Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Burgman Building Updates: Kitchen removal and landscape restorations

It's been a while since we posted updates because we have just been too busy.  The latest big thing has been stencils in the hallway and we now are adjusting paint colors to get the correct shades, but soon we begin stenciling


Warmer weather has meant we can now work outside and we have been at it every chance we get. We have started uncovering the foundation of the old carriage barn and for now at least it will make a great patio.

We are also trying to get the beds in order and we have divided and transplanted  over 70 Hostas and hundreds of daylilies and tulips that were so tightly packed together they had little room to grow and we hope to finish excavation of the pond and stream and have it ready soon.


The "great wall o kitchen" is now history! The cabinets are gone and now we have some plaster repairs and painting to do but the rear showroom looks better and we gained a couple hundred square feet of  floor space.

Just a little over month until the Logansport Landmarks Preservation Pitch-in Picnic (May 22nd) and our open house/tour of work to date upstairs

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Persian Parlor: Restoration Continues

Restoring a room is often compared to restoring piece of art, however, when the room IS a piece of art, the complexity of its restoration is magnified by a power of 10. This room is "the room" in the house that truly makes the building special and the fact I waited several months to begin it speaks to that level of complexity and my desire to get it right.

The "Persian Parlor" was a bit of a statement, some might consider it a folly, by Ferdinand Burgman for his home. The Burgman's were involved with a local church and hosted an artist brought in to do work on the church. He stayed with the Burgman's and history has it did this room, the Garland room , Dining Room and hall while he stayed with them in the 1880's shortly after the building was built.

This Greek key design is clearly not Persian and  an example of some "Artistic license" on eth part of eth original artiist.
The parlor clearly exemplifies the Victorian fascination with the exotic. Yet there were , shall we say "artistic license' taken here and there. For example there is a Greek style stencils at the top and bottom of the room, clearly not a Persian design. Also some of the flowers are not representative of those found in that part of the world. However, the overall design is a artistic interpretation of an exotic land and  that was its purpose.

This existing wall panel is our model for the ceiling design
The room is designed in a series of alternating  wall panels, some smaller and some larger. These panels are designed to almost hake it look as it one was standing in a room looking out through a series of windows or on a porch. What we do not know is what the artists plan was for the openings. They were painted a solid color. Normal experience would suggest that there would have been a mural panorama of perhaps a desert scene or maybe the plan was for display of family portrait's and art. We don't know and it not our purpose to speculate and complete that 'vision' but rather to conserve what is there and lightly restore where appropriate. For example a shelf with printer had been unceremoniously screwed into the wall and when the 2nd floor was used as showroom space for the window shop, "slat board" was crewed to one wall causing damage. So as far as the walls go we want to preserve  a level of aging and not make it look like a new room but clearly restore where appropriate.

Key elements of the stenciling have been traced and digitally expanded to the new ceiling size

The biggest loss was the ceiling which was torn out at some point in the properties existence. May have been a leak  or could have been an unwise modernization taken on by a later owner, we do not know. So a major piece of this art is missing. However thanks to the recollection of several people in the building years ago  (invited to parties at the home) we have guideline as to what it looked like and that was essentially a much expanded version of the  north wall panel. This panel was large enough to encompass both ceiling lights (which were gas lights) and the medallions which we estimate were likely the same size as the one missing in the garland room where we can measure the 'ghost' of it on the ceiling 25 inches. Taking the measurements of the original wall panel and the other stenciling we were able to calculate just what the size of this panel would have been.
layout process

Using a large protractor we were able to expand and duplicate the correct curvature of that panel. Likewise careful tracings have been made of the stencil borders and "palm fronds' to aid in proper duplication. These have been scanned and digitally enlarged to the correct proportions. We carefully duplicated the wall paint color at a point of its' best "unfaded" color for application to the ceiling. Once this is applied it will be "aged' to take into account the natural sun fade that would have taken plans as well as to account to smoke buildup that would have naturally occurred in the corners. The paintwork is being done in the same manner as original. The center panel is being duplicated based on multiple accounts that is was a sky with clouds.

I am also "on the hunt" for matching pair of gasoliers and medallions have been ordered and I will start on a proper polychrome for them once they arrive.

More to follow.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Victorian Advertising: Cabinet Card Collecting: A Chicago Collectible

While some collect  cabinet photo cards for their images or for examples of Victorian Dress often the value in these cards is not necessarily the image on the front but rather the advertising image on the back.

Such is the case with this cabinet card photo we got in. Its a usual pose of a young gentleman on the front and inscribed Louis H Rudolph (photographer)  957 Milwaukee Ave. Chicago. However the back is an exceptional architectural example of the photographers studio and Chicago's grand 'lost architecture.

