Summer 2016 aka The Summer of Concrete

Since being unsuccessful with our grant, things are moving a bit more slowly around the Masser House/White House. Gardening has continued, with new plants planted, perennials tended and compost made. Clean-up inside is mostly complete, with a few days spent removing lath and debris. Mainly though, this has been the Summer of Concrete. Sidewalks and slabs had to be removed in order to access the existing mud-sill foundation and build a stronger, permanent foundation.

How does one remove concrete the likes of which we’ve never encountered? We started with a jackhammer. Breaking up the freakishly thick concrete and hauling it to a pile with a wheel barrow. Check out the bottom of the five to six inch thick concrete. It’s not gravel as you might expect, but large river-rock-sized chunks!

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For weeks, Billy and Michael slaved and slaved with jackhammer and wheelbarrow. And then! Bill and Donna’s neighbor Harold, who owes the skidster came to the rescue! He did what we were not able to do with a jackhammer and wheel barrow, and in only a few hours!  Bill was able to borrow a dump truck from Bookcliff Gardens, where he works when he isn’t working on The House. Magic happened. The concrete…disappeared!DSC_0087

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Winter approaches, and as always, a few more bandaid-type repairs need to be be made to help The House make it through. Stop on by and see how beautiful Donna has made the gardens in the back, and stay tuned for fundraisers!

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The Long-Lost Story of the House, 2015

First, the confession. I have been a VERY lazy blogger. My job kept me away from the house, but I have been around for beers with your favorite cast of house remodeling heros. Bill sent me images. He sent me descriptions. Donna asked if maybe she could help with the blog. So now, months into 2016 and on the verge of a new year of The House, here’s a recap of 2015. Finally. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this post and maybe even forgive me my laziness just a bit.

First the cast. A serious remodel like this one is not for the timid. It’s not for weenies. It’s not for those afraid to get dirty. I think you’ll agree after seeing these images, that this is a seriously determined cast of players. Working hard. Getting dirty. Motivated by visions of how wonderfully beautiful the house will be, and perhaps a pie from the Hot Tomato paired with a Copper Club beer. Or two…

Scott and Donna after a day of tearing out ceilings:

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Donna and Michael digging in the cistern:

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Michael and Bill after a day of pulling off lathe and dry wall:

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Jason cutting down the trees by the alley. They were rotten and dying, and were around the electrical wires. They had to go.

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How in the world can these people get so, so dirty? Have a look at the mess inside the house–lathe and plaster had to be removed to decrease weight in order to eventually lift her off her mud-sill foundation to build a “real” foundation underneath. Next time you think YOUR house is a mess, revisit these images!

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Those who made the big mess, cleaned up afterwards.

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Before and after photos of the 30 yard dumpster. 8.77 tons of material were hauled off; with probably over 11 tons hauled off in total by now.

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While all that “fun” was happening, little bits of the House’s history turned up, along with a symbolic “thank-you” from the House.

Household items were discovered in the cistern excavation.

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Vintage newspapers were found in the rafters and behind wallpaper on the walls.

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Arguably the strangest artifact was found between the downstairs ceiling and  the upstairs floor. A cat skeleton! Can you imagine the mysterious smell that had to have been in the House?!

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A bit of sweetness found behind the paneling in the living room.

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And what we interpret as a thank-you from the House. This little heart-shaped sunbeam was near the bottom of the staircase one day.

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The gang was at the House this last weekend, doing a bit of clean-up in the yard; kicking off a new season of bringing the glory of the House’s past into the present day.  A couple missionaries stopped by to help the group finish on time for the opening of the Copper Club! A huge thanks to those boys! As always, stop on by when you see the crew there–hang out and help and/or join us for a beer!

 

 

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Tiny Treasures

On one of the last warm days of fall, we started digging around near the surface of the soil that had been covered by the back porch.  We found an assortment of the artifacts of daily life.  Lots of shell buttons, a plastic fountain pen, a plastic cigar tip, a door knob, poultry bones, and an outdoor faucet handle give us a glimpse of the House’s occupants, possibly through several decades.  We found the Schilling’s Best bottle in this layer as well–most likely from the 1900s.  And of course, our discoveries invite more questions.

