The house and I get acquainted

Today the house and I got to spend some time together for the first time. We seem to be getting along pretty well already. I keep thinking of more and more things I want to change though. Hopefully that doesn’t keep up.

A little background on my house: it’s a pretty typical South Philly “working man’s row house.” The city’s records say it was built in 1933, but maps show that the block was already developed by 1895. The downstairs looks like it could be from 1933 though. The living/dining room is pretty open and the woodwork downstairs looks nothing like what’s upstairs. Most of the house has thin top-nailed oak flooring. It’s not the fanciest stuff but I’m kind of in love with the dark wood bands inlaid around the edges downstairs.

I started pulling things apart right away, but here are a few pictures I snapped first.

Living room, front

Living room and vestibule

 

Stairs
Stairs and dining area

P1010258

Back 1

Back

Back 2

Really skinny part of the back

Back 3

The part of the second floor that makes my back yard dark

Upstairs hall

Comically narrow upstairs hall

Back bedroom

Back bedroom

Middle bedroom

Middle bedroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

And I made some exciting discoveries today. I took off the radiator covers in the living room. I like the radiators better, and they’re more energy efficient. And behind them there is raised paneling on the walls, and the sides are angled inwards! I don’t think you’ll ever be able to see it – I plan on leaving the really deep window sills that were added in the 30’s – but I’m still pretty excited it’s there.

Raised paneling behind radiators

Pretty fancy for the nook behind a radiator

Some previous owner installed plywood paneling around the windows. I don’t know why. I ripped a piece off because I had to know what was underneath. Nothing bad!

Living room window casings

Living room window casings

And I’ve started to think I’d really like to see an exposed brick wall on the side where the stairs are. I did a little test inside a closet. I pulled chunks of horse hair out of the plaster so you know it’s old.

A whole wall of this?

A whole wall of this?

What do you think; worth it? Taking the plaster down would probably make my life suck for a little while.

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19 thoughts on “The house and I get acquainted

  1. Matt Karlson

    Chad, this is awesome!! Can’t wait to see how the renovations pan out! Let me know if you have questions on anything Real Estate or the market during the process.
    Thanks!
    Matt Karlson

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  2. BJ Johnson

    I love it Chadd! The floors are just lovely! I have always been a fan of exposing brick and stone too…In my original home I exposed wood siding…and my house in Wayne 3 walls of stone! The paneling is indeed a “find”…no dust bunnies can hide under there either!

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    1. chadscrookedhouse Post author

      I should take a picture of how much dust was hiding behind those sheet metal radiator covers. No valuables unfortunately.

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  3. missgabb

    Chad, it was a pleasure to meet you the other day! I look forward to watching the ideas and progress!! Hopefully, before we both know it, mostly completed projects will be upon both of us… Your neighbor from around the corner, Gabby

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    1. chadscrookedhouse Post author

      Gabby, what is this “completed project” you speak of? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one in the wild.

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  4. Melinda

    Ouu this will be fun! Based on the photos you posted the house actually looks pretty good to me – but I know how deceiving photos can be. 🙂 I’m looking forward to finding out if you decided to go with exposed brick or not. The plaster looks nice but I’m a sucker for row houses with exposed brick. Your living room woodwork reads very 1890’s to me, maybe the 1933 date is from a later renovation?

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    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      I love how you’re discovering everything wrong with my house in the same order that I did. The paneling in the radiator alcoves is original, but when the house was built there was a chunky square newel on the stairway and it turned 90 degrees and went into the dining room. Then there was an open arch separating that from the living room, and possibly a separate foyer in addition to the vestibule, and all this in a space that is (including the stairway) only about 13×26.

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      1. Melinda

        Wow! I’m having a super hard time even imagining that! But the square newel post makes a ton of sense – the one thing in your living room that was making be doubt 1890’s was the newel and railing. If they’re not original, then that makes it make a lot more sense. 🙂 How did you figure this all out about your house? We haven’t been able to find any original drawing of ours so we’re having to play detective any time we open up a wall.

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      2. Chad's Crooked House Post author

        I’ve heard from neighbors – there are 50 houses like mine on the block – and found the old plumbing from the original gas fixtures. There was one halfway between the vestibule and the stairway, which I assume was for a hall. And the stairways like mine were very popular in 20th Century colonials, even into the 1950’s.

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      3. Melinda

        Ah hah – I forgot that your neighbors homes would be similar! 😀 That’s fantastic. Every house in our neighborhood is different, though we have seen a few pop up using the same building materials as ours (same sinks, same brick, etc) which help to give us clues as to what may or may not be original, but I’d kill to get original floorplans. 🙂 (Well, not kill, but bribe heavily with cupcakes or something!)

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      4. Chad's Crooked House Post author

        Well, living in a neighborhood where every house is a different design isn’t so bad 😛 Mine is the original cookie cutter housing development, more or less. No old people around who would remember it?

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      5. Melinda

        Unfortunately the woman who owned our house before us lived here from her 40’s to her 90’s when she passed away, and doesn’t seem to have had many visitors. Even our next door neighbors and the family down the block who’s lived here since the neighborhood was built had never been inside the house until the estate sale before the house was put up on the market. We have gotten some old exterior photos of our house from 15-20 years ago though, our entire front yard used to be hedge and cedar trees! Wild to think about. 🙂

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      6. Chad's Crooked House Post author

        And as far as homes being similar, almost every house I looked at was on a lot 14 feet wide and somewhere around 50 feet deep. It was almost like picking out options on a development home. They all had pretty much the same layout because there’s only so much you can do with such a tight space. A lot had the bathroom in the back and the second bedroom in the middle. I like my way better; it puts more windows in the bedroom.

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      7. Chad's Crooked House Post author

        Also, I know that that the Craftsman casings downstairs are not original. 1930’s was just my guess, mainly because the doorknobs are very art deco and I thought they’d be more traditional if they were older.

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    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      That could be sort of near me… street names in Philly are standardized so the same street can stop and end and have the same several miles away. There’s very little architectural variety in these basic rowhouses though. Builders figured out the layout that worked on narrow lots and copied it by the thousand.

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