December 26, 2009

Hi everyone and Merry Christmas. I know it has been quite a few weeks since I have written, OK, more than a few weeks, and I apologize! I have been in sort of a dark mood with our house and it's not easy to write when you are in a dark mood. Maybe it was the short days and the rainy weather, or maybe it was too many people making decisions on our behalf that they should not have been making. Needless to say, we have made a stand and taken back our Casa. I am putting my foot down from now on and insisting that every choice, option, or decision goes by either Phillip or myself. So if you see folks strung up by their heels, and hanging from the third story windows, you will know that they done crossed us.

Things have been progressing, albeit incredibly slowly. I have numerous pictures of interesting and fascinating internal workings that I will post over the next few days. things like plumbing all done with "Big boy, tinker toy" fittings called Sharkbite, with red and blue plastic water pipes. Heating and air conditioning duct work, flexible duct work on the second and third floor and hard metal ducts on the ground floor to keep those critters out. But I will keep it simple today and share a couple shots of the new skin that the back part of the house has been getting.

I happened to catch these two shots early this week in that one sunny moment.

I promise to get my fingers back to typing and bring you all up to date on our progress, but for now accept our best and warm wishes for the new year!

November 12, 2009

Fashionable Dress for Winter

Quote from a local Fashion Critic: "For Healdsburg only the finest fashions are acceptable on the streets, and we present for your consideration the latest and hottest attire in rain gear. Note how the garment hugs the models body and yet allows ample space for air circulation and movement. Chic in its brown with a hint of green coloring and subtle striping that shows off the natural curvature of the form. This new rain gear is sure to become a staple in every home's wardrobe, and no true fashion forward Healdsburgian would be caught without it this season"

But being the true fashion whore that our house is, as soon as everyone is wearing "it", "it" is discarded for the next hottest trend. The newest and most creative underground winter wear to come along in years... a Roof!
Its true! After all these years of a disintegrated and leaking covering, and two thorough interior soakings in the past month, 227 North Street is finally getting a new roof. And now a word from our sponser...
Do you have buckets sitting around the inside of your home as extra precaution everytime it rains? Are you worried that little Johnnie or Sara Beth are having emotional trauma due to bed wetting only to discover large gaping gashes in the ceiling above their beds, does dinner seem moister than usual because of the dripping water of the dining room table when it rains? Have no fear, Leo is here!
Call Leo's Roofing 707-894-8909
Leo's Quality Roofing-The preferred roofing company for 227 North Street
And now, back to our show... With a new roof comes a new outlook. Something finished! That is an amazing feeling in a house that does not have a single item that does not need to be fixed, resurfaced, restructured, or rebuilt. But we have a new roof! Granted it will not be finished until this weekend, but a new roof nonetheless. We are thankful and grateful to everyone who perched precariously 35 feet in the air to make it happen.

In the "let's revisit it for a moment department"

My Iphone camera caught the following images last weekend, as our dear friend Josie Gay was having a discussion with Phillip on the merits, or lack there of, of a toilet facing a window.

Yes indeed, the illustrious Miss Josie Gay is perched upon an imaginary toilet as she tries to decide how visible she is to the windows of the neighboring house.

Phillip then joins her in optional position two, which is much less visible to the street.

And lastly I want to thank all of my readers for the lovely comments and emails in response to my last post. The heartfelt support and acceptance is overwhelming.  I promise not to get out my soapbox very often, it actually takes a lot of pushing for it to appear, but when I do, I hope you will continue to comment and let your voice be heard.

PS, To Ray Holly who wrote to me...
Hi Mark,
I just took some time to catch up on your blog, and enjoyed reading about your remodeling adventure. I have a thought about the new disabled access ramp that will go in soon on your corner. The yellow stuff is referred to as "truncated domes" and it's intended to provide a visual reference for visually disabled folks that they're entering a transition zone from street to sidewalk, or vice-versa. The law requires this tactile surface, but the law does not require that it be yellow. Most cities specify yellow because it's the most common color, but (check out this website it comes in more colors, including gray. It might not be too late for your corner to switch to another color, especially if you offer to buy it yourself. You might want to ask on one of your many trips to the building department.

Ray, you better believe I have looked at the website and will be making an offer to the city to purchase a nice subtle piece of gray "truncated domes" for the forthcoming ramp. At least that way after all of the work we are going through to restore our home we wont have a glowing brighter than the sun, neon yellow, alien landing pad, out front. Thank you so much for the info.

November 04, 2009

Well, I knew it would come at some point... A Soapbox and the answer to life in the Universe, -42-

The line in the sand has been drawn longer after the narrow margin (52% to 48%) passage of prop 1 in the State of Maine yesterday.
Is my blog only a place where I post cute and fun pictures of our home, and write amusing anecdotes about the people that surround our endeavor,  or should I occasionally pull out my soap box and make a stand? As much as my house is part of who I am, it is only one facet, and I will take a brief moment and step aside from the magic of 227 North Street.

In the "guess what folks" department

Phillip and I are legally married like every other married couple in this state, and I love my husband more than anything in life. We were married after the Supreme Court of the State of California overturned the ban on gay marriage  in May 2008, and the passing of proposition 8 one year ago. However our legal union (Marriage) stops at the border, and is not recognized by almost every state in the union or the federal government, and although we now enjoy some of the benefits provided to married couples, there are many we are denied.

The line has been been drawn in the sand by those of the "Religious" faith, and those that are not. By those who are conservative and status quo, and those who are forward thinking and live and let live. Marriage, historically is not a religious based joining, but a union of necessity, a joining of two clans to produce more grain, and children to harvest it. Somehow along the path, marriage became a "God" based joining of two souls.... a male soul and a female soul... why is that? where does that come from? based upon who's translation and interpretation of the bible? Is the Bible the ultimate answer to life in the universe?

