Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween costume

We were going for the whole "haunted house" theme, but bathed in sunshine like this doesn't make the House very creepy. We did have one animated spider above the front door that scared all the trick-or-treaters. Very cool. And, we were giving away home made brownies, which made us very popular. There is also a "haunted" graveyard on the front lawn, but it's very hard to photograph because of the slope of the hill.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Muddy Waters

We were so close... Then we were awoken this morning by the sound of rain against the window sills. The crew planted the flowers yesterday and installed part of the irrigation system. It was just a matter of putting the topsoil and grass.

And now, we have mud slides. Well, nothing that dramatic, but close enough in my mind.

P.S. Notice the name of this machine. Interesting.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Something interesting happened over the weekend....

I was contacted by a Harry Fenn biographer. Her name is Sue Rainey, and she has published several books and articles on Harry Fenn and his works. She is currently working on his biography, which I am very pleased about. I hope we can help each other. Here is some information about her that I found on Internet:

"Sue Rainey is historian of American graphic arts, with particular interest in the artists who drew landscapes and cityscapes for periodical and book illustrations. A member of the American Historical Print Collectors Society, she holds degrees from Duke and Columbia Universities. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia."

She is sending me her works. This is really a fantastic discovery. I was wondering if there was anyone else out there that liked his work and was interested in him as much as we are now. Obviously, our motives are different, and one year ago we didn't know Harry Fenn from the hole in a wall. Why hasn't it ever occurred to us to search Amazon for anything Fenn related?

So, here it is. Sue Rainey's book on Fenn's work titled "Creating Picturesque America". Enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Clearing and Grading and Drainage - done!

It was a very loud week. The baby had trouble sleeping with all the machinery working under her window, but overall, she's been making it up at night. And, they are almost done. Monday the top soil goes in, and digger and scraper are being shipped off. Thank God. Quiet is good.

With the rain coming over the weekend, everything is covered with tarp.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Step Two - Grading

The guys from Terra Graphics are really amazing. So professional and considerate. I can recommend them to anyone without any hesitation. And yes, that's all the dirt that they had to remove.

This is what the new backyard looked like at the end of the day. The ditch at the wall is for the new drainage that is going in tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Step One - Clearing

And here are the boys supervising the work. Or, really, having fun looking at the machines.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Deer fence - done!

Stage 2 of the backyard project, deer fence, went up today. The guys were here for almost 6 hours. Here are some photos:

Still can't get over the fact how big the backyard actually is. There will be some quality sports played when everything is finished. I'm loving the sunlight.

These were taken from the roof. I was there with one of the contractors and a chimney guy to try and get the scope set for the chimney work. I know, what else, right?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Backyard - before photos

Here it is, after the tree guys went through. What a difference! We called the landscape designer and told her we don't need her any more.

Has to be said: the tree chipper - very loud. Glad we were not home for that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The tree guys were here today, cutting down the little trees and bushes in the backyard, trimming the large linden tree, and trimming basically all around. The amount of light that is now penetrating the back of the House is fantastic. And it looks so spacious! Oh, we are liking this project...

The roof (and front porch, and windows) project, not so much. We heard an approximate number that should cover all of it, and it took my husband and me 3 beers and 2 hours to get the power of speech back. And we haven't slept all night. Clearly, we didn't plan to do everything this year anyway, but... Wow!

We told the architect to get the drawings for the roof portion done ASAP, so we can go to bid as early as next week. The dripping is really starting to annoy us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday!

I like this concept of Wordless Wednesday. Very convenient if you don't have time or inclination to write. Here is a photo of Mr. Fenn in his relatively "younger" days. I just love the mustache.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Star Ledger and The Cedars

I will have you know that The Star Ledger, New Jersey's largest local newspaper, will publish an article about the House and what we are doing here. Aha!

The local journalist is coming tomorrow morning to talk to us. We've already had the photographs taken a few weeks back. Just the kids playing in the Hall. Figured it would make for a nice contrast - 125-year-old stairs and windows and two children, oldest of which just turned 2.

I will keep you updated on when the article will be published, and will certainly post the link as well.

P.S. Still reeling from speaking to Fenn's great-great-great-granddaughter yesterday. I had a really hard time falling asleep. Now I want to find the rest of his descendants. [smile] As if I need another project.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fenn Family

This is so exciting, I can't type fast enough for everyone to read.

