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calendar   Saturday - October 04, 2008

Ultimate Squeegee Project, Day 3

First off, I’d really like to thank Peiper for putting up lots of interesting posts in my absence. Well done old boy! I couldn’t keep this place running without you. But right now I’m mining gold as fast as I can swing a pick. Um, I mean wield a squeegee. I’m plugging away, making good progress, but let me clue you in. This is not easy work. I am exhausted. My feet ache, my hands are numb, my legs are all bruised from leaning on ladders. And I probably got scorched today too, as it was a bit chilly out and they had the heat on. Steam radiators under every window, right where I have to lean.

Well, the whole outside is done, except for behind a dozen storm windows I have to wait for the Mexicans to help me remove. They’re the size of a pool table, and weigh nearly as much. And the whole upstairs is done inside. All 11 thousand rooms. I didn’t make as much progress today as I wanted, because I put my foot down a little. The painters who did the windows didn’t do such a hot job of edging the paint. And they splattered a bit too. So now I have to do the glass scraping they should have done. But the customer is happy that I’m willing to do it, and is willing to pay me extra for that as well. So my guess is another 2 solid days of work, but between the scraping, the sill cleaning, and some detail work cleaning the outside lamps I can earn another few hundred bucks. Hey, the sun is shining, so it’s time to make hay!

I came home high today. Is it possible to fall in love with architecture? Because this house makes me giddy. Not only is the place utterly charming inside, it’s built like a damn fortress. The walls are at least two feet thick, solid stone. I bet there are 100 doors in the home, and each has a turn of the century brass lockset, in perfect working order, but with a 100 year patina you simply can not get at Home Depot. I went up into the attic late this afternoon. I climbed up the back stairs central servant’s stairs ( it turns out that there is another staircase that goes from the end of the servant’s wing straight down to the laundry room and kitchen at the back of the house. Who knew? But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I found a 4th staircase somewhere. This place is immense!) to the attic door, went in, turned on the light, and was magically transformed into a 7 year old boy in an instant. Wow. Stunning. What a sense of wonder. And this is the attic! For starters, it’s fully floored. And the roof is held up with post-and-beam woodwork. The old style “upside down peace sign” kind of framing you usually only see in old barns. No trusses thank you. It’s made from baulks of timber - 8x8 and 10x10 hardwood framing. Oak? Maple? Maybe Chestnut. Certainly not pine. And the beams are in lengths that defy the imagination. It takes some seriously strong lumber to hold up a slate roof, and the roof itself is immense. I swear the attic is the size of a football field. The lower part, over the servant’s wing, is your standard steeply pitched roof, so the peak is about 14 feet overhead. Varnished barrel stave joinery lines the 2 foot diameter half pipes that make the horizontal shafts of the dozen or so eyebrow windows. Head on over towards the main part of the house, go up four steps, and you’ve just entered another world. The main part is Mansard roofed. Which means the attic is over two stories tall. Inside. There’s a staircase with two landings that zig zags up to the hatch by the skylight. It’s 22 steps up to the hatch. Amazing. I wish I could take pictures. It’s beyond belief. If there was any stained glass around I’d swear I was inside Notre Dame.

You could fit a standard suburban home in the attic. Heck, you could fit half the neighborhood in with it. I’m just blown away by it all. There’s a fire supression system. In the attic. Old style: if you’re old enough, remember those folded up fire hoses behind the glass doors at school? Several of these up there. And of course all the wires, plumbing, A/C pipes and equipment. Two or three TV antennas hanging from the ceiling. Bronze plated iron radiators with fancy scrollwork. So the attic doesn’t get too cold you know. Cedar closets for storing the furs I guess, all around each of the 4 or 6 chimneys. Over the back portico, an area that could be a theater; half round, raised stage, lighting, even a seating area. It’s a trip. What did they use it for? Over here, the machinery for an electric dumbwaiter. Cool, but where did it come out? I’ve been through almost the whole house now, and I haven’t seen any ... well, maybe that sliding glass thing in the Indian Room. But why? The kitchen is on the same floor as the dining room; all the cook needed to do was trolley the meals over. It’s a mystery. And a museum.

And of course, the stuff of generations. Nothing worthwhile every got thrown away. No, I wasn’t snooping. But it’s hard not to notice. Entire rooms worth of furniture under cloth. Arranged, not stacked. Artwork. Statuary. Knick-nacks. Steamer trunks. Rooms full of clothing. An entire library of books. All nice and clean and dry. A first edition of Uncle Remus. Just sitting on one of the bookshelves. In the attic. One of the front rooms up there is the toybox. Every toy the son ever had, from his wooden rocking horse and his Big Chief tricycle right up to his hunting and fishing gear and his Army uniforms. I really wasn’t snooping. I was working. But it’s impossible not to notice. Especially when every time I turned around I was “hey, I had that toy! Cool, the Tolkien Beastiary! And look, another book I’ve read!” Son and I must be close in age. It was a time warp experience for me. But I felt bad for the kid. He is an only child. In that great enormous house set back way in the woods on the sparsely populated end of town. No wonder there are so many books. Poor little rich kid must have been awfully lonely.

And today, when I asked about some of the unusual detailing - not only do all the main windows have interior shutters that bi-fold away into little side niches in the walls, all the windows also have slide out, hardened steel locking gates that come out behind each window. Slabs of steel the lateral dimensions of a Snickers bar, built like those expanding criss-cross wood gates you put across the kitchen doorway to keep the puppy or the toddler from running amuck. What the hell for? I found out today: security. (well, duh!) Because this was really only the summer cottage. They only lived there 3 or 4 months a year, and then went back to the main house the rest of the time. So the place locks up tighter than a typical prison to deter thieves.

Speaking of detailing ... if you happen to have a whole pile of money and nothing to spend it on, and you happen to have amazingly high ceilings, I saw the greatest thing today in the Indian Room. Actually, it’s the library. A library. But the whole room is done up in a Native American motif, so the name fits. Anyway, picture Atlas Supporting The World. Now transform Atlas into a Quetxicoatcocktail pre-Columbian Atzec statuette. Carve a whole shitload of them, each about 4” tall. Out of ivory or marble or something fine like that. In the Indian Room a flat topped bit of fancy crown molding runs around the walls, and on top of it every foot or so is one of these Quetxi-Atlas little statues, and together they support the next layer of crown molding up by the ceiling. It’s humorous, beautiful, and artistic all at the same time. I mentioned that this place sort of feels like a museum. But it’s also very much a home, some place where families were raised and lives lived. You can feel it. So I want to respect that, and not gossip about too much that would be personal to the owners. I find the place enchanting though. Everything ... everything is done right. Done better than right. It’s all done the best way. So yeah, I’m in love.

Oh, and I was wrong. This is not merely a house that George B. Post designed. It’s his actual home, where he lived and died. See page 10 of this link. Claremont is actually a modest home for that era and area. But “modest” is a flexible definition that a good architect can play with. This house is much bigger than it appears to be, because everything is built to a grand scale: the windowsills below the windows on the upper floor are 21 feet off the ground. The eyebrow windows up in the roof are about 2 feet across. The battlements over the front door are long gone, though the stone lions still remain. They are life sized:

image

Horry Clap, it is a museum!

Well no, it’s somebody’s home. But it looks museumy because the whole place seems transplanted from another place and time. I go there and it’s 100 years ago.


image

This is the carriage that I saw yesterday, still out in the carriage house. It needs a bit of work at this point.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 10/04/2008 at 01:30 AM   
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