29 July 2008

Ol' Windbag

My neighbors are not old house people nor are they preservationists. They are mostly landlords out to make the most money they can from an old house by covering it in plastic, putting in badly-sized plastic windows, and totally gutting the inside.

I am the neighborhood scavenger. When I see porches being pulled down I am there asking for the posts, or driving by and pulling them off the curb.

The brown ones are from across the street and the white ones from the same block around the corner. My neighborhood is slowly turning into a vinyl village.

These two beauties came from the house next door. The "vinyl siders" tore them off because they didn't want to work around them and threw them in the dank area between this house and the next one, where I dug them out of piles of leaves and who knows what else. This house still has brackets on the front and one side.

(These are upside-down)

These were from a beautiful house with a wrap-around porch about a mile away that I passed every day on my way to work. One day the posts were gone and I saw them in the back of a truck with the brackets. I went around that block about 4 times before I stopped to talk to the carpenter. He said he was told to take them off because they had "dry rot" and he replaced them with 4x4 treated lumber. I asked if I could have them and he helped me load up all the whole ones in my truck. I saw no dry rot on any of them. They needed scraping and painting. Unfortunately most of them had been hacked at and cut into pieces and the brackets, of which each post had two, were mostly trashed, but I got 4 mostly whole brackets and two whole posts and two pieces.

Anyway, this is just a prelude. I bought a funky little table at the Heritage Hill Home Tour four years ago from the guys who restored the Gerald R Ford family home (photo). Seems they, too, collect architectural salvage and they were getting rid of some of it. Its main attraction was the pedestal, which seemed to be a carved capital. I took it apart yesterday. It was held together by EIGHT whopping big long screws that were very hard for little old me to get out.

I want to use the different pieces for several projects, so need to fill in the holes, strip, sand, etc. I glued the triangular base together and started scraping the top. I noticed that the capital had some dings in it and I could see plaster through the thin, black latex paint that was covering an earlier layer of gold leaf.

This is black paint with a spattering of white sprayed over it. I have no idea what the guys were thinking when they did that. Anyway I started picking at the paint and then a large chunk of paint and plaster fell off and I was staring at an eye! I had thought this was a conventional capital of acanthus leaves and foliage. I excitedly started picking away at it and a face emerged.

Its a little creepy looking, but its hand-carved and there are 4 of them. I spent the rest of the afternoon picking away with dental tools at the paint and plaster that was smeared over the faces to smooth them out so it could be gold-leafed.

More pics tomorrow.


Jayne said...

That face is so cool! Who knew there'd be a Green Man underneath all that paint?!

Sandy said...


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