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July 5, 2021

Episode #57: Bonus Old House Segments from the Archives

Episode #57: Bonus Old House Segments from the Archives

Stacy is away for the long holiday weekend. So, for today's episode, she's sharing previously recorded content that never aired, including more information about writing historic register nominations, the importance of documenting your projects...


Stacy is away for the long holiday weekend. So, for today's episode, she's sharing previously recorded content that never aired, including more information about writing historic register nominations, the importance of documenting your projects with notes and photos, and what it’s like to be a kid growing up in an old house. 

Thank You to our Sponsor

This episode is supported by The Window Course.

The Window Course is a step-by-step do-it-yourself program that will teach you everything you need to restore historic wood windows successfully. The information is comprehensive and taught with Scott’s signature approachable style. For 10% off, visit The Window Course and use the coupon code truetales.

Mentioned in this Episode


Thank you for listening to True Tales From Old Houses.

Until next time,



Stacy Grinsfelder  0:00  
Hello. This week I'm on a break enjoying the long Independence Day weekend. Instead of a regular episode, I've put some all-new fun and educational bonus content together for you, including more information about writing Historic Register nominations, the importance of documenting your projects with notes and photos, and what it's like to be a kid growing up in an old house. There are two more full-length episodes left this season and those shows will air Monday, July 19, and Monday, August 2. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:33  
I'm Stacy Grinsfelder from Blake Hill House, and I'm the host of True Tales From Old Houses.

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:46  
Today's episode is supported by the window course from Scott Sidler of The Craftsman Blog. Scott has created a full set of videos that will teach you everything you need to know to restore your historic wood windows. As old house owners and DIYers, we're all used to doing things the hard way, but wouldn't it be nice to give yourself a break now and then? Scott's course puts all of your window restoration education in one location. No more scouring the internet for missing information. It's all there exactly when and where you need it. By the window course for yourself or buy it to use as a training tool for the person you hire to restore your windows. It's up to you. The Window Course is offered with a money-back guarantee and lucky for us, Scott is offering True Tales From Old Houses listeners a discount. For 10% off, visit the window and use the coupon code truetales.

Stacy Grinsfelder  1:55  
A few weeks ago when I went to St. Joseph Missouri to visit John Rodgers. I asked John if he would mind if I chatted with his son Ethan about what it's like to be a kid living in an old house. Since my daughter was along for the ride. I asked her if she would join in too. Listen closely to the part where Ethan talks about his favorite room in the house. It's clear he is an old house lover and the son of a restoration contractor. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:20  
All right. Well, we have a special segment here in today's episode, because you're going to meet John Rogers later, but before you do, I am visiting here with his son, Ethan and also my daughter and why don't you two go ahead and introduce yourselves. 

Ethan  2:35  
I'm Ethan. And I'm the son of john Rogers. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:41  
Great. How old are you, Ethan?

Ethan  2:42  
I am eight years old and about two months. I think I'm gonna turn nine.

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:47  
Excellent. All right,

M  2:48  
I'm Maya. I'm 14 years old, the daughter of persons hosting the show.

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:55  
For better for worse, right? 

M  2:56  

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:57  
All right. Well, thank you both for being here. I wanted to do a just a really quick conversation because you both live in very old houses and as kids, I wanted to know what it's like for you. I know Ethan here at your house, you volunteer with the pet shelter. Is that correct? 

Ethan  3:13  

Stacy Grinsfelder  3:14  
Okay, great. And you have something really special living in your house right now what's who's living here with you? From the shelter.

Ethan  3:21  
We have three baby kittens. We got them when they were three days old. And the mom was feral. When they opened the box, she ran away and they never found her. So now we had to foster. It was technically five. But we lost two of them when they got really really sick. And these three are the ones still standing.

Stacy Grinsfelder  3:41  
So you had to bottle feed them?

