It’s been quiet on the Alameda old house history blog for the last month or so, but time to get back into the swing of things as the kids return to school, and as the weather transitions to more research-friendly conditions like cloudy, cool and wet. Actually, I think this stretch from now through late October holds some of my favorite Oregon weather.
In addition to perking along with a few research projects this summer (but not much blogging), we’ve been working on a kitchen remodel in our almost-hundred-year-old house. We’ve tried to be faithful to the historic design concepts even though we are using standard current kitchen technology. We’ve been fortunate to have a great architect in Arciform and an excellent contractor in Joe Petrina and Petrina Construction. You can read more about our kitchen adventure here, and maybe share your own pearls of wisdom about surviving a kitchen remodel.
As we’ve worked through the remodel process, we’ve kept a keen eye for clues from the past, and we’ve found some interesting items…nothing earth shattering, but some quaint signs of the time. Thanks to some insulating material (as in crumpled up newspaper) we confirmed the long-held thought that a back porch extension was made to the house sometime in 1930. Below is a clip about the Reo Convention coming to Portland, from the Sunday Oregonian on February 2, 1930.
Here’s an interesting scoop about the world’s largest passenger plane — a 30-seat Fokker – coming to Portland. And below that, from January 26, 1930, a story about a record order expected for new Chevrolets to keep up with a booming demand for new cars. Apparently, the market had not yet found the bottom. Hmm.
But probably one of the most interesting finds during the remodel was the signed name of our original builder, William B. Donahue, who we have profiled here on the blog. We found this little gem buried deep inside a wall, signed in what looks like blue grease pencil or blue chalk on the back of a wainscot panel that faces our breakfast nook, on the other side of the kitchen wall. Check it out:
Because we’ve found documents and letters sent by Donahue years after his construction endeavors, we think we can recognize the handwriting. If you look to the left of the crossbrace, you can see the “#1.” Could be that Donahue was sorting out the plywood he wanted for the wainscot, and this had a number 1 grade side (the other side). Not sure. But it sure was a treat to find.
When you are working on your renovations, be sure to tell the contractor and the crew that you are interested in old house archaeology. You might even ask them for their stories about the most unusual items they’ve ever found working on these time capsules we call our homes.
What have you found?