Remembering Life at 502 Plum Street (the first floor)

Several months ago I received a packet of information from a relative of the Hoefer family. She is actually the cousin of the sisters we purchased the house from, and she grew up across the street. It’s been a true gift to have a connection with the family that owned and loved this house for almost 95 years. One of the most interesting things she has sent me was an essay written by the youngest Hoefer daughter, Rosie, about what life was like growing up in our house.

I’ve decided to share her writings with you in this blog post, so you can get a glimpse as to what the house was like back in it’s prime, and hopefully give you a vision of what we want it to be again! Since this essay is quite detailed (which I absolutely LOVE) I’ve decided to split it up between he first floor and the second floor. The photos are from when we did our first walk through of the house.

“Remembering Life at 502 Plum Street”

Written By Rosie Hoefer Smith

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“I’ve heard that our house at 502 Plum was a “Sears Catalog House” That means it was a kit house sold primarily through mail order from Sears Roebuck Catalogs from 1890-1940. I have no confirmation that it was a Sears House. Mother and Daddy bought the house in about 1924 when Mary was a baby. They, along with Fran and Marge, had been living with Grandmother Turner (Mother’s mother) in her house on Spring Street.

Sometime before Hoefers bought the property, there was a fire in the attic, roof, and part of the upper floors. In one second floor closet you can still see charred rafters from the fire.

The interior of the house has 8 large rooms, each with multiple doors and windows and each with stories. If only walls could talk! From the front porch you enter the “Front Hall” (interesting name since there was no “Back Hall”) The front hall acted as a cloak room. We hung our coats on a row of iron hooks in the hall. It housed umbrellas, bats and balls, tennis rackets, roller skates, and a tobacco can of marbles we all used. Opposite the coat hooks was a mirror, for one last look before going out the door.

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The front hall led to the living room. That room has 3 windows and 4 doorways. As you enter from the front hall, the doorway to the downstairs bedroom is to your left. Then in a few steps there is the doorway to the bathroom hall, and a few more steps takes you to the wide opening to the dining room. The windows are on the North and West side of the house.

The living room was the site of many musical events. We played various instruments including accordion, concertina, tonette, harmonica, sweet potato, piano, baritone, and percussion. Not to be forgotten was Daddy’s fiddle playing while chorded on the piano, and our singing, dancing, and playing games. I recall Mother playing two songs on the piano—Missouri Waltz and Blackhawk Waltz, and she frequently requested Alice Blue Gown and Skater’s Waltz. Daddy’s repertoire included Tennessee Waltz, Wabash Cannon Ball, and other songs he played by ear or made up. Not all of us played every instrument mentioned, but pretty much all of us were involved in some sort of musical participation, even if it was to crank and play records on the old Victrola. We had an old wall telephone between the two North windows. Mother (and the rest of the town) would call “Central” (the telephone operator) whenever the fire sirens went off because she knew the location of the fire. The living room is also where Mother and Daddy played card games with our neighbors across the street, Hattie and Andy Price. Rook and Rummy were their games of choice.

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At one point the dining room had French doors with glass panes. Sometimes in the winter, the doors would be closed. The wood heating stove, a King Heater, was in the dining room, and by closing the French doors, the living room, hall, and bedroom would be shut off from the heat. The heat from the stove could then stay dining room, kitchen, and up the stairs to the bedrooms. I can remember that little stove getting so hot that the sides would turn bright red. In the winter we sometimes took baths in a tub behind the stove. That is also where we hung our Christmas stockings.

The dining room has two windows, the living room archway, stairwell to the upstairs, and the door to the kitchen. We had a big oak dining room table, which was used when company came, a buffet, and china cabinet. The china cabinet housed antique dishes, hand painted bowls, and a few pieces of crystal glassware. There were other little pieces of memorabilia stuck in and around the dishes in the china cabinet. Mary has the cabinet now. Mother’s old upright Story and Clarke piano, which she got for her 10th birthday, was in the dining room also. It is now in Shirley’s basement. This is the piano that we all learned to play when we were young. It was played so much that the ivories for the keys Middle C, D, and E were all worn through to the wood. When I began taking lessons, there were little holes or grooves on the keys where our fingers fit. Jack bought us a new Baldwin console when I was in about 3rd grade. It was fun having duo piano concerts, even though the two pianos were not in tune with each other. It was like trying to get and stay in tune with Daddy’s fiddle.