Talk about "Victorian excess" The building has every form of grand ornamentation with classical and beaux arts ornamentation. This was Victorian marketing in its purest form. Unlike many simple cabinet photos this photographer artfully incorporated advertising on the back of the card so when asked "where did you acquire such a fine photograph", one only had to flip the card over.

So when you are out looking at old cabinet card photos, turn them over and you might find a treasure like this one.

We always have a collection of cabinet cards in the shop, but this one is pretty special.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Parlor Settee with History

I am always fascinated about how history gets from point "A to B". We acquired this settee a while back in rather deplorable condition from an antique dealer in Southern Indiana. As is often the case it has sat for a while until we could get around to reupholster and get it to showroom floor. In this case we have had this for about 3 years and just couldn't get around to with the move and all.

Usually these pieces have been redone several times over their lives and this one was no exception. At least this one still retained its original; springs and had never suffered the indignity of being painted. Upholstery  usually involved removing several layers ( same here) but its rare to find a manufacturers label.

Imagine my surprise when under the padded arm I located the original Label. The piece was manufactured by the Northwest Parlor Suit Company. 387-701 Cybourn Ave, Chicago Illinois.
Northwest was a big concern started by a very ambitions your man as we found doing some research

"The factory and office of this company are located at Nos. 687 to 701 Clybourn avenue and 28 to 36 A street. The main building is 40x212 feet in dimensions and four stories high. It is fitted up in hands as a representative one, while personally Mr. Payne affords an admirable example of the self-made man. At the early age of seventeen, with creditable self-reliance ."

Interesting to note: even though this was a factory piece it is made of walnut everywhere . Even the supports and blocks , normally made of lesser woods  is walnut.  So  this was either an ordered piece or over the years had make a 200 mile trip to where we  found it. We may never know all the history but its nice to know its an interesting tidbit out there.

For the restoration of this fine settee, we selected a silk blend Blue and golden damask. It is  a very "high style fabric" and would have been best suited for limited use in the formal parlor of  a home. The fabric is complimented by the back done in a solid and the entire piece has  a lovely light French blue gimp

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Blue Sky" Garland Room, The Burgman Building Restoration

As we remove the latex we are able to see some of the ceiling

While winter is upon us, we have been working diligently away on the upstairs rooms of the residence. One of the rooms of primary concern is of course the Garland Room, This is the main reception room of the residence and was the are where normal guests might have been met and entertained. The grand Persian Parlor probably reserved only for the 'best guests" lay beyond  a pair of double doors, alas missing, though it is my hope to locater suitable replacements or we will do an elegant portiere treatment.

This shows the size of the frieze
This room is nicknamed the "door room". for a relatively small room 12x12 square and opens to four other spaces (and it has a window opening) so actual wall space is limited. As a result the artisan who dis the painting focused the eye upward in an attempt to visually expand the space. A "garland' of flowers and leaves, a Frieze that extends a little more than two feet down. There is a small gilded strip of wood used as a handing rail at the top.

Fine artistry is evident
The question always has been what did the ceiling look like? The "decorators" that owned the building for several years elected to paint the walls up to the frieze in a rather haphazard fashion using a color not that close to the original green of the wall. The ceiling they simply scraped and painted. FORTUNATELY they did  a crappy job and  parts of the original painted ceiling are intact under a layer of cheap latex paint.

Can you believe ANYONE would do this, much less someone 'claiming' to be a decorator?
This room suffered the additional indignity of having a closet built in it and Lattice work hung from the ceiling, "designing hillbillies" comes to mind every time I recall the arduous task of removing this hanging "decorator" mess.

So after some careful removals of the latex  we know more than we did. 1.) The ceiling was treated to a blue sky treatment. 2.) There was circular floral band  of smaller delicate flowers about 3 1/2 feet in. and 3.) There was a center plaster ceiling medallion that was 26 inches across. 4) There was a chair rail at 34 inches and a small border of flowers above and below it. 5.) The wall below the chair rail  was painted a darker green color

Now we have to decide how best to proceed. We maybe have 20 percent of the ceiling paint intact and the thought is to conserve it, and in paint the rest. We will reinstall the chair rail and restore the floral design, re-gild the small hanging rail and lastly try to find what we think would be compatible ceiling medallion in the same size.  At least we have a conservation plan.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: A year of dreams realized

2015 was truly a year of dreams realized for us. After years of searching, we finally found "The One". It had been a  long journey with many twists and turns along the way. But it looks as if we finally got it right. We found the perfect building that combines our need for shop space with a grand residence.

