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The journey of a Civil War Attic.

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

Having bought the house in September 2014, it was funny ( in hindsight) for the city to be unable to process the sale until March the following year. This left us, over a cold Northern American winter billowing snow, to live in a house with no power, water or gas. Oh did I mention a fair few windows were missing as well........

Rescuing the 1800's attic. Renovation challenges
Old raw beams and flooring from Aaron House of Niagara Falls

With nothing else to do but try and keep warm, we soldiered on. We decided to attack the attic first for several reason, the first being our need to deal with the squirrels that were living up there, and getting into the rest of the house.

We stripped her back to her bones. The "dudes" (as I refer to them in my head) living there in the 1970's had a natural flair for panelling and wet bars. It looked like it was a frat house up there.

Although for a few months under our watchful eye, it was a demolition site which was probably worse.

The dropped ceiling was in fact both a cemetery for mummified rodents, and if you didn't think it could get worse, a public urinal for the entire Niagara Falls squirrel community. It turned out, that the frame work of those 1970's builders was phenomenally well put together with precise angles that made me jealous in the knowledge that if needs be, we could never match. Regardless I was happy to see it go. The house was starting to share her story.

We thought we would take a few days to strip it back. Ah the bliss of ignorance. So here we are back in the winter of 2014 over Christmas into 2015 stripping all the ugly away. In the hope of finding something beautiful underneath. #renovationrealities The truth of the matter was it took TWO semi trailer trucks worth of rejected 1970's stylings before we could begin building her back up again. With it heavily snowing that rubbish was piled to the ceiling of the garage until the thaw came.

We just kept going

And behind all that panelling was a beautiful brick chimney, and the original beams. We found so many wonderful little treasures like dolls heads, and hand written notes, even a book in the knee wall. It was a treasure trove. So many little things that they create a future post in themselves. ( There was even part of a couch)

We used the oak flooring from the front parlor and dining room to re line the knee walls. We removed ALL of the festering insulation and reapplied new fresh batts. It turned out I am extraordinarily allergic to them, so I was quickly relegated out of the way for this part of the process. We then began to line the walls with the oak flooring. Finishing with a coat of tung oil. ( which by the way is a miracle product. It literally cleans as it polishes which is my kindof dual purpose product.

You can see we threw some dry wall up which is where my narrow wardrobe hides.

The finished project now reflects the true story of when the house was first built. The floors are now tung oiled just as they originally were ( tung oil wont go over other products) and now red, brown and black zebra striped as we only lightly sanded them. I just couldn't bring myself to remove all of that hsitory.

When we realised how red the floor would become, we used a high lighting stain on the window frames. We utilised shiplack to refinish the frames. Yes that's very rustic, but when this room was built it had been divided into three and the children lived up here. It was never a formal area, and was not finished with plaster like the rest of the house. How do we know there were children...... well we found their toys, everywhere. And the wall outlines were still on the covered over floors.

We paid homage to them. When we found the poster of an 1874 lady cut from a magazine and glued to the outside wall of the room, well we knew she had to stay. We put glass and a frame around her and she now takes a prized place beside the queen bed.

1874 Lady
1874 Lady from a magazine on our attic wall

Everything started to come together from this point. The claw foot bath tub was repositioned and reconnected to the pipes that were there. Obviously not from the 1860's as the original house had an outside toilet, and a lane where the waste was picked up and taken away. The bathrooms would have been in the privacy of their own bedrooms, although we do know they got plumbing inside, within less than 20 year period when mains water came to Niagara Falls.

But now we had a hipster retreat mixed in with the old. We allowed the stories of all the finds to remain in the room. Some we did display in the lower hallway for everyone to see, but there's some special bits of their lives which we kept here where they belong, and I write about them in a future blog.

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It's now a haven from the world.

I love its rich history and its warm tones, and we can only hope we paid homage to the previous onwers. What do you think?

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