Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Merry Christmas to You!

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

There will be many posts in 2014, as we have great things planned for the restoration of our Little Blue House.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Back to the Future

I know I'm into before-and-after posts these days, but I can't help it. Now that this phase is complete - the foundation is finished - we are planning the next phases of the restoration of the LBH.

I have included these photos in previous posts, but it is useful to look at them all at once. As a true Victorian home restoration project, why not use the only historical photograph we possess in our plans? Next summer, once we've applied the tar to the perimeter of the foundation, on the outside of the pony wall, we plan to paint the house. Also, we need a new landing or small deck with stairs to access the front door of the house… Here's what it looked like when we bought the house in the summer of 2012.

LBH, Summer 2012

Here is the LBH now, with a new foundation and minus a deck/front stairs.
LBH, November 2013

Lastly, here is our only historical photo of the house. It was probably taken around 1919, sometime after the house was moved from its original location in Discovery, 7 km away. We suspect that 1919 is a probable year for the relocation, since we found vintage newspapers underneath the linoleum flooring in the bedroom, dating from October 1919. We like the original entrance to the LBH (what was the original colour of the house anyways?). Our contractor thinks it will be possible to reproduce this small deck and stairs. What do you think?
LBH, circa 1919?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Foundation Before and After

I don't think I need to say too much here… For those readers of my blog who haven't seen the old pictures taken underneath the Little Blue House, here ya go! My husband took these photos before we started working on the house. Much of the foundation was rotten, and consisted of untreated lumber, rotten bits of wood, rocks, sawdust and broken glass.

Under the Kitchen, Oct 2012
Under the Parlour, Oct 2012
Broken Glass Under the Bedroom, Oct 2012
Under the Parlour & Bedroom, Nov 2013
Under the Kitchen, Nov 2013

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Foundation is Finished!

The vapour barrier has been installed, the insulation is in, and it's all sealed up! The foundation is finished - hooray!

This first phase of the restoration is complete, and we are overjoyed, as the temperatures are starting to plummet and snow is falling… We were lucky this fall, since it didn't snow much up here, and it has been unseasonably warm. :)

We're happy with the work that our contractor has done so far, and although we still have much to do, I feel a certain sense of relief at the moment. The work looks meticulous to me - friends and family who have seen it along the way commented that it's a good job. The crawl space is now a rodent and insect-proof, insulated, vapour-barriered layer underneath the Little Blue House. We must wait until spring when temperatures rise before we can apply the tar to the outside of the foundation/pony wall. Then the landscaping can take place, too, with gravel and all of the fill that sits piled up. The kids will be sad to see that dirt pile go.

After much groaning and sounds of complaint, the LBH seems to be settling onto her new feet. (Our contractor said that the sounds that they heard whilst jacking the house to a level position were remarkable.)

The next phase will be the restoration of the home's original bedroom. You can see it as the furthest left window in the picture below. As you may remember from previous posts, we gutted the room and the team used the room to excavate underneath the house from the inside. I see a lot of potential in that room, and I'll discuss it in future posts. I'm researching tin ceilings, wallpaper, fixtures, etc… We are trying to do it on a budget, if that is possible.

Our contractor will be working on getting the room to the electrical wiring stage in the coming weeks. Most of the other work won't occur until the spring.

For now, I think I will just heave a sigh of relief that this part is done.

New Foundation
Crawl Space, Looking Aft Towards Bedroom
Crawl Space, Looking Towards the Kitchen
Side View of Foundation

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Take That, Mice!

Check this out. Our contractor took some action shots of the foundation project at the LBH. He says that the foundation is now rodent-proof and insect-proof. That sounds good to me.

Autumn Shadows & LBH
Foundation Work, October 2013
Little Blue House, October 2013

Monday, 4 November 2013

Pony Wall Time

Here's a sneak peek at what's been happening at the Little Blue House lately. Our crew has been busy pouring cement and working on the new foundation for the house! This was the next step following the house being jacked to a level position, new beams being installed underneath, and temporary cribbing being placed under the beams.

Cement Base for Bay Window

The picture below shows the pony wall under construction. It will help to support the house along its perimeter, as well as prevent critters from getting into the LBH from underneath. The insulation and vapour barrier will go a long way towards making us more comfortable there, too.
Pony Wall Under Construction

The whole area underneath the house is dry, for the first time in over a hundred years! Check out these posts and beams. I'm thrilled with the work so far. 
New Posts and Beams Under the LBH

Sunday, 3 November 2013


Lots has been happening at the Little Blue House! Here's a teaser:


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

Uh oh. I just put the Halloween candy out and it's only 3 o'clock. Why, oh why did I do that? I was quite proud of myself for not having sampled any treats prior to Halloween... I bought a large box of goodies & didn't open it. Until now. Here's how I'm feeling:

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Not Quite Before & After Photos

Here are a few photos to illustrate our progress so far. The picture below was taken just before we bought the tiny house in Atlin, BC.