I proposed the question on Facebook not too long ago... A country divided down the center, completely in half, how can it survive. And again I am thinking of that question, and am throwing it out to my readers. Please respond, comment, tell me what you think! But I will ask one huge favor... before you come to quick or gut inspired conclusions... go out there on the net, research, study, and learn with an open mind. Take a look at the lies and horror the proponents of Prop 1, and prop 8 have unleashed upon the world.

And now for the  très amusant part... I read a response to a newspaper article announcing the triumphant win of those in support of Prop 1 in the State of Maine, the writer claimed that this was the will of the voters, well at least the umpteen multitude of 80+ voters who wonder what ever happened to George W. and the glory days... ooops, that was meant to be inside voice, can I really write that on my blog? The writer also claimed that it was the will of "God" and the gays should leave the state because they were not wanted there.... OM(which ever god you choose to insert) can you imagine? How would anyone get beautiful flower arrangements, or dress designs, or amazing graphics and art? What about interiors, fabrics, shoes, purses, belts or jewelery? Architecture, sculpture, ar landscapes? yes some "Normal" folk do these things just fine... but think about it.... no gays? What is the world coming too?

PS.. No offense is meant to anyone of my readers of a religious faith. Religion is a personal choice and I respect and accept your choices in life. Remember my mantra, "Acceptance not Tolerance"

November 02, 2009

Halloween and a Room with a View

Halloween was great fun at our spooky old home. As 250 to 300 kids roamed the sidewalks, many crossing the street to get away from our house, we seem to naturally fall into the creepy haunted house category.
We stood quietly behind the closed door with a small Jack-O-Lantern in hand, who's face moved around behind the glass panel, beckoning the small, mid, and older children to dare to come up to the door. Phillip stood waiting behind it in Grim Reaper robes to greet them. Many decided not to approach... once a rumored haunted house, always a rumored haunted house. On occasion the front door was wide open and at the approach of would be trick or treaters, the door would suddenly slam shut... that one was good! I commented on how much I love the sound of children screaming in fright, only to be overheard by a couple passing by in front of the house, they found it quite ammusing and chuckled their way down the street. So welcome to the holiday season of 2009, we will do our best this year with our limited time and resources, but promise that the holiday season of 2010 will be our foray into big holiday celebrations. The neighborhood is fairly safe this year, however, next year you won't know what hit you!

The weekend, aside from Halloween, was spent hard at work on 227 North Street. Phillip spent Saturday, with plans in hand, laying out the new bathrooms, closets, and laundry room on the second floor. I, unfortunately, decided to do some digging in the front yard around the front door area.  I broke down the temporary ramp, and dug away at the mounds of dirt on either side of the entrance to our home. I guess I forgot how much work digging is, and boy was I sore Sunday morning, or perhaps I am just getting too old for this kind of work. Sunday we started building walls for the afore mentioned new rooms, and a discovery was made that makes you really hate the term "historic". The third floor bathroom has a dormer window being added to it so that it will not be cave like. The city is allowing the dormer windows because they are not visible from the street as they face west toward our next door neighbors home. But if you happen to look directly east there is an amazing view of Fitch Mountain. All we would need to do is build the dormers on the other side of the house, facing Fitch Street, to open up the view of the Mountain. But no! Dormer windows were not common on a home of our style in the 1870's, and as such the beautiful view will be walled up and covered over. As they say, buck up and get over it... count yourself lucky if you do not have to deal with term "historic".

October 29, 2009

When Tubs fly...

Tuesday October 27th dawned on 227 North Street with a monstrous crane parked on the property on the Fitch Street side. Roof trusses were the name of the game, for both the two story master section and the one story Breakfast room. While the crane and her crew were there we asked for a huge favor... The clawfoot tub that had been stored in the basement for years needed to be moved to the third floor guest bathroom. It is extremely heavy, and the concept of walking it up the two flights of very narrow stairs was inconceivable. So with a laugh at the concept, the crane crew lassoed that elusive tub and hoisted it forty some feet in the air so it could settle into its new home three stories up. So tubs, apparently, do have wings.


The rumors are true! There is not a single solitary, tiny morsel of plaster or wooden lathe left in the house. Between Garry and Fabian (Garry's daytime help), and the two of us on the weekends, the house is now a blank slate. Nothing but studs, rafters, and flooring. It is very strange and kind of creepy in the way an empty barn is dark and mysterious.
Garry and Fabian worked their butts off the last two weeks, first carefully removing and labeling woodwork for refinishing and reuse, and then tearing plaster, lathe, and gazillion nails off of the walls and ceilings. They built a chute from the second floor, down the old chimney chase, to the first floor, so plaster could be poured from the higher levels and be piled in the middle of the Living room for later removal to a dumpster via wheel barrel.
Tons of plaster was poured down this chute creating a mountain of broken plaster in the middle of the Living room floor. All of the lathe was tied into bundles and thrown out of the second and third story windows to await the final dumpster toss. Two thirty foot long dumpsters were filled with the debris, who would have thought there could possibly be that much. After the plaster and lathe was removed came the cleaning. Sweeping, sweeping, and more sweeping, followed by hours of vacuuming, and then a good blow with a yard blower. The house now sounds open and hollow, with just a moment of its former self here and there.  The staircase still stands all trimmed and railed waiting for the day when it surfaces will be refinished.
The old Hippies in town have been dancing naked in the streets to hold the rains away, and we ask that they keep dancing! at least for another eight days. By the end of next week we should finally have a water tight roof, lots of gaping holes waiting for windows, but a beautiful new roof nonetheless. The roof trusses were lifted into place last Tuesday as the cap for the modern construction, and when compared to the 140 year old construction techniques, the difference is astounding. It is so hard to imagine how the builders managed back then without pneumatic nail guns, air compressors, computerized pre-building,  laser levels, power saws, and building codes. How could you have possibly built a house back then, without umpteen million pages of do's and don'ts? Without super thick concrete walls and the ever important "Simpson Strong Tie" catalog? Without round nails? The nails in the original house are all cut nails, or four sided square nails. They are actually quite beautiful in their own right, and Phillip has been collecting them from the work site as they are pulled from old lumber, and will eventually have enough to fill a large jar. This coming weekend we will be reframing areas of the old part of the house that are getting some reconfiguration, in preparation for the arrival of Phillips Father. Ed Engel arrives the day after Halloween to begin the installation of electric and plumbing. Very exciting times ahead! Real power that is inside the walls, who would have thought.

