Sippican Cottage

the lonely sconce


A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Alexander the Great Eat Your Heart Out

Alexander the Great famously wept when he conquered everyplace on his maps, and a bunch of places that weren’t, because there were no worlds left to conquer. He was worried about boredom. I don’t have that sort of problem. That’s the beauty of buying a house in total disrepair. By the time you get to the end of the list of chores, the first thing on your list needs a fresh coat of paint. A ship of Theseus still needs varnish on the brightwork every year or two.

Me? I don’t get bored. I haven’t been bored in so long I forget what boredom is like. I imagine it’s like getting hired to be the stunt double for Kevin Costner in The Big Chill. I think I might like boredom, but as they say, “I’m sorry, the lifestyle you ordered is out of stock. Please select another.”

So let’s just stumble into another doorway in the upstairs hallway and see if there’s a room that we can renovate. Look, here’s one:

Hmm. Hedrons. I don’t know how bored you’d have to be to have the kind of time it takes to paint hedrons on your wall, but someone had that kind of time. It’s one of the least interesting, dare I say boring things in the room, though. It can’t compete with the munchkin door, leading to a spider kingdom and a hellmouth. I’d write a macabre, 1,100-word book about if I lived four hours east of here, but I don’t.

The ceiling is very interesting. It has the original coat of paint on it, and it ain’t paint (Hello Dr. Suess). It’s calsomine, a sort of whitewash that someone tinted with yellow. Calsomine is forever water soluble. If you try to paint over it, the paint peels forevermore. That’s why old houses have so many peeling ceilings (Dr. Suess strikes again). I’ve encountered acres of calsomine in my career, but this is the first intact ceiling I ever saw. It’s funny, but since the house had been neglected for a century, I didn’t have to deal with one hundred years of intervening foolishness like I did in most of the rest of the house. All you need to remove calsomine is bucket and sponge and some water. Scrubs right off, and the ceiling is ready for a less vibrant coat of ceiling white.

People often accuse Victorians of being stick-in-the-muds. Victorian means uptight when used as an adjective. I dunno. That’s a pretty exuberant ceiling color. In another room, it was robin’s egg blue. Neither was a boring color.

Stand in front of the window and look back, and you can see the room’s plenty big. No closet, though. The wall sconces were wired with knob and tube, which makes me pretty sure they’re original equipment, although the fixtures themselves were changed out in the 1950s or so.

The wall on the right as you walk in the door had a sconce, too, and miracle of miracles, a convenience outlet in the baseboard. Those were rarer than common sense in congress in our shack. If you look closely, you can see that the fir, solid panel door is battered something awful. All the doors upstairs show ghost outlines and abandoned screwholes from padlock hasps on the hallway side. Somebody wanted to lock someone or something inside those rooms. Page the writer four hours east, and let’s move on.

Here’s a closeup of the baseboard heat someone installed back in the day. They ran the romex cable along the baseboard, held in place with nasty, bare metal U-shaped staples. I gather the heating didn’t work after a while, so the took off the cover plate and wiggled the wires around to no avail, and then lost the plate. They should have looked inside the little door. Mice had eaten all the insulation off the romex wire, and it had shorted out.

Well, my spare heir goes to college online, and we needed a workroom for him. This will do nicely, and act as a spare bedroom to boot. It’s a simple job compared to the rest of the rooms. Let’s get cracking.

[To be continued. To help support Sippican Cottage, feel free to leave comments, tell online friends about this site, or donate via our tip jar. Thanks!]

2 Responses

  1. Dear Sippican:

    I have found someone to help me level the house. He is not a pro, but a good man and hard worker. I am writing to ask what type of lift/jack we might find that will help us jack up the house–just a little bit on either side. Please re-post the link to your article about jacking up your house. It will be very helpful.
    Thank you

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