Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bungalows of Austin's West Line District

I have spent quite a bit of time trying to find out anything I can about my house and the neighborhood. There is a fabulous history center a few blocks away that I discovered when I was doing some research into buying a dilapidated mansion on the street next to mine. I have been meaning to go to the history center to research my current house, but haven’t had a chance yet.

Not a bungalow. 1872 stone mansion. The very first house in the neighborhood.
Side note: I didn’t buy the mansion because I discovered it would cost a bare minimum of $100,000 to make it habitable. It had sold at auction for $300,000. The buyers were asking $500,000. Restored it’s probably worth at least $2 million. A deal either way you look at it, but I didn’t/don’t have that kind of money. Someone else bought it and tore off all the various additions to the original house. I hoped they would restore it to its former glory, but they are turning it into a McMansion. Ugh!
Anyhow, despite all the info I found about the Old West Austin Historic District and Clarksville Historic District, neither officially included my street or house. I finally discovered my house is actually in the West Line Historic District. I entered that into Google and BINGO! There was all the info I’ve been looking for. I found a 107 page-long registration form for national historic districts.
My house was actually built in 1925, not 1928 which was on the realtor's documents. It is officially a contributing building of the historic district. There is one paragraph that specifically mentions several of the houses on my street (but not mine): “As the old estates were broken up for new subdivisions, a new class of resident arose on the West Side. Raymond Heights was no longer the exclusive realm of judges and state officials. Developers carved the old estates into standard-sized lots for smaller houses. As a result, middle-class families could afford houses in the western suburb. In fact, subdivisions in the once-exclusive enclave were heavily promoted to working-class families with the means to own their own homes in the 1910s and 1920s. Early residents along one block of T------ Street in the 1920s illustrate the trend: Olin D. Farquhar (800) was a bookkeeper at the Austin Statesman, L. B. Randerson (804) was a clerk at the post office, as was William R. Warrick (806). James H. Cummings (811) was a paperhanger, Edward W. Seiders (812) was a checker, and James D. Dunlap (815) was a trainman for the Austin Street Railway (Austin city directories, 1920-1929). All of these residents owned their homes but roughly half the people living on T------ Street in the 1920s were renters. Few T------ Street residents held professional positions or owned businesses during this period. Nevertheless, it was a respectable, middle- and working-class address.”

The big house next door to me may have been owned by a checker at one time but I found out it was built by a contractor—Jacob J. Wattlinger, a partner at Wattlinger Brothers in 1922 and is eligible to be a historic property on it's own (not just as part of a historic district). Unfortunately the 90+ year-old woman who owns it has let it decay. There are two guys renting it right now. They pay for all the repairs but it doesn't look like they do a whole lot. It's desperately in need of a paint job. The shutters and some of the window trim has rotted and fallen on the roof. Judging from the units sticking out the windows, I don't think central air or heat was ever installed. I wonder if it still has all the old built-ins. Maybe I'll have to get myself invited over and find out.

The house next door. Notice the two front doors?

My little section of the neighborhood has modest bungalows. Some of them in the 500 square foot range. The section immediately east has slightly grander homes. I'll show you a few of those another time, but here's a sampling of the wonderful bungalows in my 'hood.

The garden is gorgeous!

Purple trim!


For Iroquois
This one is lovely. I want a screened in porch!
  Here are some of the ones I call the itty bitty bungalows.

 There are four bitty bungalows in a row on this street

Bitty bungalow with funky paint

It still has the 5 panel doors with crystal knobs

This last one is currently for sale. 528 square feet on a 3,000 foot lot. Tiny! It's a bit of a mess and they are selling it for the lot. The asking price is $250,000.

Notice the two front doors again. Two front doors on a one bedroom, one bath house.  This was a popular style at the time. I've heard the architectural style referred to as Cumberland style. My house had two front doors at one time too. I can tell from where the baseboards were spliced in the front bedroom. I've heard that the houses were built this way for a couple reasons. One was for multiple family use of the house. Each door opened into a private bedroom. The public areas of the house--kitchen, living room, etc. were shared by both families. I had a friend who lived in a house built at the turn of the century that was still laid out that way. The other reason was for ventilation. Both doors, usually a  bedroom and living room, opened to the porch for cross breezes and to cool the rooms.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bathtub in the Dining Room and Remains of Vintage Wallpaper

There is a bathtub in my dining room. However, I much prefer it to the time there was a toilet in my living room.