October 27, 2009

Poop and Porn

So much has been happening at the house over the last two weeks that it is hard to keep up with it everyday. New rooms are forming on the back of the house. The Kitchen, the Breakfast room, the Gallery, the Powder room, the Master Bedroom and Bathroom, the 3rd story attic space and Bathroom. It is amazing to watch the rooms form and take shape. What was once a vision in our minds and on paper is becoming reality. I now understand the excitement that people feel when they build a house from the ground up. With the addition of each new room there seems to exist what I call the daily panic. Little surprises that catch you off guard and make you question everything you are doing. The Dining Room opening is not centered on the wall due to the placement of new tie-downs for earthquake safety. Oh My God!!! Panic!!! The room is ruined, one wall is longer than the other, and you have to walk 18 inches further to get to the kitchen! Halt all work! So then we spend an hour or so discussing the ups and downs of an asymmetrical Dining Room opening, and all of the options available. Can we move it to the right? can we move it the left? can we make it smaller? can we move the tie down? I vote for walling the whole thing shut just to make the problem go away. But in the end we come to the conclusion that it might not be too bad to have a bit of asymmetry in the Dining Room and we move on. Restart building! The very next day we show up to find an exposed beam running across the new Kitchen opening, visually bisecting it from the Breakfast Room. Oh My God!!! Panic!!! The room is ruined! Stop building! There was such a lovely flow from the Gallery Hall into the Kitchen and on into the Breakfast room. The whole house is destroyed. Forget it all, we don't want to continue, sell the whole damn place. And again we spend an hour or so talking about the pros and cons of the beam, the options, or the lack there of, and come to the conclusion that maybe it's not so bad to have a bit of visual separation and the beam does allow for a nice ending point for cabinets and crown molding. Restart building! My favorite so far was the evening, just a few days ago, when the shape of the new Breakfast room and the new Powder room made their appearance.

I was looking for a picture of a Victorian Toilet
when I came across images of Thomas Crappers 
plumbing creations from the late 1800's. 
I remember the stories of Thomas Crapper from 
my childhood visits to the Seattle Underground
where they claimed to have an original Crapper 
invented by Thomas P. 

The panic set in when it was suggested that perhaps the Powder room was too large and took up space that could be devoted to the Breakfast room.  Over to the house we went with Stewart and Thomas in tow. Phillip, and Thomas both walked through the new space and examined the powder room from this angle and that angle, circled around the area, pretended to maneuver beside the soon to be sink and then sit upon an imaginary toilet. Perching in the position, leaning left, then right, pulling nonexistent toilet paper from a nonexistent toilet paper holder, and finally standing to proclaim the space was sufficient and just fine for pooping. Hmmmm, I always wonder about folks who poop at someone elses home when they are invited over for dinner to begin with... But in case you absolutely must, apparently we have fine space to do it in.

Tying in new construction to a 140 year old home is not always the easiest and smoothest form of building. But we move onward. More and more of the house is being stripped of its plaster and lathe. The house is practically bear bones, a clean slate from which to create. As the last of the plaster has come down more and more treasure has been unearthed. So far six different stashes tucked under floorboards. Porn! That is all this house has had to offer. Late Sixties and early Seventies porn. You really have to wonder what was going on in this city over the years to have this big, vacant, spooky old house in town full of Men's magazines, and other sorts of adult periodicals...


For a city as small as Healdsburg there are an awful lot of churches in town so perhaps our house was the polar opposite, the local den of iniquity, a place for the Men folk to gather on a Sunday afternoon and do men things, like drink, smoke cee-gars, and look at naked women. I guess we shall never know, but I am thinking perhaps we should take advantage of all the churches and exorcise the house right away to expel all the ghosts of "Dirty Nurses", and "Super Bad Maids", and "Spanking Nannies".

October 14, 2009


The rains have really done us in. The new construction is an absolute soaked mess, but worse than that is the 3 inches of water sitting in the basement. We spent last weekend, with house guests in tow, cleaning the last of the construction debris from under the house. There are 2 large rooms down there, one, that is 15 by 15 feet will be a wine cellar, the other which is 17 by 27 feet, we have yet to determine its use. We chiseled away extra concrete, and raked and vacuumed as best we could. We laid huge sheets of really thick black plastic down, and moved all of the old furniture that was left in the house, the remains of the front porch and the exterior, lower, fascia boards down to the cellar rooms to make space in the house for plaster demolition. Our builder assured me that the new floor over the wine cellar would be water tight, and he would cover it with plastic to be sure. I had real trepidation, and tried to get someone, anyone to take my concerns about the impending rain seriously, to no avail. In my twisted little brain I envisioned a huge plastic tarping, very tent like, attached to the house at the old roof line and draping to the left and to the right, so as to shed all the water safely away. But, no!
Our close friend Garry, who has come here from Los Angeles to help us for a couple of weeks, arrived at the house Monday morning to find the entire basement area sporting 3 inches of standing water. The trim, the front porch pieces, the fascia boards, were floating in a swimming pool of water. The antique furniture in the wine cellar was soaking wet and every little turned leg was sitting in water. Water was cascading down the new foundation walls like the lower decks of a sinking ship. Water was pouring onto the new subfloors above and finding the nearest place to vacate the area, headed south into the basement through every hole, crack, and crevice.  I went quickly to the house to join Garry, and I did the best we could. We wiped down the furniture and put all of the legs on bricks to get them up above the water. We covered everything we could with what plastic we had and stapled it down. It was pointless to try to get any water out as new water poured down to take its place. The water found its way under the plastic sheeting in the basement and walking on it is like a carnival fun house. I'm not quite sure how we will get it dry, but we will figure it out. I know there are a bunch of old hippies that live in this area, and we sure would appreciate it if you would get those clothes off and get out there and do your naked "here comes the sun" dance.

