We’re in the process of restoring a medicine cabinet we found in the cellar. We believe it to be original to our 1895 house. It was covered in paint (of course) and it’s been an on and off project for a while now. Fining this little cabinet in the cellar was such a sweet little find. But years later, we’re still being surprised by what it holds. Continue reading
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?
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.
If you are researching the ownership chain of your New York City home, or looking for the builder or architect, chances are you will spend many hours browsing the Real Estate Record & Builder’s Guide. A weekly publication listing all the real estate transaction in the city from 1868 to 1922, the guide lists buyer, seller, amount paid and, if you’re lucky, an actual address, not just the distance from the nearest intersection. The search engine is clunky and it requires a lot of patience.
A bonus of spending so much time poking around is that you get to see some of the building trade ads of the time. For instance: Continue reading
I love peeling back the layers of our house, unearthing little clues about the past. In a recent kitchen refresh ( swear I’ll post about it soon), we came across this teeny tiny piece of wallpaper. (Hand shown for scale) Continue reading
Haven’t you always wanted a portable steam engine? Continue reading
Dear people of the past: this was a terrible, horrible, no good idea.
The People of the Future. Continue reading
(a bit of a rant)
It makes me sad when old houses are stripped of their detail. Not only is the craftsmanship amazing, the old growth trees that were harvested for all of our pretty ornamentation are long gone. I know a lot of people don’t share my opinion, but old houses are such a finite resource, I wish people would think twice before ripping the insides out.
Sometimes there are little clues here and there as to who created all that fantastic work. For the past week, I’ve been salvaging as much as I can from a gut renovation in my neighborhood. Among the items I have been able to divert from the dumpster are 3 fireplace mantels (one in good condition, one which has been severely altered, and one that is basically just one broken piece. All three have the same stamp in the back: Killian Brothers.
(I’m trying not to think about the fact that all the fireplaces were intact until they were ripped out – think of my happy place, think of my happy place).
Anyway, a quick Google search reveals that they were prolific cabinet makers and furniture makers. The Goulding’s New York City directory for 1877 lists two Kilians (Theo and William) who were in the furniture business and shared the same business address: 159 W 32nd Street. Did they make the mantels? Did I find the correct Kilians?
Kilian Brothers furniture turns up at auction on occasion. It seems they were really into the Eastlake aesthetic of the late Victorian period. Google it – some really amazing stuff.
Whether the Kilians from my broken fireplace mantels are the same Kilians of the fancy furniture is almost beside the point; there was someone who actually made all this stuff – not a fully automated machine that packs saw dust into some semblance of wood.
Now, if you still must get rid of all the things that make your house unique and interesting, then please give me a call and let me take your treasures.