom, it became shaded by the corkscrew willow that we also planted. We put our "Kentucky Blue Wisteria" along the back two columns of the pergola. I hope it grows quickly.

We had a planting on the driveway blow down in big winds. As I started to cut it up I got thinking about using the branches to make a trellis along the back corner around the fish pool. First I did the part on the west side of the pool. I told Lisa what I was making was "whimsey."

Then I started on the south side. The neighbors behind us had a huge limb blow down out of a maple tree, so I sawed parts off it and used them too. Then I trimmed a little from our lilacs. Pretty soon I was going down into the ravine and getting scrub from down there:

Since this is a trellis we have fall clematis on it that we planted a year ago. I've also planted some fancy morning glories, and am training up the weed morning glories too. We also have some wild grape started on it as well.

When in the ravine I found some really nice virginia creeper. I cut a piece to wrap around and make a window:

This all lead to the next "W":

I was confronted by another neighbor (not one who's property is adjacent to the trellis) that said I was building a fence in violation of the City's fence ordinance. And to top it off, what I was building was ugly and a fire hazard. I was quite taken aback by this but said I'd check with the owner next door and look at the fence ordinance. The house next door is currently for sale and has been empty now for over a year. The owners said they had no problem with what I was doing, and the city building inspector visited and said what I had was a trellis and not subject to the fence ordinance. The icing on the cake came several days ago when the leader of the City Garden Club visited to see if we'd be on their tour. She loved the trellis and said the current issue of "Horticulture" magazine had one just like it.

Not the drinking kind, the actual large bird type. I saw what I thought were bags of garbage on the railroad tracks when going over the Melrose Bridge on my bike. When I went back to look I realized they were turkeys. There were two male toms in full display with about 6 hens feeding along the tracks. My guess is that they are getting all the spilled corn that falls off the railroad cars. Here is a pic I took of them.

Then Sunday I was walking my mower down the driveway to mow the bottom of the front yard. I saw something move in the hostas between our house and yet another neighbor's yard. (we share boundaries with 5 houses) When I looked back I realized it was a turkey that must have been sleeping/roosting under the hostas. It ambled back into Matt's yard for a snack under his bird feeder. I went and got a picture of this one too:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bess' 1930-35 Diary

I don't think I've done this before and posted a whole page of one of Bess' 5 year diaries, but today's are too good as a group:

May 12th

Mon 60
Alone all day + got home at 11. Read “It’s a Great War” Hazel, D +N over.
Got 3 new tires + tubes (19.75 each)

Tue 60
Dug 2 pail dandelions – sewed + heard A’s 4 White Sox 2 game – Harry mowed lawn – Mildred here in evening till 11.

Thur 84
Lindburgh baby found dead.
Seeded new lawn, fixed wire on back porch, set out plants. H to Chi Omega house for dinner. Home at 8:30

Fri 70
Hard rains off + on all day. No fires - Over town to Hands and for yeast. H made puzzle + cake for Hildegarde’s birthday. Isabelle came for her about 5:30 – She worked on tulip quilt + heard Coon Sanders as May Frolic - Robin

Sat 50
Planted dahlias – Made Hildegarde’s cake + H and I delivered it in the rain, - H to Court of Awards. I heard ball game + read – furnace + grate fires. Steak fry here because of rain. Hilly – Jerry – Dr. Frankel + Herb Smith. H and I got Waucoma auxiliary flowers – a cat asleep in car


"It's a Great War" Mary Lee, Houghton Mifflin, 1929, 574 pages. According to the American Book Exchange: "The author of this novel, based on her own experiences, was a young American who spent two years in France as a civilian employee of the United States Army - first with a base hospital unit in Bordeaux, then with the Air Service in Paris, and finally as Y.M.C.A. canteen worker in the zone of advance and with the Army of Occupation in Germany."

Bess' husband, Walter, volunteered for WWI at age 39. Because he was a physician he was taken and worked in France as a surgeon. After the armistice, but before his enlistment was finished, he was sent to Serbia to fight a typhoid outbreak. He contracted pneumonia and died. Bess was 36 when he died in 1920, Helen was 7 years old. Bess never re-married.

The "A's" would be the Philadelphia Athletics. That year Connie Mack's team went 102-52 winning the American League pennant. They defeated Gabby Street's St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 in the World Series. The Chicago White Sox finished 7th in the 8 team AL that year. Bess was a die hard Cubs fan, but listened to any game she could.

Even though Charles A. Lindburgh Jr. had been kidnapped on March 1, 1932 the body wasn't discovered until May 12th. Eventually Bruno Hauptmann would be found guilty and executed. To this day controversy surrounds the case.