LBH, June 2012
The second picture was taken shortly after we bought the Little Blue House in July 2012. Other than a little brush-clearing, we hadn't done any work on the place at that point. The house, built during the Gold Rush of 1898, was settling back into the ground. The foundation was in need of a complete overhaul.

LBH, July 2012

Lastly, I took the last photo in late September, 2013, after the house was jacked up to a level position. People walking or driving past the LBH almost always slow down or stop to check out its progress. The other day, I overheard a woman driving say to her passenger, "Wow! That must cost a fortune!" Well, yes it does.

We are impatient for the foundation work to be completed before the snow flies, which will be any day now. Our contractor assures me that they will finish up this phase of the project this week. We'll see about that! But for now, when I look at these pictures, I feel that we've saved the place from falling down.
LBH, September 2013

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

All Closed In, Well Sort Of

A couple of things have happened during the past 2 weeks. Firstly, I broke my right thumb playing hockey (no, I wasn't fighting). Secondly, our contractor got the Little Blue House closed up!

My thumb hurts like hell, so I can't type very quickly or very much. Ouch! 

We're thrilled that the major ingress routes for mice have been plugged up. That said, there are a myriad of other ways that our pesky and unwelcome rodent visitors may access the LBH. It's that time of year, too. I have an intense dislike of mice. I am trying not to use the word hate, since it's really too strong a word for this situation...

The subfloor in the bedroom is in, and the wall has been repaired, where it was rotten. This is an achievement! The house is closed up. The next step, this week, will be concrete footings and a pony wall. My kids say, "Pony wall?? Mummy, where are the ponies?"

Bedroom Wall Repair, Oct 2013

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Something's Gotta Give!

Wow, I haven't written in a really long time. I'm sorry! Will you forgive me?

The Little Blue House is standing up straight, probably for the first time in a hundred years! We are thrilled. I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago, and in fact, more work has been completed since that time. I will fill you in during the coming weeks...

Our contractor has done an amazing job so far. It is, of course, taking a bit longer than we would like, but that is one of the infallible truths of renovating: it always takes longer than planned, and it always costs more than planned.

Using a laser to check to angles of the LBH, the contractor finally settled on raising the front of the house a full 6 inches! That's a lot. I walked in and noticed immediately that I wasn't leaning to one side. Also, when I sat at the kitchen table (lower right window in picture below) I pulled a marble out of my pocket. I don't always carry marbles around, believe me, but our youngest child gave it to me a while back. I placed the marble on the table and it just sat there, not moving. This is incredible! Every mealtime has been fraught with runaway radishes, pesky peas and other escaping edibles. Now things will be different.

That said, something's gotta give, right?

The Little Blue House, Standing Up Straight

We are extremely fortunate that our original, leaded glass windows did not shatter during the raising of the house. But when you move one part, other parts are bound to move, too. The first bit to break was the floor where the addition attaches to the back of the house, where the original back door used to be, in the kitchen. The picture doesn't really do it justice, but you can see straight through to the ground below through this crack.
Floor Crack #1 in Kitchen

The second bit that gave way was where the kitchen joins the parlour, and it turns out that this, too, was an addition. My husband figured it out first, and our contractor confirmed his suspicion. The original building (probably as it existed in Discovery, before the building was moved to Atlin) was only two rooms, the bedroom and the parlour. The kitchen was a separate building, possibly from Discovery also, that was added on later, maybe when the house was moved to its current location. I don't think we will ever know if the original two parts came from the same place.

Here are the clues:
  1. The door from the parlour to the kitchen, which has always been jammed open due to the crookedness of the house, is an exterior door.
  2. The wall between the kitchen and parlour is very thick, clearly not an interior wall.
  3. The joists & beams underneath the 2 structures run at 90 degrees to each other.
  4. The ceilings don't match up, indicating two previous roof structures, joined at angles.
The crack below is where the house finally gave in to the pressure of being moved. You can clearly see daylight in this picture. The LBH had settled, slowly and comfortably, over decades... She wasn't going to be jostled into a perfectly level position without some sort of protest.
Floor Crack #2 in Kitchen

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

New Photos Coming Soon!

We've been getting quite impatient, waiting for our contractor to complete the foundation repairs. Now it's finally happening! His team is installing new beams underneath the Little Blue House, and using jacks to bring the wee house to a level position. I hope the leaded glass windows do not break during this process - I am trying not to worry - as most of them could not be removed (they are jammed closed due to the crookedness of the place).

Then he will put in some new floor joists in the original bedroom, along with a new subfloor there. In addition, the lower portion of the outer wall will be repaired, where the wall was rotten before...

