Tips For Historic Homeowners {#6 Be a Detective}

Every old house is hiding some pieces of its past, and it’s up to you to figure them out. Many folks want to restore old details that have been removed or covered up over the years. And while some remodels may have completely wiped out any signs of the past there may still be ways to discover how your old house once was.

  1. Attics, Basements & Crawlspace – A notoriously good pace to start looking for missing windows, screens, moldings and even old possessions of the previous owners. You might have to dig through some insulation or in cobweb filled corners behind boilers, but there is usually something useful hiding.
  2. Something’s Different – Old paint lines where a molding was removed. Differing plasterwork where a new wall was added. Perhaps some clapboards covered in dozens of layers of paint while a whole section has a few clean coats. Maybe all your windows are the same design except for 1 or 2. These are all signs that point to a change somewhere along the line.

Your house has little reminders and hints of its past hiding in plain sight. The question is: When you look what will you see?

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by Scott Sidler

I'm a historic preservationist and author. I help old house lovers understand & restore their homes so they can enjoy the history and character that surrounds them more everyday! When not working, writing or teaching about old houses I spend most of my time fixing up my own 1929 bungalow with my wife Delores and son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

One comment

  1. You are absolutely right. I’m restoring a home in the Eastwood area near downtown Houston and it has been quite the adventure uncovering all the neat architectural details in the home. Thus far, I’ve uncovered:

    – longleaf red pine hardwoods that were buried 8 layers down in most rooms,

    – perfectly preserved oak hardwoods, inlaid with a double-line cherry border, and craftsman knots in all corners of the living and dining rooms

    – 2 chimneys, one behind cabinetry in the living room and the other built into the walls between two closets,

    -7 6.5 foot tall original windows,

    -an archway hidden in a wall,

    – a dormier window in the attic,

    – four-over-one window screens for most windows, discovered in attic,

    – original bricks used to lay a patio,

    – original exterior siding, perfectly preserved and covered for over 65 years, which was found underneath 2 exterior layers: an aluminum layer and an asbestos cement shingle layer,

    – a room of 9 original windows, all over 6 feet tall, again preserved,

    – decorative triple crown window trim, that someone built shelves around, without a single notch or cut in the trim,

    – a previous owners dirty magazine collection hidden in a drop-down ceiling that was installed in the bathroom,

    – 10 foot ceilings throughout the home.

    … I think that’s about all I’ve discovered so far. This was only in the first 3 weeks! I wonder what other buried treasures lay inside!

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