The fountain pen may be from original occupants; I found a similar-looking pen on the Office Museum site.  The pen is plain, black, and not fancy.  It looks like it once had a lid to protect the nib and protect the owner from leaking ink.  Of course, it may also have been a pen from an earlier time, but handed down to more recent owners of the House.  Look at the images of our pen and the pen from 1911. What do you think?  Was this Dr. Masser’s pen?

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The plastic cigar tip was most likely from an occupant or visitor from the 1950s.  “In 1950,  (Nat) Sherman introduced the plastic-tipped cigar to the industry, called “Sherman’s #25.” The cigar was produced in Tampa for Sherman by Carl Cuesta, an American manufacturer of cigars for Partagas.The company applied for a patent for its cigar tip, which was never granted. Nevertheless, for 32 years the company successfully bluffed away rivals by marking its packaging with the words “patent pending” and by threatening legal action.” (From Ronald Margulis, “Nat Sherman’s Long March to Success,” Cigar Magazine, vol. 3, no. 4 (Winter 2006), pp. 70-85.)  Who was our cigar aficionado?  Could it have been AJ Little?  A friend of the Little family?

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Pearl and shell buttons have been around since the late 1800s; most from that time made from fresh water mollusks in the Mississippi in a factory in Muscatine, Iowa. It’s had to say how old these buttons are, but definitely could be from the era of the original owners.  How did these buttons end up here?  Were there kids playing with mom’s or grandma’s sewing kit and it spilled?  Were they the collection of a child that was hidden and never found again?  Were they discarded in favor of newer and more fashionable buttons?  Had they been buttons from shirts?  Baby clothes?  Which house family spilled them here?

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What happened to break the faucet that the handle came from?  Which door did the knob come from?  Why wasn’t the wish bone “wished upon” and broken?  What was the burlap from?  Who owned the teacup and who broke it? Was the teacup from everyday dishes or the “wedding china?”

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Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see clearly into the past?  Wouldn’t it be great to see the history unfold along with the families who lived there?  We welcome ALL information, stories, artifacts and anecdotes that any of you have about The Masser House.  Until then, we’ll just have to research and imagine as best we can from the treasures we find.

 

 

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Captain Destructo and The Detached Garage

Give Bill a Saws All, and he transforms into Captain Destructo–able to demolish entire sections of wall and roof in a single day, with the help of his trusty side-kicks, Duane and Michael. 20141115_135838   The garage was added on to the House by AJ Little in the 50s.  Even though it was not accessible from inside the house, it was attached to it, and as such, had to be detached for next Spring’s lifting of the original structure.  Rather than tearing down the entire garage, a new wall and door were built inside the existing exterior wall and the section next to the House was taken down.

Here’s the story in pictures, starring Captain Destructo, Duane, and Michael.

A wall section is removed.

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20141115_114500 Roofing is removed, and a test hole made to check  for the roof cut.

20141115_131321 20141115_132119 Roof cutting, and removal of debris and end wall.

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Stay tuned for future adventures of Captain Destructo!

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The Doctor’s Spectacles?

Back in November, while digging in the soil behind the house, we discovered a very, very fragile pair of wire-rimmed glasses–or spectacles, to use the terminology of the times.  Surprisingly, one of the lenses was still intact, along with the side arms.

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A bit of Google research resulted in a couple of helpful visual sites to help us date these spectacles.  According to the oval shape of the lens, the scroll shape of the bridge, the curl shape of the side arms, and a very similar picture of wire spectacles,we feel the glasses date from the late 1800s or early 1900s.  Use this site to see what YOU think of the lens, bridge and side arms.

Here’s a picture from the other site, identified as “Wire spectacles from the late 1800s/early 1900’s.”

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So.  Whose spectacles are these?  Could they have belonged to Charles?  Or Gertrude? This image doesn’t indicate either wore glasses.  Maybe they were reading glasses?  Glasses used for fine needlework?

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Or perhaps a friend of the family or another relative?  Maybe a patient?  Were they broken and tossed out, or did they break between the time they were abandoned and when we dug them up?  As always, every new discovery brings along new questions and mysteries.  We may never find out who wore these spectacles, but we did find them.  Every little treasure is a new connection to the House’s history and the lives of the people who loved her.

