Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Day After Day One

I've earned my day of rest, so for today's post, I thought I'd share some unexpected highlights from yesterday's experience, good and bad.

First the bad: Performing air-sealing tasks in the attic space over the rear addition got me in direct contact with some vile grit that stained my hands (shame on me for not wearing gloves). This stuff just won't come off:

Now, a bit of background: At some point (probably in the 1970s), a previous owner of this house had stuffed the rim joists with unbacked fiberglass insulation. This measure was of limited effectiveness; I could tell because this insulation was soot-stained by air infiltration. There had been no effort to seal the gaps between the wood frame and the masonry. So I have been pulling out this insulation with the intention of bagging it in small plastic bags for re-stuffing into tight spots where I can't effectively reach (like the corners of the attic). In removing this stuff, I discovered some artifacts that had been tucked away in the space under the floor of the bay-window bump-out. This is a sturdy cardboard box, about six inches square and two inches deep. The label reads "Hochschild Kohn, Hardwater Soap, Baltimore." The box was empty, except perhaps for some mold spores.

A tad more fascinating, to me at least, was this object:

I believe this is cap from a streetcar motorman's uniform. We have the deed history to this house, so I know the name of the first owners, who were here from 1915 until about 1957. Using online U.S. census data from 1930 and before, I could track down more info about them, like occupation. Sure enough, the original man-of-the-house was listed in the 1910 census as a "streetcar motorman." During the ensuing decade, he exchanged that job for one with the phone company, got married, and took up residence in this house which was built in 1915. All of this could be gleaned from a review of the 1920 census. The motorman's cap was valuable enough to be tucked away in the basement, but not so valuable that it was remembered. Like the soap box, the cap was lost to oblivion until discovered in 2009 by an energy geek homeowner.

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