I haven't seen this part of the work yet, and it's going on now! I will post photos as soon as I can.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Drainage Work is Complete!

It isn't glamorous, but the drainage work has been finished at the Little Blue House. That does not mean that the project is close to being completed, but it does make me feel a bit better. They put in "Big O" and gravel around the perimeter of the house, and they buried it along the rear, where the addition is. The sides and front remain open, awaiting the next phase.

I am a little impatient, as I wish to see the house closed up. We are worried about critters getting into the LBH (not that they couldn't get in before) because the bedroom is still an area where they might crawl in... I still haven't seen any mice in the house, but my husband swears he heard something in the interior kitchen wall. AAAAAAACKKKKK!

Progress! 31 August 2013

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Vintage Wallpapers

Here's what I did to preserve and display some of the gorgeous Victorian wallpapers we discovered in the Little Blue House. These particular papers were found in the bedroom. I have placed more pieces in a scrapbook for preservation, along with the newspapers we found. I feel like a historian these days. It's fascinating, and it is a good distraction from the thousands of dollars that are evaporating... Aaaah, our dear LBH, the money pit. :)

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Vancouver Daily Sun

We found a couple of pages from The Vancouver Daily Sun, dated 17 October 1919, underneath the vintage linoleum in the bedroom. One of the guys excavating in that part of the Little Blue House brought the newspaper over to show it to me.

I'm super excited about it, as the paper is a clue in our quest to find out exactly when the LBH was moved to its current location from the now abandoned town of Discovery. The last of the fires that destroyed Atlin happened in 1917, so we know that the house was brought to town sometime after that.

We are still not sure who lived in the house when it was first relocated, but we now have a good clue about who occupied the LBH in October 1919...
Vancouver Daily Sun, 17 Oct 1919
Check out the delivery sticker on our newspaper in the photo below. I just noticed it the other day, as I was placing the fragile paper in a scrapbook - after 96 years or so, it's falling apart. The sticker has faded, but it clearly says, "Eva Lambert."

Eva Lambert's Newspaper

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that Eva was the madam when the LBH was a brothel. She was later married to Samuel James Daniell, at which time she became Eva Lambert Daniell. Perhaps when she first lived in the house, she was not married yet.

Furthermore, we may surmise that it was Eva who had the linoleum installed over top of the original fir flooring in the LBH. It was popular to cover up wood floors back then.

What else might we discover, covered up, in our little house?

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Digging is Finished!

Our contractor and his team finished excavating under our Little Blue House! This is great news for us, because it means that the hemorrhaging of money will slow down somewhat, and most importantly, that the underside of the tiny Victorian house will finally dry out.

The house currently sits atop temporary cribbing, and we have decided to go ahead with proper footings before winter. Our contractor suggested pouring the cement footings and doing the next phase of work with new beams and posts in order to avoid more settling when the ground is wet next spring. He will level the house first, after installing new beams underneath it.

I showed these photos to my dad recently, and he commented that not only are we "in the river and swimming," but that we can literally see the other side!

It's still a bit frightening to know that the floor had to be removed from the master bedroom, due to the beams and some joists being rotten there... But it meant that the excavation went more smoothly and quickly, because the team was able to get underneath the house, where there was no space to work before. It simply sat directly on top of the soil.

The good news is that the floors in the kitchen and parlour are in good shape - they are dry and we will be able to save them. The floors, underneath the linoleum, are made of fir, and I think they will look gorgeous once they're refinished (someday). We will leave scars and imperfections, as they are a testament to the history of this place, in all its 115 years.

Excavation Seen from Underneath the Bedroom
Looking Toward the Front of the House
Little Blue House, August 2013

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Wood Stove Removal

It turns out that our insurance company would not continue to insure the Little Blue House unless we removed or "rendered inoperable" the second wood stove... Of course, we weren't using it anyhow, because the whole set-up was pretty dodgy.

Would you believe that the insurance company people actually said we could "weld the door shut?"

We decided to keep the stove itself, in case we want to use it in another building at some point. Perhaps we can heat the log workshop? Or maybe we can build a tiny guest cabin in the future? It was essentially the chimney that made the whole thing so sketchy: two 90-degree bends and a whole lot of rust, plus water leaking through the ceiling nearby...

So, we removed the stove.

The No. 21 Economy Stove, circa ?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Great Excavations

My jaw dropped when I saw the rest of the Little Blue House exposed. There is now a great, waterless moat surrounding the house. Our contractor and his team of diggers, along with a local backhoe operator, have created this trench around the LBH. They've done an amazing job so far.

The Moat

When I looked at the exterior wall of the master bedroom, I was appalled, although not surprised. We knew there was a big problem in that room, which is why we had started gutting it from the inside. A corner of the floor felt spongy underfoot and had been an obvious ingress point for mice in the past. From the outside, once the wall was exposed, I could see that the damage was extensive. The beams underneath the floor joists are rotten, and the wood just crumbles when you touch it.