It has been a long road. In fact our first attempt at finding "The One" led us to St Joe Missouri years ago and a falling down beast of building that we bought only to have to fight tooth and nail with the city to save it.  In the end and from several hundred miles of commute from Indianapolis, it proved to be an insurmountable task. Right kind of building, wrong place.
While it had great potential and needed someone like us we moved on. But we managed to save a nearby house from destruction, but it was lesson learned.

In the interim we have restored several homes, help turn around a couple of neighborhoods in Indy and met some incredibly dedicated fellow preservationists.


We even kicked started a neighborhood in Cincinnati that had been down on its luck for years and we kept a piece of Cincinnati history the Nagele Merz house from its fate with a bulldozer.

We did a home tour and we proved that you can change things if you just try. We hope 2016 will be the year we find someone to complete the work we started with that home and make sure the home stands for another 145 years.

Lots of things have happened, lots of preservation battles fought, some won, some lost, but Greg and I both understand that if you do not try, you do not accomplish.

The Burgman Building may turn out to be our greatest preservation accomplishment, time will tell, but I know we have realized our Preservation Dream, we found "The One".



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Burgman Building: Expansion at Last and some special finds

Rear showroom open
Its been 'Hectic' to say the least but we have the rear showroom open. Lots of finish details but those will have to wait until after the holiday shopping season.

As is common with this historic building there is always a discovery or two. We knew that there were originally murals throughout the saloon , but prior owners had virtually sanded history way as part of the their "renovations" at least up to  the dropped ceiling which of course we removed almost  the week we bought the building. And as we removed some newer flaking paint, this brought us at least a 'tease' of what was once there in a space 10 feet or so up:
Framework around murals


Landscape murals
So we now know that there were intact landscape murals AND we know they had painted frame designs and more importantly that there was a decorative stencil frieze going all around the room.

Frieze border detail
This provides us with a "baseline" but short of finding some original photos we may never know what the saloon decorations looked like. We are working now on digital enhancements to recreate the original stencil frieze design and will likely add it to our other historic stencil offerings.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Burgman Building: Staircase rework begins

We are starting the staircase rework phase as part of our restorations. Essentially the primary entrance to the property was via simple street door and straight 22 steps upstairs. Not a proper Victorian entrance befitting the residence above the shop.

So the plan is to take the old side storefront and shop entrance and reconfigure the front part into a new entrance hall and formal entry parlor and a private doorway to our shop office.

The stair reconfiguration will involve elimination of the current old door entrance which will be filled in and replaced with a large stained glass landing window higher up. A landing area is created four steps up. an alcove it created with a window seat. The stairway is opened up to the room and is turned to create a more grand entrance. To the right of the stairs a custom deep bookcase is created and will have a marble top for display of  a large sculpture.  Also added to the space is a new angled gas fireplace which will feature a slate mantle and gilded over mantle mirror

This process has involved the removal of plaster, removal of bead board a transom window and ultimately a doorway and reframing of the space. It is also giving us an opportunity to fix some air infiltration from the crawlspace and tighten things up

The opening up of the stairs really improves the light to the space as you come down. Once the wall studs are removed and new header installed, it will be really nice

Slow and methodical work but we are making progress,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Burgman Building: Project updates, Rear storefront work

Much of the wood ceiling was removed in front, fortunately this is the new residential entry area and will be redone in drywall with  Bradbury papers.
The rear storefront are has been crying for attention and the fact that we need the space for expansion of our antiques business has accelerated work on it.

All those drain line have to be redone as too
One of the problems is that this space was hurriedly done years ago and  we have to force ourselves to slow done and see its done right and years of "Billy Boy contractors" work is erased and replaced with proper restore.

One of those things has involved removal of several large HVAC collectors hung precariously on the ceiling. This one was dangerously close to the side storefront window and needed to be removed carefully so as not to destroy a 2000.00 plate glass window. We determined the safest way was to use a drywall lift and bungie it to it so be could carefully lower it. Took about two hours but its on the ground now and our window is safe! So glad we bought that lift, it has more than paid for itself.

Just a  little material for a new wall
So now we have to do  wood ceiling repairs in the rear part of the building and we have to create the new formal entry hall and downstairs reception parlor for the home upstairs. One of the first things we have to do is get the partition wall back in that divides the residential entry space from the commercial and unlike before (with an 8 ft. wall and dropped ceiling), this will be a full length (12ft) wall.

Now to just locate two sets of double entry doors, hire a brick mason to build a proper column on the side storefront/entry...little things like that.

More to come.