Ethan  3:43  
Yes, we had to feed them for about two, three weeks. And then they hopped on some cat food. And then now they're a little older. We can get them to eat like normal crunchy kitten food. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  3:55  
Wow. It's amazing how fast that happens. How much longer will they be there with you be here with you? 

Ethan  4:00  

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:01  
two weeks, three weeks? Something like that, 

Ethan  4:03  
yeah two. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:04  
Yeah. That's great. Good. And then I also heard that you have some baby chicks living here too. 

Ethan  4:10  
Yes, but technically they're not babies. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:13  
They're in that ugly teenager stage, the really funny one where their feathers look funny and their wings are wet. Oh, I'm sorry. Maya-- that was not --you aren't the ugly teenager. 

M  4:20  

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:21  
I just realized my daughter's looking incensed here at me calling it the ugly teenager stage. This is going well, isn't it? Maya? I'm going to come over to you my beautiful teenager and ask you what is the best thing for you about living in an old house do you think? We haven't always lived in a house like this.

M  4:41  
Yeah. Um, I like how like the architecture looks in old houses. I think it's really cool to find just kind of stuff that can be-- like the old wallpaper that we will sometimes find when we peel the walls back and stuff. That I find really cool.

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:55  
Yeah, that is neat. How about you, Ethan? Is theres something special about living in a big house, old House? 

Ethan  4:59  
It's Interesting. It's cool since they're humongous. And 

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:05  
Do you ever feel that it's so big that you get nervous or anything like that?

Ethan  5:10  
Um, sometimes like when we travel to like a humungous house where it's like bigger than this one and it's

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:16  
Yeah, I mean, how big could it be? This one's pretty big. Every floor is a circle. Like, it must be a really great place to play hide and seek. 

Ethan  5:24  

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:24  
it could be. Do you have any secret hiding spots? 

Ethan  5:27  
Oh, a few. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:28  
Yeah, where do you think you'd hide? 

M  5:29  
He can't reveal them? Because then they won't be secret anymore. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:32  
That's true. What's your favorite room or favorite spot in this house? Ethan? 

Ethan  5:36  
Probably, um, the sleeping porch. It's humongous. There's a million millions of toys in there. Um, there's really fun in that room. Plus, you get really, really hot and really, really cold in the winter.

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:52  
You get used to it. You wear a coat in the winter? And

Ethan  5:54  
Sometimes, but there's original radiators in the house. So it's quite warming in that room because those are the hottest radiators in the house.

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:02  
Yeah, that sounds nice to sit by him and read a book or something? 

Ethan  6:04  
Yeah. Or watch videos or play games. 

M  6:07  
I guess for you, Maya, this has kind of sparked an interest in recreating buildings that you see. And sometimes you've asked me You've said, Let's go take a drive and sometimes and look at a building, and then maybe you want to recreate it in your video game. 

M  6:20  

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:20  
Do you do the same thing sometimes? Ethan, do you rebuild things? And

Ethan  6:23  
Yeah, sometimes. I like drawing and taking pictures and copying off the drawings. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:29  
Do you play Lego with Lego? 

Ethan  6:30  
Oh, yes. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:31  
Yeah. We had lots and lots of Legos in our house for a long, long time. All right. Well, thank you both for answering these questions for me. It was great to talk to you. So nice to meet you, Ethan. And for you Maya, I guess I'll take you home with me.

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:50  
During season three, I talked to Amy Heavilin, who started the popular 52 weeks of home hashtag on Instagram (#52weeksofhome). She also blogs at the Vivacious Victorian, which I'll link in the show notes. When she and her husband purchased their home. It had been neglected for a very long time, and she talked about how they financed the purchase and construction as owners committed to the restoration and preservation process.

