Monday, February 2, 2009

Knox Hill Restoration: Staircase

With 50 degree weather Sunday, of course we headed to Cincinnati to work on the house. We concentrated our efforts on the staircase area. To provide some background: Our house like most in Cincinnati, had a simple outdoor stairs covered with a hatch to get downstairs into the basement. This worked fine but as times changed people began to actually use their basement for things other than long term storage of fruit jars and such. Most homes did not have inside staircase and these were often added years later. The challenge was just where to put them and every house had it's own "solution" some well planned, others, well, 'wasteful".

Such was the case with our own house. Our house once had a very nice open staircase with a lovely curved railings and spindles the stairs were open to a hallway that went to the rear of the house and a second door to the "day parlor" ticked under the landing for the main stairs. Opposite this was a back door which went out to the yard . As was the case they added on to the back of the house to add a kitchen years later. This hallway next to the stairs became used even more.

In the late 1940's (1949 to be exact) a decision was made to add a basement staircase. The hallway floor next to the stairs was removed and new basement stairs added. The railing was removed from the main 'run' of the stairs to the second floor and a "wall" made of beaded board was added between the two stairs and a plastered wall was added next to the stairs. Of course the lovely newel post was removed. At some point the basement stairs were rebuilt again with an extremely dangerous shallow tread stairs.

So the issues: One is to open up the original stairs and Two, a proper basement stairs that will go down to a new finished living space in the basement and of course teh goal to make it look as period as possible.

Solution: Change the direction of the basement stairs, open up the floor under the current main stairs and create a landing so the basement stairs can turn and provide needed headroom. This will also allow the bathroom going under the stairs to be larger and allow for a small lowboy dresser that will be used for lining storage. On the wall above it will be a stained glass window which will be "open' to the new basement stairs and let in more light. We will put back a newel post with a newel lamp and railing for the main stairs returning the "grandeur" of the space. Traffic flow will be improved and we are able to get a 1/2 bath on the first floor.

Of course this required care full removal of the added beaded board wall and demolition of the plaster wall. We found newspapers used to Fill some areas with a May 11,1949 date. I have carefully unfolded them and plan on matting them and framing them and hanging them on the wall to the basement stairs as part of the "story" of the house restoration. We were able yesterday to get the wood divider wall removed, the Plaster wall demoed and some of the demolition below the main staircase done. I also took measurements to build new face "trim panels" for the main staircase. These will be built from reclaimed Walnut. Now also beginning the hunt for a good newel post, railing and spindles needed to complete the staircase. There is so much more light now in the area once it was opened up! The space looks larger and much more livable.
I took a ton of pictures just a few pictured here. I am working on setting up detailed slide shows on the phases of the project with descriptions to help others with their projects and eventually hope to have links set up.

Next phase will be removal of old steam pipes, further demo and reframing. As always you comments and questions are appreciated!

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