The moment you’ve been waiting for — I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Within the next ten weeks, we should have the mansion ready and (hopefully) the Summer Kitchen as well. Unfortunately, the Paymaster’s Office will take a little longer. Notice I didn’t say “finished,” just “ready.” The stuff that is absolutely required in order for us to get our occupancy permit and open the B&B is highlighted in bold.
On October 15, I published Dawn’s new to-do list. Let’s see what she’s accomplished in the last five months:
In addition, Brian took out the stairs to the workshop, which apparently were not built correctly and ready to collapse. But that also means we have to replace them.
That’s quite a bit of work for five months, but there’s still so much left. Now that the plaster is finished, paint is Dawn’s next priority — and with so much trim and ornamentation, that’s a huge job by itself. Olde York Homes will be looking to finish the cottages, and also build the kitchen island. Village Glass has more than enough windows and storms to stay busy for four months, Henry Hollenbech still has the summer kitchen to repoint, and Brian, poor Brian, gets everything nobody else wants.
As I’ve mentioned before, plastering is a lost art. And to the people who used to do it for a living, I’m sure they said “good riddance.”
The good thing about plaster was that the materials were cheap, and as long as it didn’t get wet it would last forever. The bad thing was that it required a lot of time and labor, was horribly messy, and the walls were never, ever straight.
So imagine everyone’s delight at the turn of the last century, when drywall was introduced — it was cheap, it was flat, it was easy to install, and it didn’t make a mess. Unfortunately, it wasn’t appropriate for a 1760 mansion, so we couldn’t use it.
But we could cheat a little. Rather than install lath and a browncoat, we used “blueboard,” which is really just drywall that is moisture-resistant so you can apply wet plaster over it. That saved about half of the labor costs, but didn’t save the mess as they sanded the two coats of plaster. I imagine we’ll be blowing plaster dust out of every nook and cranny for the rest of our lives.
We also cheated on the ceilings. Rather than patch all the cracks and the holes made by the insulators, we just put up blueboard and a coat of plaster. That saved a lot of labor at the expense of the crown molding in some of the rooms. But since the blueboard was only a quarter-inch thick, it seemed a reasonable compromise.
Picture this: It’s September 6, the last day of my “vacation”, and I’ve spent the last five hours talking to the plumber, the contractor, and the septic guy, when the channel 11 news van pulls up, ready to do an interview.
Of course I knew they were coming — Dawn specifically scheduled them for my visit so she didn’t have to appear on camera — but that didn’t mean I was ready. Like so many other things on this project, if I knew what was coming, I wouldn’t have done it. Or at least I would have scheduled it early in the morning, so I wasn’t exhausted from talking all day.
Dawn was still dealing with the septic guy so she was in the cornfield during the entire interview, which was probably a good thing because she would have been kicking me throughout. Instead, she had to wait until it was on TV before she kicked me.
The original clip was ninety seconds long, but I’ve abridged it to 45 seconds — partly for bandwidth, but mostly to remove embarrassing clips of me saying the stupidest things. (Such as, “The biggest challenge is the cost, that’s what keeps me up at night.” Way to market the B&B, Gregg!) Rebecca Baer is the anchorwoman and she also did the interview.
Afterwards, I picked up a copy of “Guerrilla Publicity” which devoted an entire chapter devoted to common mistakes people make on camera. I’m pretty sure I hit every one.
Two technical corrections: Rebecca states the mansion was unoccupied for a year (it was 20 years) and that we gutted the entire mansion plus two other buildings (we worked very hard to preserve as much as possible in the mansion and Paymaster’s Office; we did gut the Summer Kitchen because there wasn’t anything worth saving.) Also, the “1902” seen at the end of clip was where the paper hanger had signed the wall; it is crossed out because the next paper hanger (in 1947) was a jerk.
Just in case we were getting excited about all the progress made so far…
While I harbor no illusions that anyone is interested in our fixtures list, we’ve spent so much time on it that it would be a shame not to include it. Dawn asked me not to include prices, but I can say it will be about $30,000 total, not including the kitchen. Ouch.
Addendum: After posting this, our plumber contacted Sanijet to get pricing, and they said they not only knew about Speedwell Forge, but had even gotten referrals from this journal! I’m not sure how that is possible, but in any case it didn’t translate to any discount for us, so I’m not going to worry about it.
I will mention (for free) that we’re using Sanijet because they don’t have any pipes, so when you empty and clean the bath, it’s really empty and really clean. If you want to see something disgusting, order their promotional video, which shows what’s in the pipes of a conventional whirlpool tub. Let’s just say I’ll never be using one of those again…
Unfortunately, they don’t make a clawfoot model, which we really wanted for Kathryn’s bath, so we’re getting an “air tub” instead. That also doesn’t have pipes, but it does have a loud air blower, which we’re going to put upstairs in the attic area. During my last visit we taped off Kathryn’s bath, and with a 6′ x 3.5′ clawfoot whirlpool tub, it’s going to be nice.
They want to put 75-pound weights on each stair to make sure the grand stairway can support all that weight. I have no doubt it will pass the test, I just think it’s a funny way to test it. I could just get fifteen friends to stand on every other stair, and save a little money.
They started taking out the bathroom tile today. We thought this was put in the 70’s because of the color scheme – gold and black – but Barry Stover, the architectural historian, told us that in the 40’s, bull-nose tiles only came in white and black. So it was probably original to when Dawn’s grandparents put in the bathrooms but, unfortunately, that didn’t make it any less ugly. It doesn’t matter; in order to replace the plumbing they have to take it out, anyway.
And the best news of the day: The well is going dry. Last week we had the pump replaced and everything was working fine, and today they started getting brown water, indicating the water level was so low it was pulling in mud. And here’s the irony: I’m flying in Friday. If you recall, when I flew in for Christmas, the water pipe burst and I couldn’t take a shower. And when I flew in at the end of January, the drain leaked so I couldn’t take a shower. And now I’m coming in on Friday and the water goes bad. Should I be reading into this?
I have no idea what was going on with the well — a month later everything appears to be fine. (And yes, I did get a shower.)