Amy  7:15  
When we bought the house, like I said, it was raining on the inside and the house was super cheap. So we ended up finding a local bank that worked with us to-- This is another thing that people might find helpful when they're trying to think of well, how can I afford a house. And we actually wrapped in the exterior work into the loan of the house. So we had a construction loan, and then our mortgage, and then at the end of the project, then it we lumped it all in. So instead of us being able to afford, you know, a pretty nice house, we could afford a cheap house plus the construction work. And then we made that all work, but because of that, there were deadlines, so we had to get the exterior work done. Initially, it was supposed to be six months, but then there were some snow storms it got pushed, I think to 10 months. And and we are we are very good at what we do, but we are very slow--if we did ourselves. You know, a third of the siding had to be taken out and replaced, and because it had just rotted through and a slate roof--We put a slate roof back on the house because it had a slate roof to begin with. So So yeah, so it was definitely not a DIY project. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  8:28  
Alright, well, that's good to know. So a mortgage plus a construction loan that was then consolidated at the end of the process into a different mortgage, I guess, is that how that works?

Amy  8:39  
Yeah, that's exactly how it worked. And depending on the banks like we--what we found, and we honestly, we didn't do a whole lot of bank shopping around because we just asked some questions. If you have a local historic Historical Society in town, they are the best people to go to. So if you find a house that you love, and you think you can't afford it, then, you know, talk to those local historical people, because they know what banks in town are going to be more likely to help out homeowners. And so we ended up wrapping the exterior house of the house, and then also our kitchen into it. And the kitchen. We did do a lot of that DIY, and we had to submit the bank, a DIY resume, we just show them pictures of here's the work-- so that yes, we're not crazy homeowners and we know what we're doing, and we're not going to mess it up. And so yeah, we went to a bank that was really interested in helping to build up the community. And it was it was awesome. So we didn't do a lot of shopping around because we just we talked to the Historical Society in town and they were very, very helpful.

Stacy Grinsfelder  9:40  
That's really smart. And they might have ideas about insurance too, because some people have an awfully hard time finding home insurance homeowners insurance. 

Amy  9:47  
Yeah, absolutely. Or people that--our local Historical Society does not have a list but I know the State Historical Society has a list of--these are contractors that have been recommended to us by other people who have done great work on historic houses, because that's another thing, finding contractors who are willing to do the extra work--because sometimes it's a lot easier just to rip things out and throw it away than it is to actually restore it. And so finding people that are willing to do 10 extra miles in order to save part of your house, can be a challenge. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  10:24  
Right, for sure.

Stacy Grinsfelder  10:39  
During season three, Devyn and I talked to Melissa Mortimer, who is a historic preservation planner in Tennessee. During the full interview, we talked a lot about what it means for a house or building to have a Historic Register designation. However, one segment that didn't make it into the final interview was the specific information to put on a national register nomination.

Devyn Caldwell  11:00  
So tell us what goes into national register nomination. 

Melissa Mortimer  11:03  
A good resource for this is-- there's a national register bulletin put out by the National Park Service, which you can get online. But basically, when I went --first thing is to evaluate if it's eligible. So we go over those four criteria that we went over earlier, significance related to history, person architecture, archaeology. So for an actual national register form, and I would contact your SHPO first to make sure they agree that they think that your house or building is eligible, because you don't want to go through, it's a long process to write out a nomination and I wouldn't want to write it, and then the SHPO disagree and think that is not eligible. So for a nomination, you're going to have an architectural description. So this goes over every elevation of your house. So for a building: so front front, facade, East elevation, West elevation, South, all that and you're going to describe in detail, and I like to either start from the top, the top down, or the bottom up, so you're going to start talking about the roof, what configuration it is, and you move down and say it has ornamental brackets, knee brace brackets made out of this type of material, very detailed going all the way down to the foundation of the materials, the design, just an overall architectural description. And then you can even do interior a little bit if it has like specific features, that the integrity is still there, or that relate to say, if it's for architecture, if it was a craftsman, you'd want to mention all the you know, built-ins and wood work--if you have any taper arches, that sort of thing. So after the architectural description, you're gonna have a statement of significance. So that is saying why this property is significant. And those are the going over the four criteria. So say if I was writing-- right now I'm writing a nomination for a church and it's significant for its Gothic Revival architecture. So what you always want to do is compare it to other buildings of its age or style in the area. So for this stock revival church, I went around--It's in Ray County, Tennessee. So I went all around Ray County, looking to see if there was anything similar to it, so what--So then I'm going to talk about why it's significant for its Gothic Revival architecture, pointing out the Gothic arches, 