The picture of Charles and Gertrude was sent to us by Gay Parry-Parker, the Masser’s great-great granddaughter, after we posted the spectacles on our Facebook page–a treasure generated by treasure.  Gay also shared some other photos with us that we’ll share in later posts.  We so appreciate when those who have connections with the House share their personal artifacts and memories with us.  “Thank you” just doesn’t seem enough.

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Good Luck!

Last weekend, we had a fair amount of luck.  We separated the garage from the House (future blog post will be linked here), and we dug up some exciting treasures–mysterious clues to the people who lived in the House.  One of the treasures is this good luck token.

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Donna dug up some great research on the internet and discovered our token is an arcade-stamped good luck coin.  “Custom-stamped aluminum lucky tokens are sold from machines at amusement parks. Depositing a coin into the machine causes an aluminum blank to drop down into a holding slot where it is visible. The purchaser selects words to custom-stamp around the flat outer ring by “typing” the letters to be imprinted one at a time and pulling down on levers on the machine. Each letter selection creates a loud “thump” as a die comes down and stamps the letter, and the coin is then rotated so that the next letter can be stamped. The letters are raised, all caps, against a cross-hatched background. The cross-hatched background is also used for skip-spaces. No punctuation marks are allowed, only the 26 letters of the alphabet and the cross-hatched blank space. There are 32 spaces that can be filled with letters. Because they are pierced, these tokens only vaguely resemble actual coinage. There are several forms of blanks made, and of course the stamping on them is as individual as the people who buy them.”

The example shown in the article was exactly like ours, except Wendell’s name is on the flag side, rather than the four-leaf clover side!

“F2. Arcade-stamped Good Luck Coin, aluminum, 1945

  • Obverse: A pierced central five-pointed star contains a four-leaf clover
  • Legend: GOOD LUCK (plus the custom-stamped words chosen by the customer)
  • Reverse: American flag
  • Legend: (none)
  • Note: The example shown was stamped and dated MONICA SAMLASKA MADELIA MINN.45. Monica was very neat; counting the blank space between the end of the message and the beginning, she used exactly all of the 32 spaces offered by the stamping machine.”

We are very pleased to have found the origins of coins like ours, but as most discoveries at the House, it has generated its share of questions as well:

Our piece reads Wendell Moore, along with an address we are still researching.  Donna has found a Wendell Moore that graduated from Grand Junction High School in 1951.  Could this be OUR Wendell?

We aren’t aware of anyone named Moore living in the House, so why was this coin found there?

The coin had to be there prior to the building of the back porch, in the early 50s, so it couldn’t have been made at the local amusement park, Guyton’s Fun Junction, which opened in 1970.  So was it made at the Mesa County Fair?  The Colorado State Fair?

What do YOU know, readers?  Any ideas for us to look into?

Further reading about 20th Century North American Good Luck Coins and the reference to the info quoted in this post can be found here.

 

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Schilling’s Best

With the back porch removed (one of a series of projects aimed at being able to lift the House for a new foundation next spring), We decided to see what might be found in the soil that would have been right outside the kitchen door.  Trowels in hand, Donna and Heidi began digging.  We found all sorts of little treasures we’ll share in future posts, but one of our favorites was this completely intact bottle with an intertwined SB on the side.

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A bit of googling revealed that this bottle was from A. Schilling and Company, based in San Francisco until the 1906 earthquake and fires, and then based in New York City.  The intertwined SB stood for Schilling’s Best–a reference to the company’s ground-breaking policy of producing pure and unadulterated spices, teas and coffees.

The SB logo was used between the years of 1885 and 1918–effectively dating our treasure, and suggesting it may have been in Getrude Masser’s kitchen!  What a find!  Information we read on bottles like this indicate it was probably a vanilla bottle.  As lovers of baked goods, we like to think then, that Gertrude baked delicious cakes and other sweets for her family. Here’s our bottle,cleaned up and pretty.

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It’s little bits of family life like this that make the House’s history more real to us.  We can make connections to the people that made their lives in this House.

A bit more googling around resulted in this image of a Schilling’s Best Vanilla bottle, complete with its decorative cork stopper.  We’ve not found any trace of a cork–yet.  We’ll continue picking around in the dirt until the snow flies.

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Stay tuned for more treasures–we have quite a few to share with you!

References and further reading for this post:

Bottlebooks.comAllelementsdesign.com, and the stoppered bottle is from Etsy.

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