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The eat-in kitchen was adjacent to the dining room. It has 2 windows and 5 doors. The various doors in the kitchen led to the back porch, cellar, pantry, dining room, and bathroom hall. Somehow they managed to fit in a table, sink, cabinets and stove. I can barely remember a large, wood, cook stove. It was to the back of the living room wall. Most of my growing up years, Mother cooked with a gas range, which was placed on the East kitchen wall. In later years the wood heating stove in the dining room was replaced with a gas space heater, which heated the entire first floor and the girls’ upstairs bedroom. There was never central heat or air in the house.

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In the bathroom hall, there was a unique set of iron clothes hooks where we hung our pjs and robes. The small bathroom was heated by a little gas space heater. In the early years we had a freestanding tub with claw foot legs. Later, a bathroom remodeling included a built-in tub, shower combination. As long as I can remember, we always had indoor plumbing in the bathroom and kitchen.

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There was a door from the bathroom into the downstairs bedroom. It was cut out when Jack had Scarlet Fever and was quarantined to the downstairs bedroom. Betty said they were all quarantined (poor Mother) and would pass notes to Jack under the living room door to the bedroom. The large, airy bedroom has 4 windows, 2 doors and a closet that was added later. I loved exploring in the bedroom. There were so many interesting and unique items to inspect. I remember a picture of a crying baby, her spilled milk surrounding her, and a little dog lapping up the milk. I say her because the frame is pink. The picture is still there…”

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And that’s part one! Stay tuned for part two, which is all about the second floor!

 

Hey! Remember us?!

It’s been a LONG time sine I’ve written anything on this blog.

The past year was honestly a blur, but I’m wanting to get back into writing, and recording the progress on the house.

The last blog post I wrote was about the writing we found on the shiplap in one of the upstairs bedrooms. I also alluded to the possibility of our son having hearing impairment.

We’re very happy to report that he DOES NOT have hearing issues. But we’ve spent the past year in therapies trying to help him catch up.

Now. Back to the house…

We’ve done a lot over the past year. Our biggest project was probably the start of the front porch restoration.37243150_10156582988953270_4912134459844722688_n

I have always said that my dream home would be an old house with a massive front porch, and I knew before we even saw the inside of this house, that this was the one. I remember walking up to the overgrown house and stepping up on that gorgeous porch, and falling in love. The large, wavy glass, windows all across the front, the beadboard ceiling, the old porch swing begging for someone to sit on it…(swoon) Yep this was the dream porch.

Yet while it was massive and inviting, it was badly damaged. I stepped through it one too many times while we were there working that I made the executive decision…it was time to rebuild the porch.

Honestly, I thought it would be fairly simple (Let’s all laugh together. Old houses are never simple) rip up the old, rotten floor boards of various widths from years of patch jobs, and put down a shiny, new cohesive floor. I was very wrong…

Once we pulled up the floorboards we realized much of the framing was gone. So that had to be addressed before we could put down new flooring. We also realized that the entire structure was pulling away from the house.

40622684_10156705339658270_7559843087564931072_n40635143_10156705339423270_5371786571441766400_n40644316_10156705339608270_332301413533089792_n40758178_10156705339353270_8710132442939260928_nUgh. This isn’t good.

We spent most of last winter rebuilding the structure.50984086_10157059329433270_3791358483345965056_n

By spring we were decking, and I could finally see days taking breaks on the porch swing on the horizon again.

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We’re still deliberating on what to do about posts, so we’re keeping our temporary supports for now. We have a lot of other pressing projects that need to be done, so we just can’t justify the expense of new posts right now.

Originally this house had round columns. I would really like to put columns back.

But even though the porch still isn’t completed we have definitely enjoyed it. We actually hosted our first party. The town fireworks display is just a few blocks from the house, so we decided to have a bbq and watch the show. We grilled burgers and dogs, and of course included classics like apple pie and fresh squeezed lemonade. Kids rode bikes and played in the front yard, while all of the adults congregated on that massive front porch. At dark we strolled down the block to the grassy field and watched the fireworks display. That night Jake coined the term Porch of July, and a new tradition was born. This will be annual party. Hopefully this July we have a bathroom in the house, so nobody has to leave when nature calls. porchofjulyporchofjuly2

And that’s a pretty good summary of 2019. Now that we’re getting some balance back to our day to day, I’m going to make a point to keep this updated more.

