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Flashback to June 2012: Des Moines Rehabbers Club Meeting

Last June I was thrilled to tour the gorgeous home at the corner of E. 9th and Jefferson, across the street from Union Park. That house holds a special place in my childhood memories and getting to talk with its owners about its restoration was a real treat. Many thanks to Dan and Carolyn Rogers for opening their home to us and sharing their stories of the beautiful restoration work.

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Art Beacon Shines a Light on Whittier School

I was asked by a local art blog to write an article from a neighborhood and rehabber’s perspective about a big art show at the nearby Whittier School.

Read the article here: Art Beacon: “Welcoming a New Community of Artists To My Neighborhood”

And see photos from the show here: Pitter Patter Clunk: “Sensory Overload”

“This house just goes on and on…” DSMRC Meeting, April 2011

This month we were thrilled to be invited to tour the grand mansion at the corner of 21st and University in Des Moines. Owners Aaron and Michael bought the house in 2009 and have been converting it back from being a commercial building as a former funeral home and retreat house into a single family residential home. They still have some work to do and opted to enlist the help of our Rehabbers Club members to come up with ideas about how to tackle some of their ongoing projects.

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I took some video of our tour. It’s about 40 minutes long, so pause the player and give it time to buffer. If you have a Vimeo log in you can also download the video to watch on your own computer, which may fix the buffering problem.

Des Moines Rehabbers Club Meeting April 2011 from Kelli Griffis on Vimeo.

The grand entrance, which faces 21st St., features this beautiful tile floor:

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The grand staircase flanks one side of the foyer:

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Ornate, hand-carved newell post:

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We started our tour in the receiving parlor. Here’s Aaron telling us about the history of the house. To his left is Michael. The room behind Michael was the original dining room.

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Here’s the rest of the crowd.

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The room behind the group is known as the library and has the most ornate crown molding in the house. It seems to be made of plaster and to have been cast and painted on the ground and then mounted to the walls in pieces.

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The decoration seems to include some Arabic calligraphy script, which I’m seeking help in understanding. If anybody out there can read Arabic calligraphy and tell us what this says, I’d be truly grateful!

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From the main foyer, pocket doors open to the formal parlor:

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The formal parlor includes this gorgeous fireplace:

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Pocket doors lead from the formal parlor to the receiving parlor and on through to the dining room. We speculated that another set of pocket doors would have led to the dining room.

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The original kitchen was dismantled and a new modern kitchen is on the second floor. Aaron and Michael plan to restore a full size kitchen to the main floor. An original bathroom does survive, though, and it has some beautiful tile details.

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The second floor shows off this beautiful curved hallway that lets in the light from the tall stained glass windows.

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Five bedrooms and a servant’s apartment at the back make up the second floor.

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This would have been quarters for the servants. The doorway on the right in the background is a pass-through closet to another room and includes a built in dresser.

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A very small sun room was added on in the 1960s with a small addition. We speculated this was originally an open air porch that was later enclosed. It is only about 4 and a half feet tall.

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This doorway goes back to what is now a modern kitchen. It includes two linen closets, which leads us to believe it was part of the servants’ area where they lived and cared for the family’s linens.

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Next up was the third floor. Originally a ballroom, it later became the casket showroom for the funeral home and the area to the left of the stairs was the embalming room.

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This unusual antique ceiling fan is on the third floor. I didn’t hear whether Aaron said this was original to the house or simply period appropriate.

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From there we ventured outside and got a good side view of the house:

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We talked about landscaping questions, including the unique challenge of having nearly an acre of parking lot.

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One of Aaron’s questions was what to do with the sign. Some people suggested removing it and using the existing electrical wiring to run a fountain.

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The brick driveway is a feature Aaron wants to restore and use, but part of it is covered by concrete. The part in the photograph is an example of some interesting ways to fit bricks together around a round driveway.

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Next up we looked at the carriage house.

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It has the original brick floor…

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…and is a treasure trove of historic artifacts, including this unique piece of plumbing fixture. People had all kinds of speculations about this one. Is it a sitz bath? A tub specifically for bathing infants and children? Something specific to the funeral home business? You tell me. Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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A close-up of the knobs:

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A small side staircase led to the carriage house apartment where the stable hands and carriage driver would have lived.

