Often during the renovation of an old house, walls open up to reveal all sorts of time capsules — from yellowed newspaper pages to vintage soda bottles — from the building’s past. At the Blog Cabin 2013 home site, the structure itself offered a glimpse into the history of the home and its evolution over time.
“We found evidence of an original one-room structure from the mid-1800s, with five separate additions attached to it at different times,” says project manager and designer Dylan Eastman, who sketched the construction sequence on a photograph taken while the building’s new brick-faced, concrete-block foundation was being laid.
The original one-room house, owned by the Robinson family, featured a crawlspace attic called “The Jump,” which was used for storage — and games of hide and seek. At some point, the family raised the roof to make a full second story with 7-foot-high ceilings. Based on the condition of framing materials and similarity to the original structure’s studs, Dylan dated the addition — the first of six — to the 19th century.
The addition was built by extending framing over the top of existing walls. “Don’t try this at home,” says Dylan with a laugh. “It’s definitely not the right way to do things today.” High winds caused damage at weak points where old and new framing met and the crawlspace floor — never reinforced after the room’s expansion — bounced like a trampoline when traversed.
Once second-floor walls were opened up, Dylan could tell that north-facing windows, which overlook the rear of the house, had originally been much larger. They were reduced to small casements to accommodate the roof over a master bedroom, added after the second-story addition. Another indication that the master bedroom was a comparatively recent, postwar alteration to the building: The addition was built with modern 2x4s (which actually measure 1½ by 3½ inches and have slightly rounded corners) and plywood.
Building materials too helped to road-map the house’s story. Shingles showed more wear in areas where they clad older portions of the home while shingles in interior spaces mark walls that were once exterior walls and therefore additions. Older construction made use of squared-edged “cut nails”; more recent additions utilized mass-produced “common” nails, says Dylan.
The expansion of the building, from a one-room, 300-square-foot building to an eight-room, 1600-square-foot one, followed a consistent pattern: First build a one-story room, then add a room on top of it and repeat. After the initial second-floor expansion (2), a single-story wing was added in back (3). Although most often used as a kid’s bedroom, the family coined this space the “birthing room” for its use as a delivery room during the 19th century.Next, an addition went over the birthing room (4). Another single-story wing (5), which housed the kitchen and master bedroom, was likely added when indoor plumbing was introduced so pipes didn’t have to be cut into the existing structure. The home’s final circa-1990s alteration, a higher-pitched roof, replaced the original roof over the master bedroom (6).
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