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Winter Interior Work

The one up side to winter is that it forces us to stay inside, which means we focus our energy on the interior of the house. We’re so incredibly close to finishing soo many projects, all of which involve removing paints from various surfaces. And there are so many ways to remove paint. You can use a heat gun, chemical gels (of various colors), special milk paint remover, and Steffi’s favorite: dental picks. Here are a few things we’ve been working on and hope to finish before the warm weather beckons us outside to the garden.

This window probably hadn’t been opened in many, many years. A little work with the heat gun to loosen it up around the edges, followed by some pushing and pulling, and the window was open! Additionally, the hardware had been covered with many layers of paint, but once it was all cleaned off it worked perfectly. Seriously, who paints the hardware?

Let there be fresh air!

Let there be fresh air!

One of the cooler finds buried under all those layers of paint on the window was this old brass storm window tack. As far as we can tell there would have been screens for the windows on each side of the fireplace. The numbers would have allowed you to match the screen to the correct window.

Brass Storm Window Number Tacks

The brass storm window number tack hiding under all that paint.

Another project we’re working on is refinishing the last two doors on the built-in cabinet in our bathroom. These doors have milk paint, which means the chemicals and/or heat gun will not work. For milk paint there is only one option – milk paint remover. Duh. It’s a lovely non-toxic powder that magically mixes with water and *poof* the paint washes right off. If only all paint removal could be this easy. And if only we could finish this project…

Milk Paint Removal

Removing milk paint with milk paint remover.

More milk paint removal taking place on the back of the bathroom door. The other side of this door has been stained many years ago, but it didn’t have milk paint. Okay, so you’re probably asking, if removing milk paint is really so easy why has it taken you so long? Well you should stop asking. We’ll finish all these projects eventually.

Milk paint removal

Washing the paint away.

The paint stripping in the dining room is hopefully nearing completion. We’ve only been working on it off and on for eight years. The good news is we purchased the stain for the wood and the paint for the walls, so hopefully there will be an update soon dedicated exclusively to that project. In the meantime, while Steffi works on the tiny details in there with dental picks, I’ve moved on to the living room. Check out the amazing fireplace mantel!

Painting stripping fire place mantel

Look at that beautiful wood that was hiding under all those layers of paint.

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Thinking About an Attic Extension

Ever since we bought the house we’ve had the idea of expanding to the attic in the back of our minds. Our house has a long mystery closet that just happens to be the perfect space for adding stairs. Things are getting a LOT MORE REAL because we’ve started working with an architect (who also happens to be our neighbor) on the plans for the expansion.

At some point long, long ago a small addition was added on the back of our house that closed in the original back porch. Based on some records we have, there was another extension added on in 1970. Today the additions are our laundry room/storage room. They are also our access to the backyard. It’s not very pretty.

The rear view of the house. The extension is on the left side.

The rear view of the house. The extension is on the left side.

The original idea was simple – add some stairs to a simple upstairs space, rip off and rebuild the laundry room, and add a covered back porch. Okay, not that simple, but relatively speaking it was simple. One of our biggest concerns has always been not to disturb the original architecture. We like the design of our house, and we were really lucky that the floor plan has never been altered. This was a huge selling point for us. All too often these poor houses get cut up and reconfigured over the years. People try to add extra bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, etc. And it almost always disturbs the natural flow of the house. So our idea was to not mess with much…

As with all simple ideas they don’t stay simple for long. We took some measurements of the attic that came up short. As in, the attic space was too short to have any comfortable livable space. This meant we would have to alter the roof significantly if we wanted some head space, and our architect told us if we’re going to alter the roof we might as well make it count. This created a new dilemma. Since we are really concerned about how the house will look post-renovation it took some time to envision an extension that would feel like it belonged without ruining the original design. Every time we drove around town we studied other houses for inspiration. We also pulled out an old catalog we own of Aladdin Kit Homes to see how they dealt with floor plans and roof lines. The idea finally hit me when standing in our neighbors’ driveway. I looked up at the side of their house and the solution was obvious – we’d add a second taller gable to the side of the house to give us the head space we need.

