Other than a tetanus shot, there are a few other essentials needed when restoring an old house. The most important is a Red Devil "305" scraper with carbide blades. Every single floor board had to be scraped, often on both sides as many floor boards were ceiling boards for the room below. Sometimes they were scraped bare and sometimes carefully scraped to the original paint as were those for the ceiling in the Keeping Room and the kitchen. Early Hudson Valley rooms had unpainted ceilings and beams until the English custom of plaster and paint was introduced. The Halls and Christys were great with keeping up with the times. Thus, most of our ceilings and beams had several coats of white on the ceiling and colored paint on the beams to eliminate. Then came the wall sheathing, the fireplace wall sheathings in the parlor and dining room and the dozens of sheathing boards gleaned from the Skidmore house. In the latter case, we were fortunate to have some with only the original paint - a beautiful find and a relief to put in the "done" pile. The bedroom sheathing had never been painted, but had seven coats of wallpaper on it. All these boards and beams were to be dry-scraped, excepting those with wallpaper which needed the white vinegar treatment.
The fourth essential for me was my little Chevy S-10. I am short and even in the S-10 had a hard time turning around looking backwards without my foot coming off the clutch, but otherwise this vehicle fit me perfectly - I could see over the steering wheel after all. As previously mentioned, it was essential for the floorboards. In addition, it helped create "Lynne's Rock Pile". The foundation of the reconstructed house is 12 inch block but the last two or three feet showing above ground has a veneer of the original foundation stones of the house. Those stones arrived on the property via me loading the S-10 every night and driving them over to the house site and unload them. (My husband has a bad back.) In addition, the garage house which took the roof structure of the Skidmore house has a block first floor with stone veneer on three sides. One of our clients had to remove stone walls (by edict from the Town and not his wish) for a development project so I would go over there, stomp on top of the walls hoping any snakes (eek!) would disappear and toss appropriate stones into the truck. I created quite a rock pile for my masons. Thank you S-10.
Another essential for reconstruction is to have the mindset to never throw anything from the original structure away because sooner or later all will find its rightful place. One also should always be on the lookout for period pieces, whether it be sheathing, mantles, hardware or whatever, no matter if you have an immediate use for them or not.
We bought a box of odds and ends , hinges, pintles, iron whatnots that have mostly all been used. We have bought doors and built-in cupboards, some of which we moved around for twenty years before using. The 18th Century Dutch tiles on the parlor fireplace were found cemented in as the top of a modern outdoor iron table. Not only did we use the tiles, we are still using the table with modern leftover tiles from the kitchen in place of the old.
It was already late afternoon and I hurried up to the house site, hoping my guys would be there to help me get as much as I could, but they had left for the day. I quickly drove back to our house, changed into jeans , grabbed some hammers and crowbars and set off in that trusty S-10 passing by my husband's office to drop him off some jeans and old clothes so he could join me later. The men in the truck had gone when I returned so I entered the house and scouted for good parts. I found a few doors to unhinge, but almost everything was Victorian. Although probably of late 18th Century origin, the house had been remodeled in the 19th Century. So up to the second floor I went in search for possible 18th Century recycled parts. I found some good floorboards so took the crowbar and started lifting them. Dusk was arriving. Suddenly out of no where a scruffy face appeared around the corner. All I could think of was Jack Nicolson in "The Shining" with that manic smile "Here's Johnny". I swung the crowbar in front of me as the man asked me questions and I answered. He thought it great we were trying to save some of the house and wanted to help. I let him know, of course, that my husband was coming and I kept the crowbar in hand (This was long before cell phones.) He rightfully suggested that there might be some floor boards in the attic. One problem - there was only a crawl hole in the bathroom ceiling for access. I still cannot believe that I let him lift me up, even with the crowbar still in hand and no "redrum" on the bathroom mirror, but I did and he was right. Kevin arrived shortly and as it was now dark, by flashlight and our S-10 lights shining through the windows, we did manage to lift quite a few boards that night. Those boards are now the floor of the potting shed and the ceiling of the gazebo.
Was this all worth it? You bet ya! Did our friends think we were crazy? We did find out later there were several private discussions among them about how maybe we should be committed, but living in this house is like living in a collection of short stories - incredible short stories.
Being able to take the house down and reconstruct it rather than restoring it on site was an enormous help. Obviously all that initial scraping was easier with the boards not in place. Okay, so I had to move the stones, but the end result is really a pristine historical house with all necessary conveniences - modern insulation (no seaweed like we found in it on site), dry and modern basement, electrical to code, security system, modern heat and air conditioning and even central vac, with everything hidden,not having had to be retrofitted after the fact. Anyone purchasing this house will not have any unpleasant surprises that sometimes scare a buyer of old houses. You really can enjoy both worlds.
Someone really should.