But, I think it’s safe to say that 2019 was the year of the porch.

candi and jakefamily

The Writing’s on the Wall

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog. Life has been pretty crazy here lately.

This time of year is Jake’s busiest at work, with festivals, fairs, and haunted attractions. He’s been doing live broadcasts almost every weekend since the middle of September.

We’ve just had to put the house on the back burner for a while.

We did manage to squeeze in a weekend of work a few weeks ago. We were really wanting to work on the front porch, but it POURED the entire weekend. The good news, is that even though we couldn’t work on the porch, we still had plenty of indoor work to keep us busy, so we decided to pull paneling down in one of the bedrooms upstairs.

What we ended up finding under the paneling was the original ship lap–along with a lot of writing. Some walls were entire conversations between two people. It was like Christmas, ripping and tearing the walls open to see what had been written. We spent most of the night standing in a pile of debris, just reading.

We have been very fortunate to get to know the family that owned this home for 95 years, and they filled us in on what the writing is all about.

As it turns out, there was a boarder who lived with them at one time who helped fix up the house after the fire. He was a deaf mute, and he communicated by writing on the walls.

This was really interesting to find out at the time, but all of this writing has become so much more important to me. Not long after we found this writing and the story behind it, we found out that there is a great possibility that our 3 year old son is hearing impaired.

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In an even stranger twist of fate, this is the room that we had chosen to be his bedroom.

Here are some of the messages we found. Some weren’t so legible, but most of it was. Scroll down to see all of our findings.42324457_10156753763238270_7553408844303433728_n42338170_10156753762308270_1800326114388738048_n42340549_10156753762823270_3820606287213756416_n42341866_10156753763028270_7835078215528873984_n42344871_10156753762688270_3710249370285768704_n42345139_10156753762603270_1180465640977203200_n42346129_10156753763308270_6540215029701017600_n42350834_10156753762548270_5225040028702343168_n42362307_10156753763168270_7482848205281951744_n42363078_10156753762898270_966404505304301568_n42366783_10156753762838270_6615374681048350720_n42381540_10156753763248270_3808446745172508672_n42407536_10156753762458270_8085776075071684608_n42421708_10156753762293270_1261518219382882304_n42424441_10156753762913270_9076871806194810880_n42449513_10156753762653270_8193561006669037568_n42465679_10156753762733270_1740019190095413248_n42481548_10156753762413270_3381396446124179456_n42494983_10156753762718270_7254968562089984000_n42500488_10156753763023270_6698435873924448256_n

And that’s it for now! We finally have a Saturday with perfect weather, so we’re going to be jumping back into the porch project today and tomorrow. I’m hopeful that we will make a lot of progress this weekend.

Paint Colors, Backhoes, and Sewer Problems.

So we’ve owned the house for a few months now, and I figured it was time to update everyone on what we have going on.

Our main focus has been the exterior of the house. We decided that cleaning up the yard and tightening the exterior this summer would be the best use of our time. The lot was a jungle when we bought this house, and the house was not safe from animals. In fact, a squirrel had chewed through one of the upstairs windows at one point. We also had a major sewer problem that needed to be addressed as well. It was a no brainer–the outside needed to come first.

As much fun as it is to focus on sewer problems, I couldn’t help but obsess over what colors we should use on the outside of the house. This house was always white, and while it certainly looked beautiful at one time, I just need some color in my life. I went through so many different color schemes. Reds, blues, yellows, and even a purple (I know. I was snapped back to sanity when I did a test swatch) After many trips to the paint swatch rack at the hardware store we finally settled on a dark green for the body, a creamy tan for the trim, and a burgundy for the windows.

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It’s earthy, yet dramatic. I love it!

I’ve been working on scraping, priming and reglazing windows. Hopefully we’ll be able to put some color on the house soon!

