Monday, November 15, 2010

Knox Hill Project: Weekly Update

After last weeks stunning discovery of the Neo Grec stencil in the formal dining room, I thought there was little else left to 'top' that, but I was mistaken, as we found not one, but TWO,  historic designs in the Knox Hill Cottage.
We know under the awful textured ceiling there is wallpaper but could there be a stenciled ceiling as well?

In the front bedroom, which would have been the "best' bedroom in the home's days as weekend and summer cottage we found yet another Neo Grec design. This was surprising to me as given the 'sloped' ceiling in that room (it follows the roof line), I would not have expected this stencil. Pleasantly I was surprised as this design was in fact there and is in the same general Neo Grec design. Clearly the original owner had the financial means to bring in an artist/stenciller to do the finishes, no doubt the 'town' home in the west end must have been a fine residence as well. It points out that those who had their weekend homes on the hill and spend their time at the Schuetzenbuckle on the hill, expected their weekend home to be just as grand as their everyday home. Given the quality of details I have observed in some of the other houses in our neighborhood like high end cast iron mantles, wainscott, inlaid flooring, it is obvious to me that other similar stencil treasures exist under plain white wall in other "cottages' in our neighborhood. Clearly the restoration of this neighborhood must happen as otherwise an important chapter in Cincinnati history will be lost because of the 'shortsightedness' of city officials who long ago wrote off the neighborhood as "insignificant and certainly not historic".

As if this discovery was not enough, we found a second chapter in the history of this home in the formal dining room. As you may recall we found a Neo Grec stencil and I  have been carefully clearing old paint to get enough 'pattern' to recreate this design. I was not prepared however for the discovery of a second stencil design, below the Neo Grec stencil. It would appear that at some point after the original design was done , tastes changed and the first stencil above the hanging rail was over painted with a warm gold color.
The 'evolution' of Victorian decorative arts is shown here with this second stencil design a major departure from the Neo Grec of the 1870's stenciling

Below that the gold color ( I assume the ceiling was painted this same color as well) is a large I estimate 12-14 inch decorative "frieze design" . This design appears to be a leaf and flower and I am still carefully exposing it. It is more difficult to expose in the gold area due to the lack of bond between the applied gold color and the original Pompei red which was shellaced.. I will keep everyone posted about this but I feel confident that I can expose enough of this to come up with the pattern match and be able to create a stencil. There is the possibility that an artist was brought in who did this work freehand, but I believe a base pattern can be made. This discovery brings a total of FOUR designs in this house and in my many years as a preservation consultant, if you had asked me if I though we would find anything of this magnitude in this unassuming cottage I would have said 'highly unlikely but as we learn more about the area history, nothing surprises me now. The 'karma' of finding all this and being in a position to restore and recreate it is simply mind boggling. There was a reason we decided to buy this particular house and kept it from going to a land fill.

While the 'surprises' keep on coming, there was more mundane work to do as well, and that included cutting down trees that are old , leaning or diseased. We took out one tree that was dying and started trimming several others. I REALLY need Duke to come out and clear the branches from around their electrical line
(Note to Duke Energy, you can cut out the whole tree if you want). If any of my readers have a Duke energy contact, I would really like to see the utility lines cleared so we do not have all the street power outages we has last year.

Upstairs work continues on the window seat in the master bedroom. This is going to be a great place to sit and read with the view of the cottages across the street and the hills beyond. Next steps will be trim and the 'architectural paneling" of the space. I lined the interior of the window seat storage area with cedar so it will be a great place to store blankets and sweaters.

As usual a busy week. I just wish I had more time to devote to the house at this point!


Byron said...

beautiful. how do you remove only some layers of the paint without scraping off the design underneath? is it just careful scraping?

St Charles said...

same question I had. What is the process.

Also we need to have a petition drive to Fire Larry Harris. This building was on his list he is doing a piss poor job of conserving our city

Byron said...

Firing him wouldn't matter. His attitude is typical of not only his department but the city as a whole. Where I come from out west, people would pay half a million to save a cottage like Paul's from demolition, never mind the price they would pay to restore it. We really have an embarrassment of riches here in Cincy.

Paul Wilham said...

Byron I had "Locals" telling me I paid to much at 4K for our house. As for paint removal it varies depending on the type of paint, sellants such as shellac and the numbers of layers of paint.

Generally you want to locate a 'flaw' in the wall like a crack or maybe where a nail had been because this goes all the way through the layers. Using an exacto knife I carefully try to peel away layers till I get to a lower layer. After that you can often use a 5-in-1 scraping tool (dulled slightly) to scrape off paint. The goal is to clear enough image to make a good copy for the stencil. Once I make a tracing that image is then scanned and I didgitally clean up any perfections. From that I can make a stencil.

Generally speaking (unless it just under wallpaper the stencil design must be "repainted" rather than touched up. Plus you may want to change the 'colorway' of it.

Its time consuming , neck breking work. I spent countless hours on just the front parlor.

Karen Anne said...

Free associating about Duke Energy, they are a major sponsor of Operation Migration, the project to restore whooping cranes, which uses ultralights to train the yearling cranes to migrate. So they are good guys.