Before We Moved In, Sept. 2002

Meet the house that stole our hearts along with our wallets and free time!

Before and After, Restoration Diary

before_01Jeannie and I paint my home office

These are the very first photos of us working on the house. They were taken the week before we moved in. We were trying to get the house clean enough to live in. I have this goofy “I can’t believe I’m a home owner” grin on my face!

before_03David stripping the fireplace

Our restoration SWAT team included Jeannie, a long time family friend, who flew in from Indiana for a week. She was amazing. She cooked meals, spackled like a pro, painted, sanded, spent more time with me at Home Depot than either of us probably care to remember and she even helped peel up old linoleum from the bathroom floor!

before_02Living Room

David’s brother Chris flew in from Utah for the weekend to help us paint and whatever else we asked him to do. He said it it was “fun” but he has’t come back to visit since. We think he is waiting until the house is finished.

before_02aLooking into the den from the living room

Our friend Jeff also dropped by for a few hours to help paint. I think he went on a McDonalds run or two for us. We lived on McDonalds the first 3 weeks we had the house – especially after Jeannie left.

before_04Looking into the den from the living room

before_05Extra large register vent in the floor between the living room and dining room

before_06Dining room’s built-in china cabinet

before_07Dining room, box beam ceiling

before_08Den

before_09Den floor

before_10Kitchen

before_11Kitchen counter was built right up to the pantry cabinet door. Obviously, the door to the cabinet can’t be opened.

before_12We found a phone jack every 3-5 feet, running all around the upstairs bedrooms. Wonder what all those phones were used for?

Comments { 10 } August 1, 2003

Getting New Furnace, Nov 2002

Restoration Diary,

Two months after we moved into the house my Dad drove out from Indiana and installed a furnace for us. We had no heat in the house and I don’t think my Dad could stand the idea of me freezing out here in Southern California (hey, we do get cold nights and I am usually wearing a coat by November).

At that time we couldn’t afford the 10K + quotes we were given to purchase and install a new furnace so my Dad purchased the equipment at a fraction of the cost in Indiana and we (mostly he) installed it ourselves. We have had a few minor set backs due to the DIY installation, not that I am complaining.

Not the most flattering or even informative photo of me with the new heater.

Comments { 1 } August 6, 2003

John L. Welsh and Family

Restoration Diary,

Something about living in this old, neglected house makes me wonder about who lived here before me? What were they like? Were their years here happy ones? Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of HGTV’s “If These Walls Could Talk”?

Their original building permit was applied for by Henry Gatz, who is also listed as contractor, on November 23, 1911. The house was completed in 1912. The entire cost of the building is listed as $1950, about what we pay for our mortgage every month. The home was built for John L. Welsh. He lived on our street at 2938 Hobart Blvd at the time this house was being built. I wonder if the 2938 Hobart house was an earlier home that John Welsh had built or if the family was renting?

In 1916, a sleeping porch was added by extending the present dormer on the rear of the house. That work was done by H. V. Wright of 3933 S. Hill St. John L. Welsh applied for a permit to build a private garage with a dirt floor and a paper roof in April of 1919. He is listed as the contractor and architect. The garage is no longer standing so we can’t see his handiwork.

Those are the facts but they don’t shed much light on the personalities of our house’s original family. I can get a sense of their preferences or at least the prevailing tastes of their day by peeling through layers of old paint and wallpaper to the home’s original color palette. They chose fairly dark, masculine colors: a dark orange-brown color that looks like the spice cinnamon for the living and dining room walls with a dark, dark brown-black mission stain on the douglas fir woodwork. The den was a medium orange, terra cotta color with a similarly colored wallpaper ceiling that has hand painted silver designs on it. It’s still intact but badly damaged and more than likely unsalvageable. The kitchen, in 1912 a woman’s domain, was a more feminine salmon-pink color – at least on the ceiling.

I get the feeling of a strong male presence having lived and left his mark in this house. Maybe because John L. Welsh’s name was the only one listed on the paperwork we received when we purchased the house, that’s who captured my imagination? I wonder if he would have approved of the choices we are making?

(more…)

Comments { 4 } September 22, 2003

John L. Welsh Descendants

Learning more about the family who built our home

Restoration Diary,

Ida K. Welsh was born on August 12, 1872, in Pennsylvania. That would actually make her 4 years older than what she reported to the census takers in 1920. She died on May 1, 1962, in Los Angeles. Her maiden name was Boll and the “K” in her middle name may have stood for Kuhler, her mother’s maiden name.

