Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Annie's Story (our house's original owners)

I just got done reading Sherry's post on Young House Love about the history and original owners of their house. I've LOVED researching the history of our homes, and Sherry's post got me thinking I should also write about what we know of our current home's history.

(Our house, circa 1980)

And a similar view today...

First I should probably back up a bit... When we bought our home the seller didn't disclose any major defects, and it passed the home inspection... so, needless to say, we were shocked to discover (shortly after closing) that the house had major problems... It's a log home and the logs hadn't been maintained (by the previous, not original owner) and there was wood rot, bug infestation, and places where we could see light between the logs. (The inspector apparently knew nothing about log homes and just gave the exterior of the house a very quick look!) Anyway, a fair amount of panic ensued when the first estimate to fix the house came back at more than 25% of what we'd just paid for the entire house... and there was anger too.  Anger at the seller, and the inept inspector, of course... but I was also angry at the house. It made no sense, but I somehow blamed it (for not being taken care of?!) for all it's problems.

It was in the midst of all the drama and trauma of discovering the house we'd sunk every penny into was in danger of falling down, that I tracked down Annie. I guess I needed to know the history of the house to try to make my peace with what felt like a dream home turned nightmare money pit...

Annie, with her husband, built our house... their house... starting back in the mid-1970's. She was an art teacher, he was a lumber jack... She eventually told me a dozen stories about the building of this house.... about how they'd harvested the logs for the house up in the mountains and had them milled before hauling them down here to build. The logs are all lodgepole pine, and some of them have a bluish tinge to them because they are beetle-kill wood. (The beetles stain the wood...)

The living room fireplace was built from huge stones they gathered in Coal Creek Canyon and hauled down with the help of friends...

The bedroom fireplace is made from petrified wood they found when they dug the foundation.

It was a long time before they were ready to build this fireplace, so they "stored" the petrified wood under a big scrub oak in the front pasture until they needed it.

It took them two full years to build the house... When they first started building they drove out each weekend to work, during the latter part of the building they lived in a little camper parked in what would later become the garage.

The logs are held together with huge spikes and have both insulation and chinking in between each course.

Annie had one very close call during the building... She said she had been working pounding together a course of logs on the north side, towards the top of the second story. As she worked her way along, straddling the top of the logs, holding on with her legs and pounding in stakes with a sledgehammer, she worked her way to where the guest bathroom is... and not realizing that her husband had cut out the logs for that window since the last time she'd worked, she scootched forward expecting solid logs between her knees to hold onto and found the open space of the window instead. She lost her balance and slipped upside down (legs still holding on, feet locked together), around the top course of logs where she held on as tightly as she could and started yelling for help... Thankfully her husband was close and was able to get to her before she fell.

(Annie was sitting on top of the upper window on the left when she almost fell...)

After she told me that story I asked what she did after she was pulled back to safety... She said she got back up on top of the logs and kept working.

Our loft was designed to be her art studio (it has water piped into it, but has never had a sink installed) and the big wall in the family room  was designed to be a "gallery wall" of her artwork.

(The house in about 1980, Annie's gallery wall on the left...)

The family room now from about the same angle (notice the same doorbell, painted now, over the stairs...).

We have their original blueprints and cherish them. It's a quirky house, but not a haphazard one...

It is definitely one of a kind.

Annie bred and raised Arabian horses and was so happy to know that the barn is being used as a barn again. (It had been used as RV storage for years before we bought the house.)

See the little camper in the background? That's what they lived in while they finished building the house... (the photo dates from the early 1980's)

Sadly, Annie's husband began losing his sight about 5 years after the house was finished. By the time the house was 7 years old he was almost blind and unable to maintain the house any longer and they sold it.  He passed away a few years later...

(Annie's husband ans son shortly after the house was finished...)

After I tracked Annie down and we had a chance to talk about this funny old house, I found it easy to forgive the house (for being such a wreck) and became 110% committed to bringing it back to what it should have been.

(2005 - During the exterior repair stage... log damage repaired, chimneys rebuilt, stucco... to the protect logs... going on.)

When the house was built, Annie and her husband had intended it to have stone chimneys... but the budget just wouldn't allow stone, so they finished them in wood. When we repaired the outside of the house, I used Annie's blueprints as a guide and had the chimneys rebuilt in stone.

Since we couldn't preserve the log exterior (leave it exposed) we trimmed out the house in lodge pole pine timbers as a way of connecting the "old" log home, with the "new" stucco covered one.

The first time Annie came to dinner, she walked into the house and tears immediately came to her eyes. As she wiped the tears away she said, "There's a lot of love built into this house..."  She even asked if, on another visit, she could sprinkle some of her husband's ashes out in our gully...

I wasn't sure what to say (it was an unexpected request to say the least!) but I said yes... and later that same summer she came back and walked our gully, sprinkling ashes and just being alone there. She later told me that gully was so important to her (to them) because, before this land was even available for purchase (when it was still railroad land) she and her husband had been part of a trail riding club and had frequently ridden their horses across this land... timing their lunch stop so they could picnic in a pretty little gully along the way.

That pretty little gully ended up part of the land they (and we) eventually purchased...

So... that's the story of our house. Sorry it got so long, but it seemed important to get it written down...

Anybody else have a house story to share?


Renee Nefe said...

We don't know a whole lot about our house. We do know who the first owners were as we still get their junk mail. We know that our neighbor advised them to NOT plant Aspen trees on the fence line and they honored that request...thank goodness as the ones they planted in the front garden are nothing but a pain. We also know that the one tree they planted out back was a poor choice. We know that they had a hot tub in the back yard and took that with them when they moved...the second owner left the electrical wires exposed the entire time they were here. We know the first owners had dogs fenced in the area off the north side of the house and that the dogs damaged the downstairs bath. We don't know why they chose to leave the downstairs bath as a very oversized powder was clearly supposed to be a full bath. We don't know why the plans for the house included space for a laundry room on the main floor and upstairs...or why the first owners chose the main floor. We know the second owner (the ones we bought from) put in a second electrical panel in the basement for a wood shop...hubby was very disappointed that they didn't leave any of that. ;) and the funny story... we know the first owners put a wallpaper border of chili peppers up in the kitchen. The second owner tried to take it down but for some reason became nervous and reglued the paper with wood glue. I decided that that paper had to go but started taking it down from the other side of the room...when I got to the reglued portion some of the wall texture came off with the paper, but I just painted over it. You can barely tell. When the second owner heard from our neighbor that I had removed that border she was so mad because she hated that paper.

Dreaming of Sand Between My Toes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dreaming of Sand Between My Toes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dreaming of Sand Between My Toes said...

Love that story! How did you track down the original owner? I hate the last owner of our house, but would love to meet the ones who built the house!


(Not sure where my "user name" came from- Google has a mind of it's own apparently!)

Leigh said...

Maura, I came by to return the blog visit and thank you for taking the time to comment on mine. What an amazing story! Very interesting and you all have done a wonderful job with your house.

Loren said...

Great post! We have the blueprints of our house framed on the is so fascinating to think of a history of a place. I'm glad the original owner got to spend some time in the gully.