Month: March 2016

NEDS is closing (for real this time)

You know that feeling when one of the items of your bucket list is soon to be no-more?

By now you probably figured out that architectural salvage is my kryptonite. I suppose I came by honestly, a child of parents who built a house with lots of old parts and who still have unused stained glass doors stashed in the garage.  While my parents are reasonable people and have a few items stashed away, I’m know to be a bit more, uh… impulsive or even hoard-y.

I’ve known about New England Demolition and Salvage for a long time. I always figured I’d make it up to their New Bedford warehouse at some point. I wasn’t in any rush, and the local dumpsters kept me supplied with more salvage than I could possibly use. I figured NEDS would always be there.

Well, I figured wrong. After  months of negotiating with a potential buyer to take over the operation, the place is actually closing for good. Everything is 50% off till the doors close on March 31st.

As of yesterday, they still had a good inventory of claw foot tubs and wall mounted sinks. They had a few marble counters similar to ours, but the two remaining under-mounted  sinks were broken (one was cracked, the other was totally busted).


They had beautiful stone laundry tubs that I haven’t the faintest idea how anyone could possible move from point a to point b.

Stone tub

boston nustone

I would be lying if I said I didn’t geek out over the old toilets and the wooden toiled tanks.

Old toilet

wooden toilet tank

There were still plenty of doors and windows, and a decent selection of balustrades and newel posts. There is still stuff to be had, however not anything we were looking for.

If you go: 73 Cove Street, New Bedford, MA. Hours: 9-5 daily. (508) 992-1099 /


TBT: The original sink

In what I rank as the biggest salvage find thus far, we managed to get our hands on the original sink to our house. Finding good stuff can be summarized into two steps: being at the right place at the right time, and not being afraid to ask: can I have that?

Lucky for us, we happen to be walking down the street on trash day, when our neighbor asked us if we thought sanitation would take it. I am so glad we were able to grab it.

The two original bathrooms to our house are very very tiny. I’ve embraced that fact and let go of my old dream of a humongous bathroom. Who needs that? I’m over it. I want original, a fact that has been met with some opposition by the husband, who wishes to have a bathroom large enough so that he can towel off without having to open the door. Details!


Bathroom plan

This the original drawing for the bathroom by Daniel McDicken, the builder. As you can see, there isn’t much space.

(pardon the blurry photo. It was really hard to take pictures at the DOB and not be trampled by developers. A metaphor for what is happening in Brooklyn? Hmmm…)

Before finding the sink and the plans, we figured this must have been a small wall mounted sink. Turns out, it was a small sink with a darling marble counter:



A tiny under mount sink. How cute is that?


We have located a skinny bathtub (29 inches wide), and now we just need a toilet. And of course, to install everything. Details, details…


And then it was March

It’s been a strange winter, and with this week warm-up, it’s time to take stock of the back yard. Every year, it gets a bandaid and a promise that a full redo is in sight. This year, we’re making it happen.

(or so we tell ourselves).

This is what the back yard looked at the start of last year’s outdoor season.


Not perfect, but perfectly serviceable. The wood chips at the bottom of the photo conceal the french drains we installed a couple of years ago. As the season progressed, we learned that the many stray cats in the area enjoyed using our wood chips as a littler box, so we replaced them with gravel.



backyard chair

The plan for this season is to replace the existing pavers with reclaimed brick, which I scored a while ago (and moved 5 times – 806 bricks are a huge pain to carry from point a to point b, particularly extra heavy, 100 year old bricks that were meant to be used as street surface). We did a test patch to see what it might look like.

Brick test

Pile of bricks

In addition to the brick, we’ll have a bit of blue stone, some gravel and new retaining wall to address the heigh difference from the rear of the yard.

The elephant in the room back yard is the deck, or lack thereof. (Can you spot the climb out the window and down the fire escape maneuver in one of the photos above?) We would really like to have one, but we may also need a new roof, and while the deck would be more fun, a new roof would ensure the house stays free of rain and snow on the inside. (which, you know, is a nice perk).

