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!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

What is This?

I have a skill-testing question for you... The first person to comment on this post with the correct answer wins a prize!

We've been working hard on the restoration of the Little Blue House, built in 1898 and located in Atlin, British Columbia, Canada.

Clue #1: As stated above, the LBH is located in Atlin, BC.

Clue #2: We are excavating underneath the house, in preparation for the repair of the foundation. My husband found this object in the earth underneath the LBH.

I'll check back soon to see if anyone can guess what this object is... What is this?

Mystery Object

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Old News

I was sitting in the bay window room, off the front parlour, the other day. It was quiet and I was contemplating the light streaming in through the leaded glass windows. I glanced down at the floor and realized that the vintage linoleum flooring is not attached to the floor along one side of the room.

At some point, it was cut parallel to the walls, perhaps to do some work on the wood floor underneath? I lifted it up out of sheer curiosity, being careful not to disturb it too much (we aren't ready to restore this part of the house yet).

There are old newspapers underneath the lino. It is definitely Vancouver news, old news! I showed the photos to my dad, and he immediately noticed that the phone numbers only contain 4 digits (ie. 7071) - for Vancouver!

It is interesting to read the headlines. I wonder what we will find when we really start peeling up the floors? I think the newspapers will be fragile, and I'm sure they will disintegrate when we handle them.

My dad thinks they are likely 1920s vintage - what do you think?

Section of Linoleum with Newspaper Underneath
Vancouver Newspaper, circa 1920s?
Dental Work That Satisfies
Henry Herbert Pianos, $475

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Small Improvements

This home restoration is a helluva lot of work. And we haven't really even started yet! I made one teensy improvement recently, and I'm pleased with it. The side entrance to the Little Blue House is the one we use on a regular basis; it is located in the addition on the back of the house. The addition was done about 20 years ago, and I describe it as "functional."

Long-term, we would like to reno this part of the house, too, and make it flow into the 1898 part of the LBH. In other words, I'd like it to look Victorian... This will take time, and it isn't really a priority at the moment.

Here's a snapshot of the entrance taken this Spring, all cluttered and ugly-looking. I plan to install a curtain that will hide the utility area, which includes the water pump, hot water heater and shelving. My next idea is to install wainscoting over the current faux wood panelling. Then I will paint the top portion of the wall a different colour from the wainscoting.

Perhaps after that, we should do something about the horrible ceiling tiles. Yuck! The ceiling makes me think of a tiny cubicle in a windowless office somewhere. I'd like to cover the ceiling with either plaster or tin. Oh, and we must do something about the very 1990s looking lino floor. Ewww! I am going for 1890s here people!

Okay, I will stop now.

Oh well. For now, I installed some pretty sheer curtains on the window, seen in the photo below (it was a naked window). Next, I relocated an Art Deco vintage dresser from the bedroom to the space beneath the window. The dresser still needs some TLC, but I cleaned it up. Voila, a small improvement! 

Side Entrance Area in Addition

New Curtains

Antique Dresser

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Eva's Parka

Today the family went for a bike ride along the banks of the Yukon River in Whitehorse. Afterwards, our eldest child asked, "Can we go to the McBride Museum to see if we can find Eva's parka?" She remembered that we had been talking about it a few months ago.

So off we went to explore the museum. As soon as we came in the door, she noticed the parka prominently displayed in a case near the front of the museum.

Eva Daniel was one of the former owners of the Little Blue House; for those of you who haven't read my previous blogs about her, she was the madam when the LBH was Atlin's last operating brothel. (Click on her name to see an old post.)

Eva had been a madam during the first days of the Gold Rush, when most of the action (haha) was in Discovery, about 7 kilometres away from Atlin. At that time, she still went by her maiden name, Eva Lambert, as she was married later on, after moving to Atlin. Eva operated several brothels before moving to Atlin, from what I've read thus far.