The "new lawn" would be in the extra half lot that Bess had just bought from her neighbor, realator Lee Koser. She paid $60.00 for the lot. In 1928 Bess had paid Koser $1,000.00 for the two lots on which Foxcroft had been built. (The house was built for $11,000.00) With no building occurring after the stock market crash and onset of the depression, I'm sure Koser was happy to sell land at any price. The majority of the extra land became Bess' sizable kitchen garden. Helen sold the lot to another neighbor in 1981.

"No fires" would refer to the furnace and the fireplace meaning it was warm that day. "Hand's" is the name of a jewelry store in Iowa City, which is still in business in the same location as it was in 1933. "Hildegarde" was one of Helen's college best friends.

Apparently "Coon-Sanders" was the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawks Jazz Orchestra founded by drummer Carlton Coon and pianist Joe Sanders. Their "Maytag Frolics" were popular hits. Bess probably heard them on her radio.

Most of 1934's entries make sense after reading the previous years. A "grate fire" would be in the living room fireplace, Given the high being 50 degrees that day it was probably chilly in the morning. The "steak fry" seems to have been Hildegarde's birthday celebration. "Jerry" would become her future husband. Given the size of Foxcroft it was often the site of gatherings, especially of Helen's college classmates. "Waucoma" was the name of the small Iowa town where Helen was born and that she and Bess had moved from in 1928 after building Foxcroft. "Cat asleep in the car" was likely Buff, a cat that Helen still talked about prior to her death in 2004.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2nd Annual Bungalow Blog Tour

Hello folks,

Welcome to Foxcroft, a late 1920's bungalow set in University Heights, Iowa. I'm Mike, your host. I live here with my family.

A little about us:

We are the second family to live in our home. We owned the house for a year before beginning to restore it. We had the incredible opportunity in that time to get to know the daughter of the builder during her final year she lived here as our life tenant. Helen passed away in December of 2004 at age 93. She was 18 when she moved in with her widowed mother in September of 1928.

Helen and her mother, Bess, 1929.

We started work to make it our home in 2005. We have had the privilege of keeping much of the historical documents that came with the house: daily journals of both Bess and Helen, and amazing photo albums, including pictures of the house under construction:

And original interior photos

The big project we embarked upon was taking the entirely unfinished second floor...


2005 (before we started working on it)

...and putting in three bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry room and sitting room. We also added a gable to the rear of the house. Here is the interior of the new gable this morning.

We used salvage materials (the bookcases, door, picture rail and casing above) as well as the original blueprints to match trim, etc.

Perhaps the single best day of our renovation was here:

A Little Off the Top, Please

Lately my big projects have been outside. Bess and Helen by themselves built a cement fish pool in 1933.

More photos of their work are here: Digging the pool.

The pool was completely filled in some time in the 1960's. Over the past couple years We excavated and and now have it working again. We added a small waterfall:

Last summer we also built a pergola and patio of mostly salvaged materials. Here it is as used for our youngest daughter's birthday party in September:

A particularly interesting part was lifting up the very heavy cement columns. My partner in crime during this adventure is a fellow teacher and the lead builder of our upstairs. Our two families have been friends for over 25 years:

Here is a walkthrough of the entire pergola project:

We sincerely hope you've enjoyed your visit here, but sure to leave a comment or question if there's anything more you'd like to know. Feel free to poke around and snoop in the closets, etc.

If you wandered here not due to the online house tour, be sure to check out the other stops:

Next House on the Blog Tour: Stuccohouse
Previous House on the Blog Tour: 1916 Portland Bungalow

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Same... But Different

Here is a photo of Bess vacuuming out the pond circa 1934:

Side note: we found that electolux vacuum when we cleaned out the attic in 2005.

Here is a picture of me, vacuuming out the pond last week:

Neither my shop vac nor my outfit is as stylish as the original!

I used some cement patch to go around the edge of the patch I put in last year, and then painted the whole pond over the weekend.

Pool paint comes in one color at the S-W store: ocean blue. Here is the same angle as the two pics above:

And another view:

Now I need six more dry days (they don't have to be consecutive) and we can fill it with water. Then we'll let it sit a while and put the fish back in.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Spring Arrives

It was warm enough last night that we had band practice outdoors. The pergola is just big enough for the five of us:

We got a thumbs up from Jill across the street who was out walking her kids in the stroller, and another thumbs up from a car who came to pick up a flyer for the house behind us which is for sale, again.

Here is the near back yard with the cilla in full bloom:

And the side yard where the cilla has completely taken over:

Cilla or Siberian Squill is a wild flower that is a small bulb. It is a very early bloomer, right after the snowdrops and the crocuses. Cilla spreads naturally, and was here already when we came. After the blooms are gone (in about a week) the leaves look like very thick grass. When you walk in it after the blooms are spent it is very squishy. By May the leaves are gone too.