behind the attic wall: part one-demo drunk

house November 1st, 2010. Day of the Dead. The realtor hands me keys to this 1930’s ‘fixer upper’. A friend, upon first seeing the house said “Oh! This house is so you! So spooky!” Darby went to work. My brother and I crept up the stairs with a crow bar. We’ve been anticipating this for weeks. I peel back a portion of the dark blue eighth inch ply board “There’s drywall!” We start yanking off all the blue board, rip out the shoddily built two by two closets. Then into the east room; pink ply and pull off all of those.

Tavis has to head out. I descend to the kitchen and pry up a portion of the vinyl flooring and there’s old fir underneath. I am ecstatic. Ask any carpenter; demo is fast, dirty, satisfying but what I was hoping for was hidden treasure. The house stood almost a hundred years on what was originally main street of this town, somewhere in these walls there’s bound to be things left behind. I wanted to tear the place apart.

Darby gets off work and comes up to the house. He looks around, speechless. I stand sweaty, breathless, grinning; gently swinging the party bar in my right hand. ‘What – have – you -done?! How are we going to live here?!’ By ‘live here’ he meant my contract up at the farm started in three weeks. I’d be gone for over two months leaving him with this disaster I’d birthed. Optimistically, I said I could get A, B and C done before I left. This included packing up our apartment downtown and moving into this beauty.

2011 003West facing room. Beautiful. Under the blue ply board, layers of stained, peeling wall paper.

2011 002East room. The dusty rose ply board was covering mud wasp nests, abandoned but lots of them. They’d eaten out the gypsum and used it to fashion their kingdoms. In renovation triage this room became priority.

2010 2011 005I ripped out the drywall.

2010 2011 006Bagged up all the sawdust insulation. My friend Siebe swung by with his carpentry pouch cause he ‘wasn’t working’ and was ‘bored’. He helped us fir down the two by four framing so we could fit six inch batt insulation between the rafters. When I took off the drywall closing a four foot cavity between the wall and the roof, I shrieked.

2010 2011 009Toys! 1940’s newspapers! WW two propaganda art! A creepy child’s rocking chair! Old tins and boxes, a box of receipts and postcards! At some point in the mid to late forties the upstairs attic was converted into two bedrooms and all this stuff was tucked in and sealed off. On purpose? By accident? Sadly, I had to throw half -if not more- of it out from mice living, shitting and pissing on it over the years. I salvaged everything I could though.

IMG_4684Whoever 1940’s Jack Ward was, I’m guessing he was a tradesman.

Three more parts to come – the toys, World War two newspaper headlines and propaganda art celebrating womens war efforts.

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10 comments
  1. Freaking brilliant!!!!!!!!! OMG, the creepy child chair!!! And I love the ‘watercolours’ on the concrete book 😉

    • lysette said:

      Faye! I’m so glad you like it. This was the gross part, you’ll really like what’s coming next 🙂 Yesss – oddly I hope the ‘watercolor’ stains are from whenever the roof use to leak and not rat piss -uuugh.

      • Oh! I forgot to mention when my parents were putting in cable tv they had to cut a hole in their wall and right behind the wall they found an old Coca Cola bottle from when they built the house in about 1969. Not as cool as your treasure trove though!

      • lysette said:

        Nah! An old bottle is totally cool! I love time capsules!

  2. FoodFeud said:

    This looks like a ton of work, but obviously worth it. It makes me feel kind of creeped out about what’s hiding behind old walls though…

    • lysette said:

      Yeah, about a year in renovating this place – plus I was working as a carpenter full time- I wore off all romantic notions I had about fixing up an old house. There’s a joke you can tell which house on the block is owned by a carpenter because it’s had half it’s siding on and no entry stairs for a year. It’s really the last thing you want to do on the weekend.
      Believe me there is stuff in your walls, every guy I work with either intentionally puts something in, or simply forgets a tool. I however write favorite author quotes with a sharpie -so it’s not always a creep show 😉

  3. Omg, I don’t even know where to start. What an insane amount of work! I’m slightly jealous though – i’d love to tear a place apart and start from scratch. Building from scratch is going to be fun, i’m sure, but there’s just something about totally gutting a place that gets my DIY-loving heart beating fast.

    • lysette said:

      And a total nightmare too! Everything is out of square, out of level, joists seemingly floating in the air. As much as I adore older homes, renovating is laborious, you have to get creative cause everything is working against you. Have I talked you out of it yet? At least you are building from scratch and can get it right from the ground up. I’m excited to see your home come to life 🙂

    • lysette said:

      🙂 I was a total Pollyanna when I bought this old place. I don’t even have a response anymore when people say “You guys are not done renovating?” It’s good to remember where we started from, then I’m not so hard on myself for everything we still want to do, like our currently weird kitchen!

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