Double Gable

The double gable that inspired our design.

For reference here is a view of the side of our house. We have a single gable over the bay window right now. The top of the gable is about 2/3 the height to the main peak. The new gable will extend back from the original gable and go higher than the existing main peak. This will give us additional height in the back of the house without altering the front.

Side of Bungalow

The side of our house from our neighbors’ backyard.

We passed our idea along to our architect, we had a meeting with her to ensure she fully understood our vision, and she came back to us with a beautiful design! It’s still rough at this point, but you can see how the roof line will be altered to give us the space we’re looking for. Notice the second taller gable added on for height and the shed dormer for more living space – there will be one of each side of the house. We’ll also extend the back of the house out further to give ourselves a larger laundry area/mudroom and wrap around porch.

The view you've been waiting for!

The view you’ve been waiting for!

That’s where I’ve leave it for now. The floor plan is almost finished, but there are still a couple small kinks that we’re working out. Once the plans are finalized I’ll make another blog entry, so check back frequently or like us on Facebook.

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Early Spring 2014 Update

Late March is one of our favorite times of the year! The temperatures start rising, the plants start emerging from their slumber, and we can look back at what the cold temperatures helped us accomplish inside the house. When it’s warm outside we have a difficult time staying indoors. So back to one of our favorite past times… you guessed it, we’ve been paint stripping in the dining room again. I’m happy to say we’re getting really close. It’s only been seven years! The day Steffi lets me paint the walls will be a very big deal (she says the paint stripping has to be done first so we don’t mess up the paint).

I do about 98% of the work with the heat gun and paint scraper, but Steffi’s 2% takes 98% of the time.

Winter Paint Stripping

Paint stripping with the heat gun in the dining room. Lots of paint removed in little time.

Look really closely at this next photo. Yes, that is a dental pick in her right hand. Now do you understand why it takes so long?

Dental Pick Paint Stripping

How else are you going to get in those little cracks?

The outside is beckoning, so we better hurry up.

Yoshino Cherry Blooms

Spring is coming! The Yoshino Cherry tree is in full bloom.

Tulips

The tulips are up!

Cross your fingers for our dining room!

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Be Our Neighbor!

There is a beautiful bungalow down the street from us that just hit the market. It was a full house rehab. Jump over to Ontario Park Bungalow Blog to Valium Online see the work. And check out the listing. Won’t you be our neighbor?

Ontario Park Bungalow

Ontario Park Bungalow is for sale!

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Writing Westview’s History

When we’re not renovating the house or working in the garden we really enjoy pretending we’re historians. Since moving to Westview in early 2007 we’ve spent countless hours digging through old files at the Atlanta History Center, searching newspaper databases and microfiche, emailing with old residents of the neighborhood and examining deeds and plat maps at the Fulton County Courthouse. It’s like piecing together a really exciting puzzle!

At this point it is difficult to even say where our search began. I honestly can’t remember. It is quite possible it began with this blog. In the early days we had a regular reader (Marsha, hopefully you’re still reading!) contact us about her time spent in the neighborhood as a child. Steffi and Marsha exchanged emails for a while before losing touch. Or perhaps it started when we made our first visit to the Atlanta History Center’s Kenan Research Center and found a map dating back to the 1890s that showed our street. No matter, it has been an interesting journey that has taken us down some dark paths – including murder – and some very bright paths – including a rock n’ roll star that lived on our street during the 1950s. It saddens me to also say we’ve lost some people along the way. People that were very generous sharing their memories and photographs with perfect strangers.

I’ll give you a brief overview of the history and some of the highlights that stand out to me. We’ve written a great deal about it on the Westview website, so you can hop over there after you finish reading the blog if you’d like to know more.

In 1884 land was set aside for the Westview Cemetery. This was the second cemetery built in Atlanta after Oakland, and even today Westview Cemetery remains the largest cemetery in the Southeastern United States. The cemetery is important to the neighborhood because a street car was built to transport people from downtown to the cemetery. The original street car was pulled by a mule and of course later went on to use electricity. The gate to the Westview Cemetery is an awesome stone structure that was featured on postcards. We have a framed postcard on our wall that one of our neighbors (a real life historian) gave to us. Needless to say the entrance still stands, so if you’re in the area you should go check it out. Lots of famous Atlantans are also buried there.