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The place was in bad shape but we could all see the potential for a really cool living space or artist’s studio or something here.

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It felt like entering a time capsule where nothing had been touched for a hundred years.

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They found trunks full of old papers and letters, as well as some remnants of household items.

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You could almost imagine a small team of horses grazing outside the window there.

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That concluded our tour. Aaron and Michael have a beautiful home and lots of enthusiasm about bringing it up to its full potential. Thanks a million to both of them for sharing their home’s story with us. We’ll be checking back to find out how things are going.

Are your sashes slotted? Would you like them to be?

When I left off in my last post (Window Prep Continues) I had removed the glazing putty and taken all the panes of glass out of the sashes to prep them for stripping at Shull’s.

I hope to do a more full-length post about Shull’s, but in case anyone needs to know, here are the basics: Shull’s is a furniture refinishing business in Valley Junction and they are the go-to place for having large things stripped of paint quickly and easily. From what I understand they have a large tank of chemicals and they submerge items to have the paint stripped off. Apparently they can do whole doors, and possibly larger items. Anyway, they had six sashes done for me within a day or so for about $130. For those items you just don’t want to spend the time stripping by hand, or for delicate pieces that need to have the paint soaked free, Shull’s is the place to go. (515) 255-9449

I got them back and my next step would be to cut a slot on each side of the sashes for the weatherstripping to fit into. For that I needed a router with a 5/32″ slotting bit. A Des Moines Rehabbers Club member was kind enough to loan me his plunge router and bit. Now, I LOVE power tools and I’m always excited to get my hands on a new one. This one was particularly fun and I was reluctant to give it back. I may just have to buy myself one someday and find things to use it on.

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Here’s what the 5/32″ slotting bit looks like:

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We had lots of fun at the Rehabbers Club Meeting demonstrating how to cut the slots for the weatherstripping.

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And here are some pictures of how the slot looks. (Remember, the letters I etched in the sides are how I will match the sashes up to their original frames and panes of glass when I put them all back together.)

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Don’t make the mistake I made here. In this next photo you can see I clamped the window on the side I had cut. I found out later the clamp had cracked the sash a little. I repaired it and all was well, but I learned my lesson. Only clamp the solid top and bottom. And use a rag so the clamp doesn’t bite into the wood.

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I also damaged one of the muntins (that’s the wood between the small panes in an upper sash) when I was removing the glazing so I did a quick glue and clamp to repair that.

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Here are my two damaged sashes waiting for the glue to set. The bottle of Citristrip is acting as a weight clamp for one of the sashes.

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Now that the sashes were cut and repaired it was time to finish removing the remaining paint and varnish, give them a good sanding, and prepare them to be reglazed. Check back in my next post to see those steps.

Des Moines Rehabbers Club visits a different kind of house

Last month we held our meeting at the Trinity United Methodist Church in the River Bend neighborhood of Des Moines. The building is under major renovation and we got to hear about the project details and tour the building.

I forgot to take a picture of the exterior so here’s one from Google Street View:

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Inside the sanctuary the historic pipe organ is being protected while the plaster is repaired around it.

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This organ is the oldest of its kind west of the Mississippi.

We toured the sanctuary and learned about the roof repair, the plaster repair, and plans for refinishing the floor and pews. They hired an interior designer to pick out paint colors and local plaster craftsman from the neighborhood are donating their time to patch cracks and prep the surfaces for painting.

We trekked upstairs to check out the balcony and get a better view of the sanctuary.

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The huge dome skylight over the sanctuary was once so covered in pigeon debris that it didn’t let any light through. It has been cleaned and restored and with a fresh coat of paint on the trim, the colors really shine.

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Plaster workers broke channels into the plaster so that electrical cords could be installed for sconce lights.

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We didn’t get to see the lights that would go there but maybe they look similar to the fixtures in the hallway.

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In the basement there were bricked up doorways that once led to the alley.

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The architectural details in the building are beautiful and they’re doing a good job of preserving them.

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The renovation work continues and they’re always looking for volunteers. If you can lend your talents or want to learn a new skill alongside a more experienced craftsman, ask about volunteering at Trinity. They have a work day the third Saturday of every month from 8am-5pm. Call (515) 288-4056 for more details.

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