Demolition has been in full swing for a few weeks now at 1304 N. Ritchie Court. Opening walls can lead to all sorts of discoveries about the history of a building. Rooms that were thought to be original are found to be the result of a prior renovation. Old doorways once covered up are reopened. Assumptions about original construction techniques are quickly disproven. I find this to be the exciting part of construction- the chance for the house to reveal the different layers of its history.
Fortunately, we have not had too many surprises at 1304 N. Ritchie Court, and those that are problems can be solved. Below are some of the discoveries we’ve made during demolition:
Who doesn’t like additional natural light? We discovered a window when we peeled back the wall in the old master bath. We will now measure the opening and install a new window in its place.
Remember this room? The decoration in the master sitting room is not original to the house. How do we know? The original ceiling became visible through a hole created in the adjacent bathroom. The room formerly had the same plaster moulding as the rest of the house. Nevertheless, the room is now a part of the house’s character. From the looks of the construction, this renovation could be over a hundred years old!
Are you original? The rear bay to the house is an unusual feature for rowhouses in the neighborhood. We’ve established that the beamed ceiling is not original to the house, but we still can’t tell for sure about the rear bay. Behind the wall finish was a layer of modern insulation (we could tell because it was a synthetic material and not horsehair or other natural fiber), but that insulation could have been blown in from the exterior when the bay was re-clad. The bay is constructed of rough-hewn 2x4s, but that does not mean that the bay is original. On this issue, the jury is still out.
Is that Swiss cheese? No, it’s the remnants of floor joists after an undiscerning plumber hacked into them to provide room for his pipes. These joists will now be sistered with a piece of plywood to provide additional support. It’s amazing that these beams have held so strong for so many years!
Why were you hiding? Houses of this time were built with skylights for natural ventilation. At some point in the house’s history, this opening was filled in with a whole-house fan. The fan was removed this week, exposing the original opening where we will place a new skylight.
Now that most of the walls are open, the real work can begin. The next steps include removing old pluming pipes, measuring rough openings for new windows where applicable, and pulling the old electrical wiring. All this work still falls under the demolition phase. As we move towards summer, we will move into construction.