Old Houses have secrets.
Sometimes they yield pieces of answers when layers are peeled away.
Sometimes what is revealed only leads to more questions.
There have been only three owners of this little house. My grandfather built the cottage sometime in the early forties and used it variously as a farm outbuilding, a weekend cabin, a place for apple pickers to stay, and a rental house for aunts and uncles. He sold it in 1974 to Mr. H. C.’s mom and dad. And now us.
Last weekend we took up the carpet in the living room/dining room. We had already peeked under it in several spots and knew that the boards were pine tongue-and-groove flooring, varnished dark brown. We also knew they were messed up in one spot where there had once been a wall to a little bedroom, but we were hoping for no other surprises.
We took up carpet.
We took up padding.
We took up two rows of tack strips.
We took up linoleum. (The real stuff from the forties that is totally compostable.)
And finally, we took up tar paper.
And under all those layers was a gleaming floor in amazingly good condition.
All those layers had protected the original floor so well, we could still smell the varnish.
The long spot under the rocker is where the old wall to the little bedroom was. We were expecting that one. The area rug we couldn’t figure out though…
We did find one other surprise that puzzled us: a two-by-four foot area rug made from slightly different pine boards. A patch of some sort. But who did it? And when? And why?
(We don’t think it is a huge problem because we purchased some old pine boards at Construction Junction last year, anticipating that we would have to fix part of the floor and hoping they would match. They’re a go!)
We wondered about it for a couple of days and figured we would never know. Then on Saturday, Second Cousin Jim stopped out to visit. He is 92 and he drove his little red Geo Metro convertible into the yard and stopped about five feet from the door. We were glad he stopped (pun intended) and I murmured as he was leaving that I hoped he would put the car in reverse before he accelerated.
He plopped down in the rocking chair and told us new-old stories. His parents, Aunt Edna and Uncle Jim had lived there for a time during the war. They had been living down in Bobtown, and an outbreak of polio scared them into moving, so they lived in the cottage for awhile. When Jim Jr. came back from the war, he stayed in the little bedroom.
That little patch on the floor? A perfect spot for an old gas heater. Secrets revealed.
But he couldn’t remember where the outhouse had been. Oh somewhere out back, he said.
On Monday we had more visitors — another second cousin, Buzz and his wife Lynn who told us more new-old stories.
He and his brother Jack used to come down to the country from Donora to pick apples on weekends. They stayed in a little bedroom in the back that had a small window where hornets and wasps nested.
Ignoring repeated warnings (from his little brother) to leave them alone, Jack poked at a wasp through the screen one too many times and got stung on his nose.
We stood in the back bedroom, but Buzz shook his head. This bedroom was too big. We walked to the back deck, and he pointed out the spot where the outhouse had been. (It was where we thought — the grass and chives grow thick and green there.)
Then it dawned on me. If there was a privy, the bathroom could have been another little bedroom.
There was the small window; wasps still nest there. And the screen still has a hole that has been patched…
More secrets revealed.
More stories to add to the lore of Apple Hill Cottage.
We will probably sand away the old patina at some point and refinish the boards in the same dark brown, but for now we’re fine with a little area rug and no more smelly carpet.
(And if you think the name Bobtown is humorous, stay tuned for a post on Greene County place names…)