Given my demonstrated skill at not wining the lottery, we’ll probably have to pick which big expense we go with this year. Blah. Roof.

Here is what the back yard looks like right now:


The lush greenery next door, which we fondly called The Jungle, is gone. Some of the Honeysuckle survived, and I will be planting more this spring. That fence will be a green jungle again…

Back yard now

Everything looks dead and sad, but by the end of May, this will look completely different. Here is to hoping…


Oh the things you will find.

Old houses are full of surprises. Busted pipes, wonky electrical wiring… but once is a while you find some odd things hidden in the walls, under the floor boards, or buried in the back yard.

Unfortunately, our dream of finding a wad of cash has yet to come true. We have, however found this:

Petrified orange

I think this is an orange.  I found it in the crown molding above the parlor bathroom. It’s been there for quite some time, since the paint drips are of a color that is a couple of layers below the muppet flesh I just painted over.

In my  mind, I picture a couple of kids playing a game of “orange tag”, and somehow someone overshot the citrus and it got stuck until I found it.

Not as exciting (or useful) as a pile of cash, but certainly unusual.

Other items we found:


Toy Gun


TBT: House Plans

I always wanted to pull the original architectural drawings for our house, a task that requires equal parts patience and luck. New York City often notes the building date of 19th century structures as 1899, a year that is essentially random. I’ve been told that this is because there was a fire, and records were lost. I’ve also been told that it’s just plain old sloppy record keeping. I believe both explanations.

With the help of a friend, a trained professional in following old house clues, we found this in the Department of Building file of our house:

Blue Print

Super awesome, right? Absolutely the picture of what you think an old house blue print would look like, including the color pencil markings. Just one teeny tiny problem: that’s not our house. Not even close!

In the old days, when swaths of brownstones were built on spec, developers frequently filed one set of plans for the whole tract, so the drawings  would be more or less representative of what the finished house would look like. Even taking that into consideration, the discrepancies were still huge.  Not to mention the fact that these plans were filed almost a decade after Alphonso Welch moved into the house with his family.

Date Stamp

Something wasn’t right.

The DOB records note that the 1894 plans for our house would be in the folder of our neighbor’s building two doors down. The above plans were misfiled and belong to a long-gone structure a block away. Seems as DOB’s sloppy record keeping dates way way back…

We requested the folder to the neighboring house and sure enough, the plans were there. Daniel McDicken was the developer of our row, which takes up the majority of the north side of our block. The plans filed covered 5 houses, and looked decidedly less picturesque than the one above.


If you look very very closely, you can see the date of November 9, 1894 on the DOB stamp

This would be a good time for me to describe what the records department at the Brooklyn office of the DOB is like. It’s in a little appendage of a larger room; a hallway, basically. There is a counter, behind which sit two workers protected by what seems like an unreasonably thick layer of glass, given the type of work they do. There isn’t anywhere to sit (or stand), and a lot of the people there seemed to do an unusual amount of pacing back and forth. It is a horrible and sad place, like a smelly armpit of humanity.

(and of course, you have to request the records ahead of time and when you realize you have the wrong ones, you need to make a new request and come back on a different day. Because of course you do).

Anyway. What’s a return trip to the armpit of humanity when you get to actually see your house plans? Peanuts, I tell you. totally worth it!

House plan

These are not nearly as fancy as the other set, and they are hand drawn – not a copy. The paper was coming apart as I unfolded it. I felt like I should be wearing protective gloves, or something. Instead, I was kneeling on the floor, using my back and legs as a barrier to keep people from stepping on the paper, since there wasn’t a table where I could unfold these to photograph.

The quality of the images is bad, but still clear enough to see that the layout of our home is largely intact. With the exception of the garden level, which lost the butler’s pantry and the little room in the middle, everything is still as it was in 1985. So yey for that!