Our contractor made a suggestion... he raised the idea of excavating from the inside of the LBH! Since the beams are rotten, along with some of the joists, the floor would have to be replaced anyways (in the master bedroom). The notion of excavating from the inside, as well as from the front and sides of the house, was something I had not considered previously. The house is sitting on clay and the room available for hand excavation is very limited, so this idea had merit. We decided to go for it.
Exterior Wall of Master Bedroom

The team started to remove the floor and continue excavating, and they are making pretty quick work of it now. I was sad to see the fir floor being ripped up, as we had hoped to refinish it (it was hidden underneath linoleum. Our contractor showed me the flooring and how it had been damaged from being so damp, so I guess it wasn't worth saving. At least the flooring in the parlour and kitchen will be saved; it's all hidden under lino, too.

Out Comes the Floor!

The picture above was taken yesterday afternoon, just after our contractor started from the inside.


Here is the bedroom as of this afternoon. It is interesting, and alarming, to see that when we stood upon the bedroom floor, our feet were less than a foot away from the earth. The bare, damp, un-vapour-barriered, un-insulated, mousy earth. No wonder it was so damp and cold in there!

The other fascinating discovery is that the ground underneath the far corner of the room is absolutely covered in a thick layer of broken glass! It appears to be liquor bottles, all broken, with some rusted metal strapping that perhaps used to hold the bottles together? One of the guys working commented that maybe there used to be a liquor store where our house is now. So perhaps prior to the last fire that destroyed much of Atlin, this was the place to come for booze!

That seems fitting, since after that, it was the site of a brothel. Alcohol, debauchery, what next?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Atlin Lake & Our Retro Motorboat!

We finally got out on Atlin Lake in our retro motor boat! I think the boat is a late 1960s vintage, and it came with the place, when we bought the Little Blue House last summer. We had the engines tuned up and we spent a couple of days cleaning it up. It's a fibreglass 18' Orlando Clipper, and it has the perfect hull design for a big lake like Atlin. Atlin Lake, by the way, is 780 square kilometres, making it the largest natural lake in British Columbia. UFI, or Cliff notes, so ya know!

The engine is a 1979 Evinrude "Starflite" and the 115-hp really moves the boat. We got her up to 30 knots! Whoooo hooooooo! The kids loved it. The small, spare motor, or kicker, is a 1969 18-hp Evinrude. These outboard engines were well made, and so far we have proof that if they are well-maintained, they can last a really long time! That said, I was watching our money streaming out into the water behind the boat...

We don't operate boats to save money, do we??

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cribbing the Crib

Things are happening at the Little Blue House. People stop and stare at the excavation, at the house perched atop its new, temporary feet. A lot of settling can occur over a period of 115 years... The LBH has only lived in its current location, however, for about 95 years or so.

Our contractor and another person with a Bobcat did a lot of the digging, and he installed the cribbing underneath the foundation. It will stabilize the LBH until we can finish excavating underneath the house, to create enough space to fit some steel beams and hydraulic jacks to lift it up to a level place. My husband did an incredible amount of digging himself over a couple of days, so much that he was covered from head to toe in dirt. He says he feels like an archaeologist.

This past weekend was the 10th annual Atlin Arts and Music Festival, so there were thousands of people in Atlin (population about 400). It was an amazing festival - sunny and warm, although a bit smoky from forest fires up north, great music and friends. A lot of folks stopped by the house to take a look and to ask about what we are doing. It's looking kinda crazy at the moment, but people are keen, and they think it's wonderful that we are trying to save this Gold Rush house.

I must admit, when I first saw the new holes dug up around the place, and the LBH resting, somewhat precariously, atop the cribbing, I felt a tad overwhelmed. But now we are in the river and swimming!

LBH, July 2013

Cribbing Under the Crib

A Work in Progress

Monday, 24 June 2013

It's Not Plaster and Lath!

We are more than halfway through tearing off the old wallpaper in the bedroom of the LBH. I assumed that we'd find plaster and lath underneath it all, but it appears I was wrong! It is simply rough boards, with some pretty large gaps. There was a layer of linen next to the wood, and base paper, followed by at least 6 different wallpapers! The ceiling has about 3 papers that I've counted thus far.

The most unpleasant factor was the old spiderwebs, mouse nesting material and mouse poo that rained down on our heads as we peeled off the ceiling paper. There are large gaps in the attic boards up there, so I think the stuff had just accumulated there over the past 115 years... go figure. Holy crap.

We will have to decide how to proceed now. Will it be plaster to fill in the gaps, then wallpaper? I have many questions. We'll be sure to fill you in!