Saturday, October 29, 2005


I know I've been cutting back on posting and there are a few reasons. One is I've been getting a bit more involved in community activism as I've covered on this blog a bit. That takes up some of my time and energy. My day job has also been pretty demanding with no let up in sight.

We've also been planning the remodel of the 2nd floor and how to get our tenants out early so we can renovate in time for peak rental season- very important since the rental market has been soft for a while now.

We are still plugging away on the house as usual. I'll post an update on the entry tomorrow.

I just wanted to say "hey" to everyone and let you know I'm around just not quite as frequently as before.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Archeology of a door

Here's our front door as it is today. Yesterday I removed the front door and one of the vestibule doors to prep them for painting outside.

The good news is that they are pretty darn solid and also beautiful oak!! I can safely say that next Spring I'll be stripping them to expose the oak.

We knew that the existing door was not original, but we are not sure when it was added or of course, what was originally there. And as you know, inquiring minds want to know.

What we realized yesterday is that the transom window up top is original. It's made of the same wood as all the original windows in the house: a softer pine or poplar- not sure.

The side panels are all made of newer pine and not original and neither are the "leaded glass" (not real lead probably aluminum) side lights. It looks like what was originally there were double doors. We found these old hinge cutouts that indicate that.

We removed the side lights yesterday because one has been cracked for a while and was getting worse. We had a stack of glass panes we were pretty sure were replacement panes in the basement and pulled them out.

You know how it goes, you hope it will be a simple fix, but you never know what you are getting into when dismanteling someone else's work.

As it turns out, the metal frames that were holding the glass in were pretty jimmy-rigged and the panes from the basement were all thicker and didn't fit well into the metal frames.

We also realized how much air loss was going through these windows and that they were way less than airtight. We tried putting glazing in, but then the glass panes wouldn't fit the space.(drats)

So, we removed the glazing and jimmy-rigged the whole thing back up with the trim holding it in place. And we've decided for the time being to have full size panels of glass made for both openings to keep the heat in and get rid of the "leaded glass"(again not real- not original-jimmy-rigged- so no great loss).

Ultimately we want to replace this door with either a salvage door or a Steve-made door in a few years.

Oh, here's another indication that this was a double door. The top of the door has a little cut out where a little inset latch would keep one side of the door in the closed position. My Dad has these kinds of doors on his 2-flat and usually one stays in place and does not open unless you need to get something large inside like a sofa or bed.

Besides the glass fiasco, Steve starting hanging the trim. Some will go up easily and some will require some shimming to make it level due to not perfectly level walls. I was filling, scraping, sanding, and deglossing the entry doors for paint prep as well as stripping door hardware.

Here's a shot of some of the trim up:

and that was our Saturday. At least we were able to get the glass back up and didn't have to board it up or anything right?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

2-flat saved from demolition!

I am absolutely thrilled to report that after a meeting with the Alderman and neighbors last night, this beautiful building will be spared the wrecking ball. After receiving numerous letters and phone calls from concerned neighbors, the Alderman spoke to the developer and they agreed to develop the adjacent lot with a 3-flat and keep the existing structure intact. But wait, it gets better. That is the worst-case scenario. Best is that the neighbors found a few people who are willing to match the developers price and not develop the beautiful side yard that is a garden that was developed for over 30 years!

And even more good news. The Alderman agreed to downzone their block and ours to avoid further teardowns of solid 2-flat buildings. The zoning change has to be processed and the Alderman has to work with developer and building owner (sale has not closed- no permits issued yet etc..) but things are looking quite good.

Here's the letter I sent to the Alderman:

Dear Alderman Moore,

I am writing to you to express a significant concern I have for our community. I and many other residents are concerned about the development going on in our area. I myself am in favor of thoughtful development, but urge you and your staff to think about the long term when it comes to allowing such things as teardowns of irreplaceable historic buildings and increased density.

All around me, I have seen teardowns. In fact, I live right next door to 6922 Lakewood, where a solid brick single family home was leveled to make way for a 6 unit condominium. Down the street there are plans to teardown a single family home on Lakewood as well. The destruction of this building planned for Spring 2006 was not so troubling because it has been blighted and not well-maintained as well as being a frame home. In addition, that block is full of multi-unit buildings. There are only 2 single family homes left on that street and one more will now be gone. In my mind, the multi-unit replacement building will not mar the appearance of the street. I do hope that you request that the developer use brick and not cinder block on the sides of the building. Myself and others brought this up at the community meeting a few months ago.