Westview Cemetery Postcard - It is postmarked 1909.

Westview Cemetery Postcard – It is postmarked July 1909.

The early growth patterns of Atlanta were really dependent on the street cars, so along came a company from Minnesota, called the Ontario Land Company, that bought the land adjacent to the cemetery. They called the subdivision Westwood Park and laid out the original plan for the streets. The streets today still reflect these original names – East and West Ontario Ave are named for none other than the Ontario Land Company and Westwood Ave is named for Westwood Park. Well, things didn’t go so well for the Ontario Land Company and despite their best efforts the land remained undeveloped. You have to remember it was still rather rural at this point, so perhaps people weren’t quite ready to live so far away from the city. (Today by car we’re only 5-10 minutes from downtown.)

The Westwood Park plat map that shows the original planned streets.

The Westwood Park plat map that shows the original planned streets.

Here’s where one of the dark twists comes in to play. The Westwood Park property sat vacant for a number of years before it was re-subdivided. During this time a highly publicized murder took place. A man from Roswell named Forrest Crowley was lured to the site on Xanax 1mg the promise of buying some mules. When he arrived he was murdered and robbed. The murder took place by the lake, which can be seen in the plat map above. There is no lake in the neighborhood today.

Murders aside, in 1910 a man named William J. Davis purchased the land for $100,000 and announced it would be called “West End Park.” The land was subdivided and lots were sold by Forrest and George Adair at auction over the next few years. Our lot was sold at the very first auction in June, 1910 for $750.

"High Class West End Residence Lots" from 1910

“High Class West End Residence Lots” from 1910

Our house wasn’t built until the end of 1916. The original owners were two women that owned their own multigraphing (copy) shop. Their mother also lived with them. Neither of the women had children as far as we know, so we’ve had difficulty locating any of their living relatives. If anybody reading this is related to Cora and Lucy Thomas please contact us! Their mother was named Frances Thomas. We’d love to hear from you!

This is not our house, but it is a house from one street over.

This is not our house, but it is a house from one street over. We found this photo at the Atlanta History Center.

From there the neighborhood chugged along as a popular residential district. Lots were sold, the neighborhood was expanded, streets were paved, a school was built. In 1927 a real estate/home building company focused heavily on building and selling homes along Stokes Ave. The company, F.P. and George J. Morris, even opened a real estate office near the corner of South Gordon St and Cascade Ave. The storefront is still there today (but of course it serves a different use).

The Great Depression seems to have temporarily halted the overall development of the neighborhood, and we’ve had people verbally tell us some homes were split up into duplexes during this time. However we found a single newspaper article from 1931 that shows that houses continued to be built and sold – though the pace must have been dramatically reduced.

The WWII housing shortage saw a number of smaller homes built in the community. This rapid construction was intended to be 2/3rds rentals and was controversial with the existing homeowners. Mayor Hartsfield even got involved to try and diffuse the situation.

The 1950s saw the rise of rock n’ roll and our neighborhood was no exception. Tommy Roe, who was getting lots of practice playing gigs around town and at Brown High School, lived just down the street from our house. During a tour in England with Chris Montez a new group called The Beatles was billed as one of the opening acts. And when The Beatles played their first gig in the U.S. one of their opening acts was Tommy! How cool is that?! In case you’re unsure of who Tommy Roe is here is a couple of his videos. I’m sure you’ll immediately recognize these songs.

Fast forward a few years to the 1970s when Mayor Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, lived in the neighborhood. The family that currently owns his former home still occasionally receives junk mail addressed to him. We have also been told his bodyguards lived across the street in order to offer 24-hour protection.

And I’m starting to realize my brief overview about the history of the neighborhood has become quite long, so I’ll wrap it up there. The research into the history is an ongoing project and new artifacts from the past continue to come to light. It’s really been quite an exciting journey for the small group of homes in southwest Atlanta. As people always say… if only these walls talk!

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