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Ok, back to the sewer problem. When we bought this house, the city sewer was backing up into the cellar. Yuck. The city was having a difficult time figuring out what was causing it, so we finally decided to call someone in to dig up the backyard to see what was going on. The culprit? The neighbor’s house across the street had been tied into our line many, many years ago. And at some point over the years the line developed a clog. This resulted in waste backing up into our plumbing, which resulted in a burst pipe in the cellar, which resulted in a very disgusting situation for us. But, the good news is, is that we finally got the issue fixed, and everyone’s toilets in the neighborhood should now be functioning as they should, and not filling up our basement.

37529685_10156595827388270_4876493764660559872_nThis was a beautiful sight after MONTHS of issues.

While the crew was here digging up the sewer line we had them rip out the sidewalks out front and regrade the lot so the the house wouldn’t get bombarded with water on the front elevation.

They did an excellent job.

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Now that this house is free from it’s water problems and overgrowth, we can really get started on making it pretty again.

Up next-painting.

How Did We Get Here?

So, after seeing a lot of interest in what we’re doing, I decided to start a blog!

To kick it off we’ll start at the beginning and answer the question that many have asked–How did you come to buy this place?

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It started about a year ago….

After Henry was born, we realized pretty quick that our current home wasn’t going to cut it for a family. Jake and I bought it right after we got married and it was the perfect starter home. We’ve done a lot of work on our little cottage and have loved it over the past six years. We always thought that we would stay here, but alas, we started a family, and suddenly we started to notice a couple of negatives with our house.

First, it’s SMALL. It’s a whopping 970 square feet. It was perfect when it was just the two of us and a dog, but adding a baby and all of the things that a baby needs, makes for some closed quarters.

Second, it’s on a very busy street. This was actually one of the things that appealed to me when we bought our house. I loved the idea of being on one of the main streets in town. Now with a toddler and no fence, that busy street has become one of the biggest sources of stress in my life.

It’s just not practical for us anymore.

So…

A little over a year ago my sister brought up a house that seemed abandoned. She knew we were trying to find another old house and she has a knack for noticing every old house in this town.

She convinced me to take a walk last summer check out the property. I had seen this house many times before, but I don’t think I truly saw it. It just never jumped out at me. Honestly that could have been caused by the overgrowth that was hiding it. The more I walked around the outside, the more it started to appeal to me.

The next day Christy was on it. She called the courthouse and got a phone number. She ended up getting in touch with the owner. They said they would sell it eventually, but had personal matters to take care of before they could think about selling.

Weeks went by. Then months went by. And I kept thinking about it. Anytime I was out running errands I made a point to drive by. I wanted to see more.

I decided to call the owner that my sister had spoken to, just to introduce myself. I understood that they weren’t quite ready to sell, but I wanted to let them know that I was seriously interested when they were ready. I got an answering machine, left what I’m sure was a very awkward sounding voicemail, and waited some more.

A few weeks later I got a phone call from the sister of the person I had called. I was afraid that I was going to hear “We’re not interested in selling.” but it was quite the opposite.

I found out that this was her and her sister’s (along with 7 other siblings) parent’s house. They all grew up in it, and it had been in the family since 1924. We spent close to an hour on the phone. She told me about the layout, and shared a few stories of her childhood there. I even found out that they played with my uncles when they were all kids, because my great grandmothers house used to stand right behind theirs. She ended the call by saying that she lived out of the area and would call me when they made their next trip to town to let me see the inside.

A few weeks later I got the call.

 

The inside was in rough shape. In addition to the grittiness of being uninhabited for so long it had cloth wiring, bad plumbing, an animal infestation (Fun fact–Jake chased a cat out the day we closed), and some of the floors were caving¬† downstairs. But looking past all of it’s flaws, it was gorgeous and it needed our help. We fell in love.

We looked at the house in the fall, right before the holiday season, so Jake and I decided it was best to wait until after the first of the year to move forward. It made for a long two months, but 2018 finally came. I contacted them again and we started to work on an agreement. After another few months of negotiations and processing, we finally bought it, and we couldn’t be happier!

Are we crazy? Probably. But I think the crazies have more fun! I’ll be updating this blog as we go, so keep an eye out for new posts to see all of this insanity unfold.

 

side note–if you want to see a video tour of the house check out Jake’s Youtube channel. He’ll be keeping a video log of the restoration!