Stacy Grinsfelder  13:28  

Melissa Mortimer  13:29  
wall materials, the design, and then talk about why it's significant because it still has its integrity. It's unlike any other church in the county. It's the oldest, you know, going through why it is significant. And then you're also going to have photos, maps, any historic photos, you might have to just go over to kind of give more beef to your..

Stacy Grinsfelder  13:57  
So you're putting together a packet really,of all the information, right?

Melissa Mortimer  14:00  
Right. And in that you're going to-- So churches are interesting, because you can't actually be eligible for your significance in history. For a church you have at least that's what they say, in Tennessee, you have to do it for architecture. I'm not really sure why that is. Or if it's just I'm not sure if it's my SHPO or other people's so I can't speak for other places, since I've only done two nominations and testing, but that's how it is here. So it has to be significant for its architecture, but you're also want to put in that history and background of the church too just for reference. So it's basically like a whole write-up. And having that description, later you can go see-- If something were, if it were to be demolished, if it were to be altered. You can go back and basically read that architectural description and give you a complete mental image of what that church looks like. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  14:55  

Stacy Grinsfelder  15:15  
And finally, during season four Devyn and I interviewed bill Chapman from Enon Hall. That interview became a very popular two-parter, and of course, Bill has been back throughout this season to help me with Q & A. Well, after that original interview, Bill recorded a short segment about the importance of documentation and photography for old house owners.

Bill  15:38  
You know, we updated the Enon Hall website, the the online journal, for 10 years from 1999 until 2008. Every day that we worked on the house, we would post about what we had done and post photos. And in the moment, the value I saw was, it was great to have that supportive community and even to get an Attaboy at the end of the long day. What I didn't realize and didn't understand at the time, is number one, that I have a terrible memory. And I can't tell you how many times that Gay and I over the years since, I've referred back to that website, to look up when we did something or how we did something or to see a photo of a wall while it was still being framed to see where electrical was running, where plumbing was run, or even to look at, you know, old timber framing that had been exposed while the siding was off. I can't tell you how important that documentation is. When we stopped the website in 2008 stopped updating the website, our work didn't stop. And there are projects that happened between 2008 and a couple years ago, when I resurfaced at Williams urging, actually on Instagram. There were major projects that we did, like the North foundation wall of the cellar was completely rebuilt. And I don't have the level of documentation of that project that I wish I had to be able to refer back to it, I have some photos on my phone. But that's about it. So I would just say that the documentation of everything you do as you go is so important and so valuable. A place to document paint colors that you use. How many times do we go scrambling around trying to remember what that can of paint, what that color was because the remaining paint in the can is all dried up and the label is faded, you can't read it. I can go back to the Enon Hall website and do a quick Google search and find out what that pink can color is. Right now, you know, with Instagram, it's kind of serving that purpose. But it's nowhere near as efficient to find information. And I don't necessarily put the same level of detail in the captions. The bedroom project that I'm working on now, I stopped Sunday and forced myself to do while the walls are open while I can see everything and while everything that I figured out about the different phases of construction and remodeling of that room. While it's all fresh in my head before I have forgotten it. I'm sitting there and writing a report and documenting what I see measuring things and then also putting down on paper. My theory as I see it right now. So I've really come to believe if you don't write it down, it never happened. So that that process that effort that you put into documentation, I guarantee you for other folks who are working on old homes, it will be so valuable to you in the future.

Stacy Grinsfelder  18:51  
Thank you for listening to today's bonus content episode. For more information including show notes and transcripts visit And as always, if you love the show, please consider sharing it and leaving a rating or review wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. I'll be back with a regular full-length episode on Monday, July 19. Until next time,