I have been contacted by the great-great-grandchild and great-great-great-grandchild of Harry Fenn (is that too many "greats"?). They are scattered along the East Coast, but they are out there. And they still have in their possession letters, photographs, paintings. WOW!!! And what is even more amazing, they are all now reading my blog.

So, welcome Fenn family! Looking forward to meeting you all.

I can't sit still! I want to get in a car and go visit them NOW!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pricing of the work

The architect was here today with one of the prospective contractors for a walk-through and to give us his opinion on the budget. We took him through and around the House and showed him the entire "wish list" of future projects. We snooped around for about 2 hours. In the process, we ended up in the attic, and our toddler, as every other toddler, loves closing the doors, and he did so. I was absolutely shocked at the site - the doors that looked old, chipped, cracked, and downright awful from the hallway, looked, well, amazing. It was unbelievable. I could barely contain myself. I was jumping up and down from joy and kissing my son. He wasn't sure what happened, but he went around the House for the rest of the day closing the doors, hoping to get the same reaction.

Since I am at the loss for words on how to describe these amazing doors, here is a photograph.

They look practically brand new with only a coat of dust and soot to tell the age. And here is one from the hallway.

Not very impressive, right? OK, the paint HAS to come off. As soon as possible.

What else are we going to uncover over the years, and how much of that will be this magnificent?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Drip, drop, drip, drop

My sister was using the guest bathroom this morning, and I heard the distinct dripping sound inside the wall. I was almost afraid to tell my husband, as he will probably throw his hands in the air and want to sell the House. [smile]

It has to be said, we do have the best plumber in the world. After explaining the situation, he said the noise could be from the hot water pipes expanding and if I didn't see any wet spots on the walls, it could be nothing. He also suggested to have a little experiment by running cold water for a few minutes and checking the main sewer pipe in the basement at the same time. If the pipe is wet, than he would know it's a drain leak, and that would be easier to fix. Phew. Sounds good, right? Except I don't know what the grades of "easy" and "easier" are in the plumbing world.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Second meeting with the Architect...

Also brought us a quote for the custom windows we need. This project is a sticker shock after sticker shock for us. That being said, I simply can't understand why is everything so expensive. We can't even put a nail into the wall without costing us at least a $1,000. This makes me so angry. And, unfortunately puts serious limits on how much work can be done at the House.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Our thanks go out to C. M. for sending us the beautiful card of Harry Fenn's "other" home, 284 Park Street. I drove by it today again, and I have to say, while the facade is in great condition, it looks really crowded on that small lot. There really should be a higher limit on how much you can subdivide your lot and how far away the neighbors should be. Beautiful house, though.

Door knobs and door hardware issues

I am about to faint from hunger, so I'll keep this one short and sweet. A few months ago I purchased a crate full of old, glass door knobs, since we couldn't imagine ourselves living one more day with the brass horror that was installed on our beautiful wooden doors. Somebody, somewhere, sometime has decided that having those brass "things" would be a good idea. Not.

And this is how a crate of old glass knobs looks like. I can't complain too much, since we got them dirt-cheap, but still, with little elbow grease the guy who sold them to use could have made a small fortune on certain auctioning website. Nonetheless.

The little man of the House decided that he would like to get in on the action, so he helped us scrub off several decades of paint, dirt, food, rubber bands, hair, and various other things that we still don't know how to categorize. And this is the final product:

How much would you pay for it? [joking]

Anyway, for about 4 months, these knobs have been sitting on our kitchen counter, waiting to be installed. The problem? Plates and rosettes. And door openings.

All doors nowadays come pre-bored with 2-3/8" holes for hardware installation. That is because most knobs or rather backsets now are, you guessed it, are 2-3/8" or even 2-3/4". Why is this a problem for us? Well, our doors had all of the old hardware removed, the holes increased, and new hardware installed. To make matters worse, the manufacturer made damn sure that we can't use their locks and rosettes with our own knobs. That is how we spend the last 4 months searching for appropriate hardware and the knobs collecting dust and cobwebs on our kitchen counter. The idea was to get the hardware that closely matches what was there before, just larger to cover the bigger holes.

Unfortunately, as we were doing the research, we came upon some examples of Victorian-era doors stripped of all the paint that accumulated over the decades and restored to their original beauty. So, the knobs are back in the crate, safely wrapped in old newspapers, until we find the time and the tools to restore all the doors. Mostly waiting for warm weather, really, since we can't really consider taking off the doors with the winter approaching. Brrrrr, scary heating bill on the horizon...