October 06, 2009

Floored with ghosts of Vermin

We spent the weekend getting our feet wet with the removal of plaster and lathe from the former and soon to be dining room. Nasty, nasty work! The plaster, worse, its scratch coat (the first layer of mortar like plaster applied to the lathe), is full of nasty ancient horse hair and fibers, and is so disintegrated from years of abuse and neglect, that it just dissolves into a sand like powder. Masks and goggles were the name of the game but even they could not combat the dust and dirt. As each wall was opened up to the light we found, to our horror, every pocket between the wall studs had been home to a furry critter at some point. Nice soft little nests, enormous amounts of walnut shells, droppings, miniature grand staircases, tiny crystal chandeliers, fringe, tassels, and floral wallpapers, all abandoned and rotting as if the Yankees had booted them out long ago and looted all of the silver and jewels. Well good riddance! For now our internal civil war seems to have ended, with no signs of vermin anywhere. Well, accept the darn Pigeons that is. Last week as the ceiling was removed from the dining room we had to battle the Mother pigeon and her two young. The Mother had taken up residence months ago and decided that under the floor boards was a great place to hatch and raise two babies. Ugly little featherless things they were too. We decided to let them stay until the foundation was complete and it was time to raise the new walls. As the ceiling was finally removed it was discovered that not only were the babies still there, albeit they were now much older and seemed ready to fly, the Mother had gone and laid two more eggs. Has she never heard of birth control? Pigeon condoms, Planned Pigeonhood? We were completely at a loss as what to do. So for the next three hours we went off to the hardware store, purchased a window flower box, mounted it to the house nearby, moved the eggs, and then with the intention of drawing the Mother to the make shift nest we captured one of the babies, and moved it to the flower box with the eggs.  We followed that with the capture of the second baby, and moved it to the flower box as well, only to have him take his first flight leaving the other baby crying in the box next to the eggs, and the darn Mother sitting on the roof the whole time trying to figure out what in the hell these stupid humans were doing. I suppose the end of the story is a bit sad, but we tried, and did all we could. The first baby finally took off from the window box to join it's Mother and sibling on the ground. The Mother never did find where we moved the eggs, or if she did, she did not like their new home, however she and the two babies are just fine and refuse to vacate the area.


Today I ordered floor samples. Now it may not sound very exciting to all of you, but for us it is very exciting! We have known for quite some time that the floors in house would have to be replaced, or covered actually. The floors are wide plank redwood, and it sounds exotic and potentially pretty, however... They are in very rough shape. A large number of the planks are what is called flat grain, meaning that the layers of the grain of the wood are lying perpendicular to the surface. What happens with flat grain flooring is that it flakes off in large sections over time, and the more you sand, the more it flakes away. It is definitely strange that the original floors would be made of such an inferior cut of wood, but a discovery has been made that explains it clearly. Wall to wall carpet. When the house was built a carpet company was hired to come in and carpet the floors. Borders were laid around the outside edges of every room and then the centers were filled with a field carpet. All of this was done by hand. The photo below is an interior shot of the house, and appears to be approximately 1895,  notice the carpet on the floor. It looks like it was quite stunning.

 But not exactly our style. So wood it shall be. Walnut to be exact. We have looked at so many possibilities. Hard pine, too rustic, Fir, too soft, Oak, too pedestrian, Bamboo, too green, Hickory, too expensive, Wide plank Walnut, just right. Walnut will dress the house up a little, match the banister, and by using a nail down installation, look as if its always been there. A lovely medium dark glow.

The other samples that I ordered today are the tile samples for the center hall. Encaustic tile, is an inlaid pattern tile that is generally speaking, cloisonne in tile form. The effect will be of a tiled Persian carpet from the front door to the dining room door.

October 02, 2009

And the Playmate of the year is.....

More and more of the old section of our house is being exposed to day light. Timbers and lumber that have not seen the light of day in over a century are squinting at the blazing sun and searching desperately for sunglasses. This picture was taken in the dining room looking up the chimney chase which used to be encased in brick, and now awaits a new liner of wood for gas fire chimneys. Its fun and exciting to open up the dark recesses and search for hidden treasures. Just two days ago Chuck and Brent, our builders demo and construction artists, discovered an ancient treasure buried under the floor boards of the second floor attic room. Lying tucked away and buried there for forty two years was a 1967 issue of Playboy. We handled the artifact with white gloves and carefully swept the dust away with soft brushes so as to do no harm. As the beautifully preserved remnant of times gone by was gently tucked into a large plastic ziplock bag, Miss August tried to unfold and free herself from her prison, but we managed to coerce her back inside with promises of full exposure once this piece of history has been delivered to the Healdsburg Museum to be put on display with other small finds from the 1870 John Marshall House.

A truly amazing, antique specimen, note the .75 cent cover price... 
Ahhh, the old days!

I find the vintage clothing and hairstyle to be quite fascinating,
hard to believe people actually dressed like that, can you imagine?


As more of the house prepares to go up a story, it seems more is torn down. The wall that separates the dining room from the kitchen area was never meant to be replaced, but upon opening it up it was discovered that it was built with two by three inch studs instead of two by four. So down she came. Even the framed in wall in the picture will mostly be removed as it is to have an eight foot opening in it that leads from the dining room into the new hallway. So down it will come. But, I promise that new construction will start one week from today, and the tear down will stop. Instead the back of the house will fill in and rise up to its new finish height.

