Saturday, March 28, 2009

Second Skin

Here is the house just before we bought it. I had plenty of time to take photos, we were in escrow for 14 months. Long story, essentially the halfway house tenants did not want to leave, and used every trick in the book to stay. In the small window, center, upper floor, (which is now our bedroom), is a cardboard cutout of Brittney Spears. You can guess at what the remaining decor was. The white siding is actually a secondary cladding surface. Hideous shingles put on in the 1940s, during the War years, as the house continued to serve as a boarding house. The shingles covered where doors were turned into windows or walls, to close off rooms. We have spent many long hours tracing those changes and putting the house back together.

As we removed the shingles (safety first, folks) we were able to uncover the details that workmen ripped off in their zeal to "modernize" the house. We find this pretty consistently, when a secondary cladding is layered on. Window frames, corbels, brackets, they all get shaved off, or in the case of vinyl the workers just go up and over it, which completely changes the dimensions. That is why a house covered in vinyl skin looks different, although you may be hard pressed to tell exactly why. Those architectural details not only define the style of the home, they provide movement, depth, and "articulation" to the facade. In short, they provide character, and when we remove them, or change them, we change the essence of what the house wants to be. In our case, we put them back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In the Beginning....

Welcome to the virtual tour of the Ward's famed and feared Money Pit, also known as the Historic Owens House, or Ward's Folly. We bought the place in October 2004, and the plaster dust has been flying ever since. I should have begun blogging back then, but just the act of making a sandwich in the primitive kitchen was a challenge. Throw in teenagers, a career, and volunteer work in what we laughingly call spare time, and no way was I going to take time to blog. Frankly, back then, if I had to actually stop and think about what we were doing long enough to document it, I would probably have opened my wrists. But now we are in the final stretch, after many, many projects, and more money than we ever imagined spending, we are down to the sexy stuff, and it is time to invite y'all in to our world.

I'll kick off with before and after photos, to date. The house was built in 1908, by James and Sarah Owens, who raised their 2 daughters here. The home was surrounded by orchards, running from our corner at Wilhelmina and Lemon, to Harbor Blvd and North Street. During the housing boom following World War 1, the family subdivided the property, creating the Owens and Jones Tract. Shortly after that the Owens parents and one daughter passed away, and the remaining daughter had left Anaheim. The house then went to a series of owners, and like many large homes, became a boarding house during the Depression. Each bedroom became an apartment, complete with the holes in our floorboards for "hot, cold, drain". In time the home was purchased by absentee landlords, who rented it to Frank Rose, who operated it as the Colonial Fellowship Halfway House for decades. Sad that the place that survived the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, and the Great Flood of 1938, saw its greatest destruction in the last few decades. But that is where our story begins. In the meantime, I will pull together the photos we have been shooting over time, and share the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of putting our beloved home back together again. Worth it? Yep, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Of course I would be divorced and childless, but I would still do it.