More recently, I was distressed to hear that 1225 W. Farwell, a pristine greystone two-flat is going to be town down also to make way for 6 condos. I also know of two other brick and stone
two-flats that have been torn down recently: 6745 N. Clark and 1528 W. Greenleaf. All three of these buildings were solid construction and of superior quality to what is currently being built.

I would urge you to encourage development with a conscience. Let’s not destroy the character of our neighborhood as has happened in Lakeview and Ukranian Village for example. A good example of thoughtless development is what happened in Edgewater in the 1960’s. Kenmore is full of four plus one buildings and will never be what it once was. People recognized at the time that the destruction of the Higgins mansion was a tragedy but were unable to stop it. Rogers Park is recognized for its architecture, let’s keep it that way.

I object to these historic buildings being town down willy nilly, with no planning to preserve the character of our neighborhood. Many others object to the increased density this will bring as well. Rogers Park is already very densely populated. We need to thoughtfully pick and choose our developments. I would ask you to consider downzoning some areas and lots with two-flats and single family homes so that greed does not prevail here.

1225 W. Farwell could easily be converted into 2 duplexes and the adjacent lot could have a two or three flat built on it. This would be a much more appropriate option than tearing down a solid stone and brick structure that will most certainly last another 100 years if maintained. We can only hope that many of these new buildings will be around that long.

I know many share my feelings about this from my conversations with neighbors and community members. I know many people were very sad about the building next door to me (6922 N. Lakewood) and expressed regret that had they known they would have said something.

I am attaching an article on problems with cinderblock to illustrate my case. I would appreciate a response to my letter and would like to hear from you regarding where you stand on this very important issue.

Best regards,

Jocelyn Meyer

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cheap Art

Well it started out that way anyway. Old magazine ads off eBay for less than $10 each. Someone is making a good buck off selling all those. But then came the professional matting and framing and ouch! Not cheap. But we like 'em. And now the kitchen has a bit of whimsy.

Yes, we like dogs here.

In my house, we have little battles about what is acceptable to adorn our walls. I have heard from other friends about "the battle of the chotchkees" with their husbands.

Steve feels our home should be "inspiring" and "like a museum". I take a more sentimental approach. If one of my parents gives me something, for example, (and I like their taste for the most part) I like putting it up because it's a gift from them. Steve has none of this kind of attachment- unfortunately for me.

And he is picky with a capital "P". The other day I got so mad I told him I'd post photos on the blog and illicit others (whom I consider to have good taste) opinions on the objects in dispute.

He caved in on these ads because they are "authentic" relics.
It's hard to be me sometimes...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Paint? Check

It's kind of like that right now- plodding along (not downtrodden- but down to business). Saturday I painted the first coat and Sunday the second. Steve hooked up the light from Rejuvenation this evening.

Steve will start installing the trim next weekend. If you look at the photo, molding will go over the part where the color changes all around the room.

I will remove all three doors and sand them and fill any gaps and then hit the, with black enamel paint. I am not up for stripping the two entry doors right now, so we are just cleaning them up for the time being.

The outside door will be replaced at some point and isn't a really great door worth stripping/restoring.

Here's the remaining punch list:
1. Install molding. This includes fabricating and replacing a few boards that were pine not oak.
2. Sand and fill 3 doors and paint.
3. Replace cracked glass panels and obscured glass in one door.
4. Install curtain rods and curtains on inside of doors.
5. Use heavy acid cleaner to clean tile floor.
6. Install door strikes- requires a new entry lock to be installed.
7. Install shoe molding.

We are making good progress on this project, but the pantry has completely fallen by the wayside due to it. Oh well, we should have a pantry by early next year.

Scrappy's hungry

You may remember our hairy little pal- the wood chuck possessed little critter? I guess he likes pumpkin. Maybe he'll chew a face for me and I won't have to carve it.

One less thing to do anyway!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sunday: Day of Rest (Not)

It's a good feeling to move towards your vision. The outside of the building is part of my vision of our home and the way I want it to fit into the surrounding community. I have this vision of finishing the bulk of the work on the house and having our yard be the place for neighborhood parties, Block Club (that we are going to start) meetings, and time spent reading good books under a sunbrella.