Choices are being made left and right. Its great fun and very exciting to search and research, and search some more, to find craftsmen who can do the types of work you need, and are willing to do them for a reasonable cost. We will have windows to add to the existing ones and new exterior doors in about a month. The original windows are being kept in place where they are and restored, but any missing windows for the new construction are being handmade to be exactly like the windows from 1870, weights, ropes, pulleys and all. Doors on the other hand are tough. There is not a single photograph of the house that shows a door. They are either in shadow or open. All we can do is guess as to their original design, and guess we have. But I think they will be beautiful! My next post, unless we have another visit from the Crank on the Crankscoot x5000, will be about floors and tile. Sounds kind of dry but I am sure I can find a way to put a twist on it!

October 01, 2009

Bitter party of one, your table is ready

Image created in a collage style based on artwork by B.K. Taylor

I may get in trouble for this one folks....
Tuesday morning, as we waited patiently for the house to be lowered down onto the ground, nerves were tight, tension and excitement were in the air, the house was so ready to come down. The monstrous beams holding the house aloft were starting to bow downward on the ends, and consequently the living room and the library had developed horrible humps in their floors as the outside perimeter walls headed south leaving the center in the upward position. We stood watching and waiting when down North street he came. One of those folks you see around town in those electric wheel chairs. Hunched over, head pushed forward, eyes wide, and definitely on a mission. He rode that chair as fast as its engine would go, hold onto your hats ladies because I think he may have managed a whopping two miles per hour. With that electric motor whining like a dying sewing machine he came barreling down the sidewalk, westward on North street.
Now, there is not an access ramp at our corner, so it necessary for a wheelchair to cross North street at Fitch to be able to maneuver back onto the sidewalk and continue toward town. Well he didn't, he came down the ramp at Fitch and instead of crossing to the other side, he headed down the middle of the street passing beside us as we all stood on the sidewalk. I saw him coming and tried to catch his eye with an inviting smile, but he didn't look up, didn't look sideways at all the commotion, just simply kept driving his machine forward with all guns blaring. As he past me he uttered one sentence...
"Looks like a million dollar pile of kindling to me!"
And on he went, as fast as his chair would carry him. Ok, so its kinda funny, but I was tired, excited, worried, and little bit crabby all at the same time, and it pissed me off! Here we are with everything on the line, playing like we know what we are doing and what we have gotten ourselves into, and some cranky old guy rides by, with a holier than tho attitude, and throws out pot shots. All I could think in my head was... "Bitter party for one, your table is ready!"
I wanted to run after him and just push him over... but I didn't, I am better than that, and besides, by that point he was too far down the road anyway, so I bit my tongue, kept my feet planted where they were, and just stared in astonishment, desperately hoping he was one of the few and not the many, and remembered my mantra.... Acceptance, not tolerance!

September 30, 2009

There's no place like Home............ There's no place like home

Yesterday morning our house slowly lowered and settled onto its new foundation. Like riding a cyclone from OZ the house quietly dropped until the fronts of the bay windows touched down, then came the sounds, creaking, cracking, and tearing. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, she was down and sitting exactly where she should, proudly on strong concrete walls that line up exactly with the footprint of the house. Nearby the 140 year old brick foundation, now nothing more than a sad pile, sits and awaits its new duty as the floor of the wine cave and the adjacent large basement floor.
Reality check... Now that the house is sitting proud, the real work begins. In the next two weeks huge changes will take place on the back of the house. Jim Glazier and his boys will be framing in the new breakfast room, the rear of the kitchen, and the master bedroom. Above the new master they will add the fifth bathroom space and the new roof line. Add to that a brand new roof for the whole house and we will be on our way. At that point its up to us for the most part. Phillip and I will start stripping the inside walls of their lathe, plaster and trim, carefully removing the woodwork for re-installation down the road. In looking over the engineering plans we have come to the reality that sheer walling will be our enemy. In my conversations with the engineer I was lead to believe that we were only sheer walling the new construction and the very front of the house. Boy was I wrong! The plans call for every exterior wall in the original house, all three stories, to be sheered on the inside with 3/8 inch plywood. I am desperately trying to wrap my head around how we make this work.  We have limited thickness available to fit in plywood, blue board, and plaster. I fail to see why a house that has stood for 140 years is better off being turned into a rigid tinder box. But... suck up and bust! and figure it out. If folks that are smarter than me tell me that is what must be done, then so be it! Everyone who knows me, knows I am not one to buck the system, and I politely and graciously do as I am told.
Yeah, Riiiiiggghhhtttt...............

September 25, 2009

NOTICE: Wicked Witches take cover!

Rumors have been flying around town that our house is about to come in for a landing.  Well folks, its true! On Tuesday the 29th of September, 227 North Street will settle down onto a new foundation, stronger, faster, better than it was before! Rob Baggett of Baggett Building Enterprises, House Lifting and Moving, (boy what a mouthful that name is!) and Frank Coleman of All Phase Concrete are going as fast as they can to make this happen. The concrete is being poured into the foundation wall forms as I write this, and by this evening the foundation will be ready. The forms come off on Monday and although things could change, at the moment we have a green light for Tuesday. So buckle your seat belts, grab the children, hold onto the antiques and get ready for the drop!

September 23, 2009

Mister DeMille, please call ahead!

227 North Street certainly has a bit of celebrity flare. It's actually hard to get anything accomplished at times because folks want to look and chat, and if the truth be known... we love chatting! Though the reality of what we are doing is frightening and daunting, there isn't anything we love to talk about more than our house. Talk is one thing, but photos and film crews are a different story. I hate cameras! I don't really want to see how old I have become, so it is easier to simply avoid them, but sometimes they catch you completely unawares. Why is it that only seems to happen at your worst moments, like the waitress who is watching you out of the corner of her eye, and rushes over to ask how everything is, just as you have landed a huge forkful into your mouth. On the day of the lift we were out of bed at the crack of dawn, no showers, no shaving, no preparation at all, and with barely a swig of coffee we headed for the job site to watch the raising of the house. We were half asleep and really excited! When we arrived we actually beat the work crew and had a few early morning moments to enjoy the quiet, when arround the corner of the house came... the camera. Apparently Mister DeMille had not sent the memo to wardrobe, hair and make-up that we should look our parts, or perhaps we did, two beaten down, wide eyed, insane homeowners, about to see their home raised like the Titanic. Justin Whitaker of and his team have created a wonderful short film of the lift, and although we look HORRIFIC! you can see it by visiting,

Now Justin, you know I am just kidding and we truly thank you for the time and effort it took to put together this fantastic piece of film, and if you want to get a tag line... the house is coming back down onto its new foundation next Tuesday the 28th of September.