What's wrong with this picture?

Why is the bathtub there? Because a few of the old galvanized pipes were jolted during leveling and are leaking a little.

See the holes above the pipe covers? The walls moved, the pipes didn't.
I am going to have all the old galvanized pipes replaced with PVC. The sink in the hall bath (photo above) needs to be removed to fix the pipes. Since that’s happening AND the walls need to be floated and textured again because of the cracks, I am going to have the ugly, moldy, oversized cabinet removed.

Remember this?

It's a little better now, but not much. Not only is it ugly and moldy but it's way too big for the space and crowds the tub and sink.

Since that’s happening, the tub had to be moved. Since the tub had to be moved, I was convinced this was the best time to replace the ugly, crumbling, weird, dark tile in the bathroom. Yes, it will save me money to do it all now, but it’s money I wasn’t planning to spend now.

The nursery rhyme about the lady who swallowed the fly to catch the spider, etc. keeps running through my head--except with new words. She tiled the floor since the tub was moved, she moved the tub to tear out the cabinet, she tore out the cabinet because the sink was moved, she moved the sink to fix the pipes, she fixed the pipes because they sprung a leak during leveling. I don’t know why she leveled the house. I guess she’ll go broke.

This is what the bathroom looks like without tile and sheetrock. Tres outhouse chic. No?

The left side of the photo above is where the cabinet used to be. P thinks perhaps this was where the water heater may have been originally. On the right side of the photo is the GIANT GAPING HOLE in the floor. That's the dirt under my house you see. Perfect way for a) stinky uninvited guests to enter and b) wily dogs to escape. P but boards and blankets and ladders over it for now.

Window sill has rotted out.
So what tile will I use instead? I found this 1" white porcelain hex tile. To do the entire floor, it will cost me around $150 ($400 with grout, sealer, labor, etc.) It would have been nice to do marble, but that costs 10 times as much. Even black or other colored accent tiles drives the price up.

But the white is nice.Way better than this.

And only half the floor was done plus half one one wall. Weird. I am not tiling the walls. Just the floor. The entire floor.

I'll replace that ugly cabinet with an appropriately sized curio cabinet. I have seen some nice ones on Craig's List in the $50 range.

I was considering changing the wall color when I discovered two layers of vintage paper under the sheetrock. One is white or cream with metallic silver swirls. Below that was what was probably a really cool art deco print. It looks like it was white with a black botanical print and some kind of red accent. Next to the black (photo below) you can barely make out the rest of the bleached print. Maybe the glue for the swirly print paper removed the color? It was attached to a thin fabric similar to cheesecloth.

It's got me thinking that maybe I'll do wallpaper instead of paint. Maybe a deco reproduction? Then there is this fabulous print by Grow House Grow called Ms Ward. I love it, but it's cost prohibitive. $180 a roll.That means almost $1,500 to do the tiny bathroom. Uh, no thanks. But it IS neato.

Photo by Grow House Grow

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Peak Under the Skirt (of my house, you perverts)

The leveling is done...sort of.

Here is my cheesy, not-to-scale diagram of how the steel pier system works. You can read more about it here.

Here is an actual photo of the diagram above. Obviously you can't see the part below ground.

Here is a photo showing the new piers  before painting and before all the old piers had been removed.

Unpainted pier and new beam. When they bring the house to the correct height, they weld the pipe to the angle iron in which the beam sits.You can see the joint in this photo.

New piers with a coat of primer

Painted with all the old piers and debris removed. There is no more wood touching the ground. Yeah! What you are looking at is the underside of my pine floors. There is no insulation. Nada. Zilch. That needs to be installed before the pipes get replaced. More on that later.

Look at the spaghetti of old telephone and cable wires. Those need to come out. 

This used to be the entrance to the crawl space. That will be relocated. The cement wall on the left is my porch. I think the metal pipe you see is the gas line. There is a small spigot sticking out of the floor next to the fireplace, which is weird, because it's a woodburning fireplace. Perhaps there used to be a radiator?

Because the skirting has been off for so long, I suspect someone has moved under my house. A rather smelly, furry someone:--black with a white stripe. Sound familiar? I've smelled skunk in the back yard several times. One night I smelled skunk IN the house. Not surprising considering there are unplugged holes in the floor where cable lines used to run. Roni was excitedly running from room to room sniffing the holes.

This worries me especially now that there is a GIANT GAPING HOLE in the floor of my bathroom. Stay tuned to hear why.