Another Question – That dratted hangey thing

Posted by on Dec 8, 2011 in Foyer/Halls, History | 14 comments

There’s been a certain decorative element that has bothered me since we bought the house. However, as I mentioned before, I might be the only one who harbors such a pointed sentiment of dislike. Others have agreed that it doesn’t really seem to fit the house but some people like it.
It’s the strange moroccan/’70’s semi-bead curtain that hangs in the doorway from the foyer into the little mailroom/anteroom and into the second parlor. It obstructs the view of the gorgeous little light fixture in that small central anteroom and basically I think looks like crap.

Foyer - Hanging Piece "Before"

Last night when we were tentatively pulling and prodding the wainscoting we got up on a ladder and took the damn thing off – it was just a few screws:

Taking it down

Here it is with it off:

Then we noticed something:

Yes, that says Patent Sep 15, 1885. Shit.
Could this much maligned piece of carved wood with odd beads hanging a bit too low for tall people actually be original to the house? Was that archway made for it, were they cast together? Did Moise add a dash of exoticism to his designs when he built the house?

We are now faced with another dilemma speaking to the root of the question: What do we owe the house and its historic nature? Do we own this house and everything in it? Or do we allow ourselves to be cast as custodians for a home created by Moise Waldhorn 120 years ago and perhaps merely caretaking it for our children or the next owner?

But if we go down that path, it’s a slippery slope until we start putting period wallpaper on the ceiling and doilies over our water jugs and we are suddenly living in someone’s grandmother’s house.

On the flipside, I feel we do owe the house at least some thought before we change things that are original, because most of those changes cannot be undone. We won’t be painting the detailed wood mantles white. They’ve survived this long without being painted and that’s rare. We don’t want to be cast as the assholes who come in and do X when it’s gone 120 years without X.

So do we put this thing back up because it’s original? Or do we take it down and ask the plasterers to fill in the notch that it sat in? We need to decide (like the wainscoting) rather quickly since the plasterers will be starting any day now. Or do we put just the top arch back up and leave the stupid dangly things off?

Either way, I don’t think I want the dangly things back, even if they are original…Despite his exquisite taste in most things, it’s very possible that Moise and I simply differ on some aspects of design.

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Historical Research – Part 5

Posted by on Oct 29, 2011 in History | 4 comments

In which we find out exactly how old the house is and discover Victorian facebook entries.

At this point we were sure something had happened in 1892 but weren’t so sure we would ever know exactly what.  We left the Notarial Archives with an expensive stack of printed copies of the documents of sale and extreme hunger because we’d spent all afternoon there and missed lunch.

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Historical Research – Part 4

Posted by on Oct 29, 2011 in History | 1 comment

In which we trace the notarial history and find that a big flag in the 1890’s.

It turned out that the very next day was the last day in the National Archives month of October in which the Notarial Archives was giving a tour to the public.  We set off to the Notarial Archives downtown on the floor below the office of Mortgages and Conveyances we had spent so long in with those big books and were treated to a lovely tour of the small offices crammed full of great books of recordings going all the way back to the 1700’s.

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Historic Research – Part 3

Posted by on Oct 29, 2011 in History | 3 comments

A few more clues…

At this point we knew that Moise Waldhorn owned it from 1890-1900 and sold it to Herman Levy after 1900.  We knew that George Powell had it in 1880.  But the troubling this was, we weren’t sure it was the same house. So it was time to visit the Notarial Archives.
(To catch up on our story read parts 1+2 below).

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Historic Research – Part 2

Posted by on Oct 28, 2011 in History | Comments Off on Historic Research – Part 2

In which we do genealogical research and learn that people married their neighbors.

Quite some time passed with us blithely telling people that the house was built in the 1850’s-1860’s, referring to the carriage house out back as “slave quarters” and insisting that the peeling paint we had seen up in the second floor of that carriage house was shaped like a black woman who used to live there in antebellum days. But the thing is we weren’t really sure…

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Historic Research – Part 1

Posted by on Oct 28, 2011 in History | Comments Off on Historic Research – Part 1

In which we trace the sales history of the house back to 1898 and hit a dead end.

The first thing we did when researching the house was to go to the office of Mortgages and Conveyances and do a title search.  Each document of sale is recorded there and you can do an initial search on the computer which will lead you to a big bound book (like 2 feet x 2 feet and a good 8 inches thick bound in old board and leather) and you pull it out and find the document.  Then each document references the previous sale of the same property by folio and book number, so you go and pull out another 20 pound book and leaf through until you find yours and so on.

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