It appears that she was an attractive woman, and that she had many suitors. One of these suitors gave her an expensive if somewhat curious gift: a parka made almost entirely of feathers. Approximately 70 ducks and loons gave their lives in the making of this parka, which was extremely lightweight, waterproof and warm. It was a thoughtful and generous gift in a frigid, damp climate as exists in northern British Columbia.

I'd heard that the parka had been saved and donated to a museum. Today, we found it in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory! Here it is, and I apologize for the lousy photos, taken with my phone...

The curator at the museum was interested to hear that we'd purchased Eva's house, a former brothel. She suggested that we return during the off-season to research the history of Eva and the LBH further, adding that amongst the 30,000 artifacts at the museum, surely there are more clues about our mysterious little house and its shady madam. Feathers and all...

Eva's Parka

Closeup of Feather Parka

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Let There Be Light!

Things are getting brighter at the Little Blue House. I mean that quite literally, as financially speaking, things are not looking brighter... On that front, it seems a little scary. On a positive note, we've had some trees removed though, bringing more light into our tiny Victorian house.

The tree removal continues the work that we started after we bought the house last July, when we cleared much of the small weed trees that were choking up the place. You can see how that looked by clicking here.

The removal of these deciduous trees is a prerequisite for the upcoming excavation. We are going ahead with it! We are, however, not going to proceed with the entire foundation repair plan this summer. We discussed the plans with our contractor, and we suggested that we do "Phase 1" this summer. He agreed, and thought it was a good idea to excavate and to raise the front of the house (the original 1898 part) as it's actually falling down! He will put cribbing underneath the house, bringing it as close to level as possible, and that is where the work will stop... for now. Next year, we can proceed with more work on the foundation.

Bay Window Room, After Tree Removal

The picture below shows the front of the house, underneath the kitchen, after the skirting was removed last week. When I stood in that part of the kitchen afterwards, I noticed the china cabinet swaying slightly for several moments, as if on the end of a diving board at the pool.

I mentioned this to our contractor and he nodded, adding, "When we removed the skirting, we realized that it had been partially supporting that part of the house." Ack!!! It is indeed true, since the posts under that part of the house wiggle when you nudge them with your foot. :( The beams along the outside edge of the house appear to be rotten also. The beams underneath the house are dry, which is a small beacon of light.

The last remaining tree that is in our way (you can see it near the house there) is all tangled up in the power distribution line. The hydro company sent someone down to Atlin  in late May to disconnect the electricity so we could take those trees on that corner out. However, they didn't have a bucket truck with them so they couldn't disconnect the power! Really?? I've been playing phone tag with BC Hydro for the last week, and they kindly agreed to contract the work out to a Yukon company; hopefully, that will occur next week so we can get the last, and biggest, tree out of there.

Next step: excavation! I promise to post lots of pictures. It will be messy work, with a 2-foot perimeter dug up all round the LBH. Who knows what we may find? Buried treasure? Rotten posts and beams? Mice? Gold Rush artifacts? Ants? Brothel memorabilia, buried for decades? Oooooh, and lots of spiders. What fun!
Front of LBH After Skirting Removal

Monday, 3 June 2013

Peeling Back the Layers

I spent part of my morning yesterday peeling off more of the wallpaper in the master bedroom. I found another layer underneath what I thought was the old one, so we are up to 3 layers of wallpaper now.

Underneath the pale green floral - the "current" paper - I found a gorgeous pattern with birds, which I described in a previous post.

Yesterday, I discovered another wallpaper underneath the first two, and it has a very delicate pattern that is shown in the last photos here. We've been quite busy at the Little Blue House, so we will have lots to blog about in the coming few months!

Several people have suggested that we take samples of each layer of wallpaper to frame. Hanging side by side, the designs would depict an important aspect of the home's history... style!

Surveying the Damage, 2 June 2013

Wallpaper Removal

The Oldest Design Found, circa 1898?

Delicate Wallpaper in Green, Yellows & Gold