September 21, 2009

Witty, Nitty, Gritty

Today we will back up a moment in time and pick up the story of our house right after the purchase.
Once we owned 227 North Street, we were ready to roll big time. We already had floor plans and elevations. Our Builder was on board and chomping at the bit to get started. All we needed was structural engineering, and we would be ready to head for city hall to submit our plans for permits. Dave Duncan of Duncam Engineering, was faster than lightning and you could not ask for better. With Daves help we were ready to submit 2 weeks after we owned the house. I heard that we got our permits in record time.... But to us it was 6 weeks of pure torture. The Plan check company is in Sebastopol, and was very dark and mysterious, seeming to never answer their phones, and for some unknown reason they only worked four days a week. So we paced back and forth making a huge rut in the floor of our rental home while we waited, and waited, and waited, worrying about earth quakes the whole time. We had a few wrenches thrown into the pot for our permits, one being the "Historic Evaluation" (see "The Third White Knight of 227 North Street" below) and the second wrench being a handicap ramp, to access the sidewalk from the street. Did you know that you cannot deed any portion of your land to another party if you carry a mortgage on it? There were some who did not know this, and we were in fear of never receiving our permits, but at the eleventh hour an agreement was reached. I will say honestly that I really do not look forward to one of those lovely vibrant, neon yellow, bumpy sidewalk ramps in front of our home. I suppose that the government agencies in charge of creating the whole look and environment of handicap ramps failed to get a consultation from the gay boys, who could have steered them in the direction of "making it pretty!"

On August 19th, the day after we received our permits, our Builder Jim began the demolition of the old East wing of the house. This scared many a folk as it seemed the house was being torn down. The East wing had been added on, most likely, around 1910, and was the worst part of the house. This wing was warren of little rooms and heading south rapidly as its foundation, or that part of it that actually had a foundation, was cracked, and bowed out terribly. Add to that, ancient plumbing that had leaked for years and evidence of a (dare I say it...) a long since gone rat infestation, and we were so happy to see the whole thing razed to the ground.

Sooooo exciting to see it come down and expose the original rear, or North facing wing of the house.
We then took the roof of the rear wing in preperation for adding a second story onto it. You can see floor plans and elevations in a slide show here. Be sure to hit play.

Well folks, with the tear down complete, and the house lifted into the air, the old foundation removed, and forms going up for the new one... we are up to date. And although I know this post was not one of my usual dry and witty entries, sometimes you have to get down to the nitty gritty to propel the story.

September 18, 2009

When Queens come calling

In 1896 Alice Haigh, the Second Floral Festival Queen made a regal stop at our home, 227 North Street. That is indeed our house behind the coach. What could the Queen possibly have wanted? I guess you could say it is the kind of house that a real Queen, with a tiara and everything, would want to drop in on. Perhaps Mrs. Marshall had vital information that only the Queen could hear. Perhaps the royal jewels were delivered into the hands of Mrs. Marshall to be protected and cared for. Perhaps Mrs. Marshall buried the treasure on the land as the ultimate protection. Hmmm, anyone want to meet at midnight to go digging? Holly at the Healdsburg Museum was gracious enough to send this photo to us moments after identifying our house. Below is a picture of Alice and the Royal Court courtesy of

The second Healdsburg Floral Festival held in May, 1896, included the May Day Queen, Alice Haigh (Dixon) and her court. Others pictured include: seated left to right' Zoe Bates (Fuller), Nettie Barnes (Chisholm). Standing, left to right: Violet Lvedke (Smith), Edna Biddle (Stone), Nellie Petray (Lawrence), and Lena Zane (Purvine). Pages (left) Bert McDonough and (right) Van Whitney. Princess is Julia Mehrtens. Ourhealdsburg/festivals
In the vein of the Disney Movie "Holes" we shall now dig holes all over our property until we find that courtly treasure.
Queens Rule!

September 15, 2009

Cement and the Big Boy Toys

I suppose you never really think about the beauty of a cement truck until you need one. Yesterday the footings for the new foundation were poured, and next Tuesday the crew will pour the foundation walls. Very exciting to finally see a move toward having the house set down on a solid foundation. Between you and I, I am most looking forward to not hearing about the foundation anymore. Anytime the house is discussed, it is impossible to get beyond the foundation. I want to talk about floors and paint colors, light switches and bathtubs, cabinets and appliances... but nooooooo, we have to discuss how bad the foundation is, "I can't believe that house is still standing", and how much its going to cost to fix it. So, now can we talk about sewer lines and heating and air conditioning, please?
The big boy toys have rolled in. Just makes me want to get out my tonka trucks and play in the dirt. Here the backhoe is working its way through the old foundation.
And this toy is the valve system for lifting a house. Quiet and silent, with just a hiss of air the house will go up in the air. 
We are now in the position of having to hurry up and think of all those things you never thought you'd have to think about in regards to the new foundation. How does the water main get inside, and back out again for yard sprinklers? How does the air ducting for the heating and cooling system get from one side of the foundation wall to the other? Are there electric outlets and light switches on the basement walls? and if there are do you want them recessed into the concrete? Where do those sewer lines go anyway? As I sit here trying to focus on the Cubic feet per minute of various air ducting sizes, at the same time I have pipes, and wires, and more pipes, and more wires, and sump pumps whizzing through my brain, it just dawned on me that I need a doorway close to the floor for the Garden scale trains to make their entrances and exits into the yard. Sweet! I am going to think of trains for awhile and forget all that other crap. Life's simple pleasures..... Chug-a-Chugga Chug-a-Chugga, Chug-a-Chugga, WOOOOO, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

