Monday, October 19, 2009

Knox Hill Project: Weekly Update

Our Kitchen is finally gutted! Although it has only taken a few weekends it seems like an eternity. I hate removing plaster walls, its messy, dusty and takes forever. But we are at last there.
Of course its interesting to see all the changes that occurred. We have been able to deduce some more about the construction date of our kitchen. We know that our house originally had a separate 'summer kitchen" built behind the house and this room was built later. We now think this addition was built about the time gas lighting was added to the house. We have been able to determine this based on the fact that looking at the second floor it is obvious the gas lines were run and the floor was then put down. Had this been and "update" we would expect to have found evidence the flooring had been taken up in order to run the gas pipe. In the older parts of the house you can clearly see this.
We do know that they retrofitted that "New fangled" electricity later as you can see on the second floor where they removed flooring to run the wiring. I suspect that was done about the time they added indoor plumbing. the cast iron soil lines of course will be replaced with more modern PVC drain lines and new venting. The "maze" of wiring updates is truly scary. At some point they added "modern' Wiring and basically 'spliced' off the knob and tube. RESTORATION TIP: When I am starting a new restoration, I always disconnect EVERYTHING from the breaker box and then run some new circuits properly grounded with new boxes in strategic locations throughout the house. I do this because until you start really restoring you have no clue what is going on electrically behind those walls and you do not want to put "high load' power to old on old circuits.
You cant "assume' that just because you see a grounded box and new romex that it runs from the circuit box to the outlet. Far too often you will come across "splice jobs" like this. People added more wiring as needs changed but often didn't think about the load of what was running it. For example the entire kitchen was run of one 20 amp breaker!


Work also continues on the paint removal in the formal parlor where we found original stencilling. Although this removal of the later paint layers is a real pain, there is no way that paint would properly adhere to the surface as there was some sort of varnished or shellacked top coat put over the original milk paint. This also allows us to properly repair the inevitable cracks in a 130 year old wall and have a good surface for paint and wallpaper. As I said last week, it is our intention to restore the stenciled area as a frieze and duplicate it on the border of the ceiling. After some careful research of the ceiling it appears it was either painted or wallpapered as I can find no evidence of and stencil work. I did find evidence that the ceiling once had an elaborate plaster medallion based on paint level changes.The color of this room really intrigues me as I must confess it is a unique color. It is hard to accurately depict with the camera but the best way I can describe it is "copper penny". Clearly they had a very specific look in mind when the house was built and I must imagine by oil lamp it must have truly glistened. Especially contrased with teh hanging rail which was gold leafed. This was not a 'stock' color of the time , although everything was pretty much hand mixed. They had to have brought someone in to do this work as this finish was beyond the realm of the typical painter of the day. Perhaps one more weekend and this room will have all the later paint removed and I will have a better view of how it looked back in the day.

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