I am sure some may think I'm a sap with utopian dreams but I can't be bothered caring about that.

I'm also just as sure that most of us have this vision of a chaise lounge at the end of the long rehabber's day.

See what yard work does for my spirits? Must be the endorphins from all that fresh air and digging and lugging top soil.

Here's how it goes:
17 bags of top soil $22.24
3 bags of manure $5.97
5 bags of mulch $15.00
I-Go 2 hour car rental $12.00

5 hours of backbreaking work? Priceless.

Here's the coolest thing that happened last week (endorphins talking again-yard work aficionados/aka die-hard gardeners will understand): My neighbor has a Red Bud tree in front of his house. Coming home from a walk with our dogs after dark I looked over and what did I see? A possum in his tree. For this city girl that was way cool.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Fall Dig Out

See this big patch of dirt? Well, this morning there was grass there. I bit the bullet and dug up all the sod. The whole front yard will be flowers and shrubs. Grass is so high-maintenance and it's such a little patch to mow, it's silly. See that sidewalk on the right side of the photo? Well, next spring I'll be renting a jackhammer and eliminating that for more planting space.

There used to be an entrance there I believe with steps, but we have one on the other side, so we'll just keep that one.

We are also going to add stepping stones (like the one you see to the left)through the middle of the bed so I can weed etc... I have some bulbs (iris, allium, camassia) that need to be divided that I can add to the bed. I also have some lilies I want to move there and some coneflowers and a few other crowded plants. Next spring we'll add the bigger stuff- hydrangea and some dwarf evergreens.

Tomorrow, we'll go get top soil, manure and mulch using our new means of transport: the I-Go. It is quite convenient and way less than renting a car.

I also mulched the trees today and some of the other beds and dug out a little trench around the front of the building and put gravel in there. This was a "Steve" project. He can't abide dirt and water near our foundation.

So while he sanded and primed the entry, I finished this little project. Oh, I also put another layer of grout sealer on the grout in the kitchen. Not a glamourous job- but needed to be done.

I'll leave you with some fall blooms from my yard:

Aster- the bees last hurrah

Morning Glory

Since digging up sod is pretty physical, I'm tired and I am going to go rest now. I do love working outside on cool days like today- lower 60's. And afterwards, a hot bath and curling up indoors is just the ticket!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Before and After

Everyone likes a good before and after shot. Some may remember the house next door that was torn down over a year ago (I can't believe I did nothing to try and stop it- I really could have).

I promised to post photos of the completed project and it's just been landscaped. They had loads of problems, fired the original contractor, had to rip out poorly installed trimwork etc...

Anyway, here's what is there now. The one blessing is it's brick sided so we don't have to look out at concrete, but I think it's a little funny looking- what do you think?

It's not terrible, but the proportions just don't seem quite on the mark. Steve, being a graphic designer, said the sign was poorly done. The spacing on the lettering is off, which is a shame.

Here's the street view now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Paint colors for the entry

Some things are easy and some are hard. For us, picking paint colors is relatively easy for some reason.

I think I said last post that the bottom of the wall will be the darker Toasted Wheat color and the top will be Creme Brulee. The colors will be separated by wood trim (color in photo)running around the room with a few strips perpendicular on each side of the room. Think of it like a "pie" symbol on either side.

Both sides will keep the doors painted black but right now one door has obscured glass, which we are going to replace so both are consistent. I have matching curtains so it will be much more coordinated than before.

I think it will be nice, much better than before.

Steve is skimming the walls today. I spent 1/2 the day cleaning the house thoroughly- we had border collie dust bunnies and little red dachshund bunnies running around.

I gave Billie a bath. She is one of those dogs that stays clean for like 3-4 days max- she's a regular dirt magnet, but we love her anyway.

During the week we went to a really great framing place nearby and brought in some 1930's magazine ads I bought off eBay to be framed. Framing sure is expensive, but we need some art for the kitchen.

In case anyone's interested to hear about the 2-flat teardown I posted about a few weeks ago, here's an update. The neighbors around the building have a meeting scheduled for Oct. 10th with the Alderman- they have a petition going, which I signed of course.
The owners were a bit miffed that I sent a letter to our neighborhood watchdog who posted it on his blog. On that site, I am known as : RPNeighbor. Such the drama in the hood lately!