John’s Daughter and Son-in-law
Upon further research I’ve discovered that John L. Welsh’s son-in-law Don Catudal, of 91345 Mission Hills, Los Angeles, CA, born on May 26, 1896, died in November of 1976. John and Ida’s daughter, Mary “Magdalen” Welsh Catudal was born on December 2, 1897. She died on December 14, 1957 at 60 years of age.

John’s Grandsons
Ray Catudal died in September of 1986. His birth date is listed as December 30, 1925. Roy F. Catudal died on November 9, 2002, just two months after we closed escrow on the house. His last residence was listed as 96051 Lakehead, Shasta, CA. The odd thing is his birth date is listed as October 6, 1924. In the 1930 Census both boys were listed as age 5 so I had assumed they were twins. Being born 14 months apart may have felt almost like being twins? Another interesting fact is that their social security numbers were 1 digit apart so they were obviously applied for at the same time.

It saddens me a little to discover that all the people who first lived in our house have passed on, along with their memories.

Comments { 5 } October 3, 2003

The Body-Sized Hole

Why is there a huge hole underneath our house?

Restoration Diary,


Not a photo of the actual hole underneath our house, but this is the way it appears in my imagination.

Our home inspection turned up many things, none of them good, but the strangest discovery was, to quote my husband, “a body-sized hole” in the crawl space underneath the house. I never actually saw the hole but made my husband describe it to me several times in detail. The hole was as wide as a man’s shoulders and at least 6 feet deep. How did David know it was that deep? Because the building inspector crawled over to the hole and poked a long stick into it. They didn’t discover a body, just some discarded rubble.

All old houses hold their mysteries but a body-sized hole wasn’t exactly one we wanted to know more about. Lying in bed that night, David and I speculated why anyone would dig a big hole underneath their house? Being a secret fan of true-crime murder novels (a guilty pleasure) and Court TV’s Forensic Files (a morbid fascination), all kinds of wild thoughts sprang to mind. The home’s present owner, Mr. Jolly, said he inherited the house from his grandmother and his uncle. Did we really know what happened to them? Plus, who has the last name of Jolly anyway? Maybe it was an alias or an attempt to hide a darker side? What if there were bodies buried under the house?

(more…)

Comments { 2 } October 5, 2003

Halloween Horror

Nothing to give you a fright like a thunderstorm when your roof is being replaced

Restoration Diary,


Back porch ceiling doing its best Niagara Falls impersonation.

When Heather and I left tonight to go visit some friends, the first drizzle had appeared – signaling in the fall season in southern California. We were a little worried since our new roof is not yet complete, so we put a tarp over some of the boxes we had in the upstairs sun room which was exposed to the outside since the siding had been removed. We then headed out expecting a nice evening with friends. { Heather: Stupid or just optimistic? }

In the middle of dinner, after I had consumed my first martini and was well into my first beer, the rain started to really come down pounding on the streets and the rooftops. Heather started to get really worried because she was afraid our ceilings would get ruined. I shrugged the whole thing off thinking that there wasn’t anything we could do. After a couple minutes of debating the situation, Heather decided that she wanted to leave to check the house. I decided that I would go with her. So we cut our evening short and left.

Rain poured down from the sky on our drive home and the windshield wipers had difficulty in keeping a clear view of the road. The roads themselves were slick and the divider lines blended into the asphalt under sheets of water.

When we arrived home we quickly checked each room. The living room was ok. Our renovated dining room was ok (what a relief). Then I heard Heather yell, “We’ve got a huge problem!

(more…)

Comments { 3 } November 1, 2003

Not Under My Roof

And Why Flashing is a Good Thing

Restoration Diary,


Our house the first week of home ownership, Sept 2002. The roof appears to be the only thing that doesn’t need repaired.

We learned that the reason water pours down our walls every time it rains is because the flashing on our roof was installed on top of the roof shingles instead underneath them, and in some areas flashing wasn’t installed at all. Flashing is a metal that is installed where the dormer meets the roof and over other joints; as well as around the chimney, roof vents, and valleys in your roof. Flashing prevents water from seeping in and gushing down your plaster walls. Very, very important!

The new roof that was recently installed before we bought our house, the one that was supposed to last up to 25 years, had to be completely torn off. The installation was shoddy, and that is being polite. The previous home owners must have been aware of the problem. It doesn’t rain all that often in Southern California but it does rain occasionally. There is no way to miss a waterfall gushing down your walls!

