What do you buy a house for its 140th birthday? This year, our little second empire cottage turns 140 years old and Greg and I have been in discussions of just what to do to celebrate that event. In this day of disposable everything it is amazing to me that anything last for 140 years.
Imagine what it must have been like to build up on the hill back then. Everything had to be brought up the hill because this are had been cleared and was largely farm and grazing land with a few small "gentleman vineyards thrown in. In fact the early Titus map shows Knox St ending a block further East. The area was being developed as there were already some houses up on Knox Hill, in fact some date to the late 1840's. But it was still 'no mans land' far across the valley floor from Cincinatti.
The wood, the stone, EVERYTHING had to be brought up that hill in wagons. The roads were little more that dirt paths. It took real money to build a weekend place back then. that likely explains why Knox Hill houses have incredible details like high end fireplace and trim work you would expect to see on a Dayton Street Mansion. When I think of the fact that the owner commissioned an artisan to come up the hill and elaborately stencil the rooms of the house. it was no small job either. I know from experience that it takes hours upon hours to stencil these designs. Today I have modern 12 mill mylar to make stencils out of, back then they were make of paper that had been shellaced. It took dozens of stencils to do just one pattern on a wall as they would deteriorate and were only good for few feet.
So here we are full circle. the Knox Hill cottage is being rebuilt returned to its once dignified person a. Certainly had we not come along the house would be in a landfill. It has rewarded us for saving it with a plethora of treasures. A 1871 German newspaper fragments used by the plasterers to fill larder gaps in laths, an old wood handled chisel, to all of Antones 'mistakes" he brought home from the Naegele Stone works in the 1890's.
The house still presents us with small gifts, Old toys and marbles found as we recreate gardens no doubt from the days when the Nagele children played in the yard.
I think this fall we will have Birthday party for the house. Invite some "preservationist friends' and neighbors over for croquet and cocktails, maybe even dress in Victorian Era clothing,. maybe I'll even recreate our little Second Empire cottage in cake form and we can do homemade ice cream.
As for a gift? Maybe just saving this house is gift enough, it seems to appreciate it.