September 13, 2009

Half a million bricks and a fence

Another weekend has screamed by, and it is starting to feel like fall with the temperature 40 degrees cooler than it was 4 days ago. That is all fine and wonderful, but rain? I know that the vineyards are probably all in a panic and all I can say is "get in line!" Our 140 year old house is 4 feet in the air, no roof to speak of, its the middle of September, and its raining! Yesterday we arrived at the house to find a fence being erected between our property and the tiny lot behind us that we did not purchase, basically cutting off any thought of access to the back of our project for trucks, backhoes, and any other equipment that might be necessary to complete our mission.
There is so much more to this story that I could say, but being a gentleman, and knowing that I should not write it here for fear of repercussions, I shall leave it at that. Suffice it to say that it was most ironic to find the power tools being used to build said fence plugged into our electric service. All I can say is that I am a firm believer in that old saying... "what goes around, comes around!" and with that... enough said!
We have arrived at Sunday and in the pouring rain we attempted to begin the monumental task of cleaning brick. Every single piece of brick that was removed from the old foundation has to be picked up, looked at, sorted, and if deemed worthy, cleaned and sanded against another brick. Chip off the old mortar, and and rub two bricks together to clean off any residue. Seems simple enough, and it is... but I swear there are five hundred thousand bricks, or pieces of brick in a huge mountain, that must be dealt with. But homes are not built with whining and complaining, they are built with one cleaned brick after another, and so we clean. The rain however did us in and we gave up. Old, disintegrated mortar, vibrant red brick dust, and a fresh dosing of rain water only makes for two options, ridiculously expensive designer clothes, that you paid way to much for, so you to could look like you had been cleaning brick in the rain for years.... or two little pigs that dare not climb into the car for fear of destroying it. Me thinks it was the latter. Beaten and deflated we made our way back to the Shack down by the River, to regroup, strengthen, and live to fight the battle another day!

September 11, 2009

The Third White Knight of 227 North St

Ms. Holly Hoods of the Healdsburg Museum has formally and respectfully been dubbed a White Knight of 227 North Street. Holly joins her fellow Knights, Jim Glazier, and Sharon Vallejo. Holly is an amazing and gracious soul who came to the rescue of two desperate boys in search of help. 
On July 9th, 2009, we submitted our plans for our building permits. We were desperate to get them now that we actually owned the house. OMG what if a big shaker rolls through here now??? It was all fine and dandy when someone else owned the property and we were just playing with the concept. But now that we owned it the idea of an earthquake and what could happen to the minimal foundation the house was sitting on, was very real, and frightening... Insurance.... HA!... but that is a story for another post.
2 weeks after we submitted we were told by the City Planning department that we needed to have a "Historic Evaluation" done for the home. We were given a sample and a list of "approved" architectural historians we could contact. After receiving quotes up to and including $3200.00 and two months lead time, I had a small melt down and was willing to throw in the towel. At the eleventh hour I phoned Holly at the Museum to discuss the issue, and she said she would be happy to do it for us. In a week and a half our newest White Knight turned out a gazillion pages of the most beautiful Historic Evaluation you have ever seen.
Holly's credentials and accomplishments are a mile long and we could not have asked for better.
May the light of the newest Knight of 227 North Street continue to shine bright!
Melissa is a fictional character that we have created, and not the name of the House... read on
Redesigning an existing house is a daunting task.  Especially a home built 1870 with no plumbing, no electric, no heating or air conditioning, no bathrooms, and no in house kitchen. I can't tell you how often I am asked about the location of the old outhouse.... "you know people threw all kinds of wonderful treasures down into the potty hole, and you should dig them up!"   Yeah, riiiiiiiiiight, I think not! I am not going to dig through one hundred plus year old poop! forget it, no how, no way! No matter what anyone tells me, it is still poop!
Even though we are doing some reconstruction, and adding on a Master bedroom, we are still working within the confines of the original house and its foot print. We are lucky in many respects that the rooms in the house are quite sizable for a Victorian home. I have seen many a Victorian home with huge grand verandas, sweeping porches, towers and balconies, only to find a warren of tiny little rooms inside. The North Street house on the other hand has nice sized rooms, not huge, but nicely sized, so we have taken this into account in doing the redesign. A palatial Master bedroom and bathroom with grand vaulted ceilings and a walk in closet the size of Wyoming would not make sense. So we are working within the space we have to create new living spaces that, work with the original house, are contemporary in their appointments, and yet feel as if they could have always been there. It is important to remember that we are two men, and two men may think somewhat differently than, say, (SI hate to use the term) a more traditional couple. Take the Master bathroom for instance, do we need a bathtub? would we ever use a bathtub? most likely not... So we say "what would Melissa say?"
Ahhhhhh... Melissa.   Melissa is a fictional character that we have created based on a woman we saw at an open house. The house was charming, and very nicely done, sitting up on the town edge of Fitch Mountain. We had gone to the open house to see it as a potential home for us.  It wasn't the right fit, but the agent was lovely and we spent sometime talking with her. During our visit another couple came in to have a look around. The woman was tall and very "power walker" thin, with salt and pepper hair, cut in a chic Asian style bob, that you could tell was perfectly dyed to maintain its appearance. She and her poor hen pecked husband flew quickly through the house as she complained about everything it had to offer. They quickly finished their tour and headed for the front door to leave, as they did so the agent simply asked if they had any questions. Well, you would have thought that they had been stung by a cattle prod! They shot for the front door, clambering over each other to get out, as the woman brusquely informed the agent that they were already working with another real estate agent, and they had no questions. BOOM, the front door slammed shut. All we could do was stare at one another...
We named her, Melissa.
As we come upon decisions that need to be made, we have a three way conversation... Phillip, Myself, and Melissa. "How about if the Master Bedroom did not have a walk in closet?", oh, "What would Melissa say?" Not that we ever intend to sell the house, but we never know where life will take us and so we must think on what other potential owners might say or want. We do not base our decisions on what others would want, but we do take Melissa and her best friend Mindy (Melissa no longer shops with her husband, because Men are stupid, and Mindy is a "yes" girl) into account. Do we as two boys really need a big walk in closet? No... but, "what would Melissa say?" so walk in closet it is. Besides, I guess I do need a place to store all my ball gowns, or at least a place to lock away the screaming children of invited guests.
On a last note and to prove that we do not base everything on Melissa... See yesterdays post, Melissa is going to HATE that stove! Sorry Melissa, I love it!