We had purchased a 1 year home warranty policy to cover things like roof, plumbing problems or appliances breaking. The insurance company refused to honor the policy because they stated the roof was improperly installed in the first place. Our policy is essentially worthless, just like our roof. An interesting article on home warranty policies.


House, Oct 2003. An improvement but we still have so much left to do!

A brand new roof with flashing has been installed. We had to replace the cedar shingles on the dormers because they were rotten from water damage. Over the past year we have torn out the old cement steps and installed wood ones. The brick columns on the porch have been rebuilt. I removed the asbestos shingles from the porch and found the original wood railing still intact.


Pergola

We had the roofing removed from over the pergola. It is so nice and open now! It will be beautiful covered in vines or climbing roses.

Comments { 3 } November 15, 2003

Racial Covenant

Banning people of from living in the neighborhood because of the color of their skin

Restoration Diary,

“Whereas, we the undersigned, are the owners of the following described lots and parcels of lands in the Charles Victor Hall Tract of land, as per Map Book 26 at page 65 of Miscellaneous Records of Los Angeles County, California, and whereas, we the undersigned, are desirous of prohibiting the use, or occupancy and possession of the lots and parcels of lands of the said Chas. Victor Hall Tract as aforesaid, by any person or persons other than of Caucasian or white race.
- August 22, 1924”

520 signatures were signed in agreement. J. L. Welsh, the man who built our home, was one of 20 who personally appeared before the notary public as the document was signed and notarized. The Declarations of Restrictions was to be in effect until January 1, 2023.

In its heyday, between 1900 and around 1920, West Adams was a center of fine living for Los Angeles and became a district of architect-designed mansions and charming bungalows. Residents included an oil magnate, a millionaire wine maker, and socialites as well as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen who filled in the smaller streets. Architects Charles and Henry Greene, Frank M. Tyler, and Alfred and Arthur Heineman built homes for clients living in West Adams. In 1948 racial covenants were outlawed and by the 1960′s West Adams was primarily made up of people who were “other than of Caucasian or white race.”

The idea that my husband who is Asian American could not have owned our home is very troubling to me. David is less bothered by the racial covenant. I asked him why and he said because it was a different time.

Comments { 1 } December 2, 2003

The Electrician Came

Restoration Diary

Gibbs Brothers Electric was here yesterday. Our hall light stopped working and the electricity to our bedroom kept shutting itself off. We discovered that half the electrical wiring in the house has been updated and the other half is running off of the 1912 knob and tube wiring.

The electrician got everything back up and running but he suggested replacing some of the original wiring because the insulation has worn away in places making it a fire hazard. We plan on doing this but I’m not sure if I will go with Gibbs Brothers. After discussing the work, it became apparent that the electrician was more comfortable opening up the plaster walls (which we want to avoid) than fishing wire through them.

The push-button hallway switch will need to be replaced because it’s not up to code. This is probably a good idea since we have had a few sparks from that light switch. We will replace it with a 3-way push-button switch (7837) from Rejuventation. I selected a hanging lantern based on a 1905 design from The Bright Spot, Inc. to replace the bare bulb dangling from the ceiling (which is also not up to code). I thought the price was very reasonable. I also purchased a light for our front porch while I was at it.

Comments { 2 } December 3, 2003

Furnace Problems

Restoration Diary,


Tom Hanks in “The Money Pit”

Oh, if it’s not one thing it’s another. My brother, John, jokingly calls our house The Money Pit and sometimes I think he may be right. We have been having problems with our furnace. Sometimes it works perfectly yet other times it will take up to 5 hours to start heating. Last night David said it was blowing out cold air.

This morning a service representative from Continental Refrigeration/Heating & Air, Inc. came out to inspect our furnace. He found that the intake and out-take exhaust pipes were improperly installed and sloping the wrong way causing condensation and water to get trapped in the pipes. He also recommended doing a complete reinstallation of all the duct work using our existing furnace. This would cost almost as much as the furnace itself. We have decided to have the pipes reinstalled but will wait to redo all the duct work next year.

Two months after we purchased the house my Dad came out and we (mostly he) installed central heating since our house had no heat and we didn’t have 10K for a furnace. He purchased the equipment in Indiana at a fraction of the cost it was being sold for in Los Angeles. I think he did a good job considering that he’s never installed a furnace before. It certainly got us through the winter last year but we want things to be right and so we will address these problems with the installation. In the mean time, since we have no heat, David is going to pick up a space heater. It gets cold at night in California!

Comments { 0 } December 4, 2003