September 10, 2009

To antique stove or not to antique stove, that is the question!

In the midst of a new foundation and the rebuild of the back of the house, we have to think forward.
This is a 1923 Clark Jewel that we are going to purchase and have restored for the new Kitchen.
You might look at it and think, OMG they are doing a "Victorian" kitchen. We actually are not. We are adding great antique/vintage moments to every room, but keeping a very contemporary look. Consequently this stove will stand alongside a Subzero glass door refrigerator and a Miele dishwasher.
The cabinets will be tall and sleek with minimal detail set onto baseboard style bases. The uppers have simple single lite glass doors and soar all the way to the ceiling. All of the cabinets will be painted in a tone on tone color scheme, we are leaning to pale shades of gray or green, and will have a twist of a nod to victorian here and there. Counter tops will be honed white marble with a very clean simple edge. But my favorite part will be a 3 foot by 7 foot work table on big casters. With its marble top this table will make great cooking space, but it can also swing around across the opening of the kitchen, forming a bar where guests can sit on tall stools, watch the mad cooks at work, and wait to be fed.
We are not Victorians, and I don't want to cook in a Victorian Kitchen, so we are finding a way to put a modern kitchen into a very old house and yet not let it look out of place at the same time.

September 09, 2009

Floor plans and Elevations

Concepts and ideas for the restoration/rehabilitation of 227 North Street started early on as it took five and a half months to close the deal. Not being ones to wait around we had completed floor plans for the reconstruction before we closed escrow.  
To view the floor plans and the four elevations click here for the slide show, be sure to press play.

The purchase

Chapter 2, the purchase
To those who say that purchasing a home these days is difficult, you should try a FSBO... otherwise known as For Sale By Owner... Crazy! The former owner of 227 North Street was anything but easy to deal with. I know that many people had tried, but I guess we were the only ones willing to stick it out, ride with the flow, and somehow manage to get to the end. Everyday brought a new hill to climb. Offers made and rejected, or tabled to see if a better one came in. Hundreds of potential buyers looked at the property, seeing the fantasy of the facade, "wouldn't it be wonderful to restore that old house", but as soon as they walked inside to view the toll that the passing years had left behind, the bubble always burst, and any remaining hope was dashed to the ground with a huge thud at the vision of the ancient brick foundation, with monstrous gaping holes in it. We managed to look beyond the downfalls, as others did, only to be beaten down by the former owner. Heels were dug in on both sides as to purchase price, and we were left facing that horrible moment of decision...."how bad do you want this?" so we caved, but that was only the beginning. Over and over terms were agreed to and then thrown out the next day as unacceptable. Contractors came and looked at the house, and then at us with huge drooling teeth, like we were fat little piggy banks to be devoured. We made attempt after attempt to get some kind, or any kind of a contract in place, it was as if we were begging to make the purchase and at the same time being treated like bad children trying to play adult. The former owner had lost 2 previous sales that were for quite a bit more money than we had settled on, and somehow we were to blame for his huge financial losses.

To The Rescue!
There were two White Knights in the process that were instrumental in making the purchase of 227 North Street actually happen. In fact without them it would not have happened.
The first is Jim Glazier, our builder.
Jim is an amazing man. A great builder/Contractor, who is hands on and very up front about what can be done and what it will cost in a reasonable world. Many of the companies we talked with seem to be looking to make up for lost business by inflating their pricing, and we did not come to Healdsburg with great bags of money, in fact we will just squeak by. We were walking away, and in rides mister Glazier on his white horse with numbers that we understood and expected. We have done this kind of work before and we know the process and what it should cost. Jim is licensed in the State of California but actually lives in Incline Village, Nevada, he spends his days as a builder and his nights as in immediate care nurse, unusual combination though it may be, it explains his easy going and soft demeanor.
Looking for a Builder/Contractor? Call Jim at 775-770-4400
The second white knight to the rescue was Real Estate agent Sharon Vallejo. At the eleventh hour when the entire purchase was falling apart, the former owner hired Sharon to handle the details. Suffice it to say that there are a great number of stories to be told that I dare not put in writing, so if you want to hear them you will have to get me liquored up! Sharon managed to grab the rope on the left and the rope on the right and somehow tie the knot. 
If you need an agent and are looking for a recommendation? 
Call Sharon! 707-953-4788
After withdrawing our offer on 25 West Grant Street, on June 15th we became the owners of record for 227 North Street, in Healdsburg, California.

September 08, 2009

Inside a spooky old house

Today I am sharing some photos taken inside the house before we started work on it. See the full album by clicking here. Some of the photographs were taken in the East wing which no longer exists. I have also spent hours giving the blog a whole new look. I think I have done ok considering that I have never done this before. Be sure to check out the slide show of historic photographs to the right. Click on the photos and you can go to the gallery to see large size images.

Today at the house the foundation crew was hard at work. The forms for the footings will go in tomorrow, and the plan is to pour the foundation next Monday! The house should be back down on the ground inside of two weeks.