Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Piccies

I have two photos of my house as it looked many years ago, long before I was born and long before bad things happened to the house in the name of convenience and maintenance.  I've shared both these photos here before, but while I was sidelined from my injury I ran them through a photo editing program, which improved them both quite a bit so I thought I'd share them again.

Please click photo to bigify.
This is the first photo that was given to me.  It was taken in 1947.  The people in the photo are Clarence and Theresa Kinney, and they lived in my house less than a year when they were first married.  Theresa is a friend of my mother's and when she found out I'd bought the house, she gave this photo to my momma to give to me.  This photo inspired me to tear off the cedar shingles which had been covering the original clapboards.  Theresa told me that when she and Clarence lived here the house was divided smack down the middle into two apartments.  I can see evidence of this in the marks from locks on interior doors.  The front entryway was shared and one apartment was what's now the front parlor, the dining room, and the kitchen; the other was the second parlor and what's now two bedrooms.  There was only one bathroom, shared, at the back of the house.  The Kinneys' landlord, Aubrey Kelly, (called Aub by the family and A.O. by everyone else) was one of the sons of James Kelly, who built this house.  A.O. kicked Clarence and Theresa out of the house when he learned Theresa was pregnant, saying "I don't want any crying baby in here!"  They moved next door, to the house that's visible in the background of this photo, and rented a room.  A.O. continued to live in the house his father built until his death in 1951.  

But if you look past the dapper Mr. and Mrs. Kinney at the house itself, you notice right away a big difference between the house's appearance in 1947 and its appearance now:  that front porch.  Sigh.  It's beautiful, isn't it?  Hipped roof, spandrel, three porch posts at the corner, and that gorgeous iron roof cresting along the edge of the flat roof.  I'd been told by several locals that the iron cresting was removed in a scrap metal drive during World War II, which certainly seems plausible, but the cresting on the porch at least was still present post-war.  The front steps went all the way across the front porch and there was a railing and spindles only down the side of the porch.  This confirms the recollection of a little old man who told me he played on those steps as a child.  I notice several other things too:  all of the stained glass panes are intact (one was replaced with clear glass prior to my ownership of the house), the small vent at the front of the house for the cellar (to the left of Clarence, almost at ground level) hadn't yet been stuccoed over, and by this time the whole house including the trim had been painted white or some other light color.  

Please click on photo to embiggen.
The quality of this next photo is still pretty poor, but it's a photo of a photocopy of a newspaper photo, so I suppose considering all that it's not so bad.  A neighbor of mine, Roger Slusher, who was a local historian, teacher, and author, found a newspaper article from 1981 (which, if memory serves, he had written) in the archives of the Lexington Museum and photocopied the article for me.  The newspaper caption says the photo was taken in 1906.  I contacted a Kelly family member a few years ago, hoping she would make a copy of the original photo, but she said she didn't have the photo and had no idea who did.  I still hold out hope I'll find it someday.  That's Mr. Kelly in front of the house with one of his horses, a horse who probably resided in the small stable which used to be located in my back yard and was torn down sometime in the 1920s.  From the Sanborn Maps of my neighborhood, I know the approximate dimensions of the stable and that it was a two-story brick and frame structure.  That's Mrs. Kelly on the front porch, seated on the left.  (This same photo appears in the Kelly family history, with the people in the photo and even the horse identified by name.)  

This is the photo that, honestly, makes me a bit queasy to look at.  So many of the beautiful details of the house and property are gone now.  The porch, of course.  All that gorgeous iron cresting and the lightning rods.  Two of the three chimneys have been demolished down to the roof and covered over and the third, the one on the far left, is just a stub.  The brick walkway that branched off from the main walkway and went around the east (right) side of the house is gone.  If you look closely at the edges of the photo, you can see a wooden fence on the west (left) side that looks similar to what we'd now call a privacy fence.  It's gone.  On the east side of the yard was a wood and iron fence, and nothing remains of it but the base of one iron post that sticks about an inch out of the ground and is only visible during the worst of summer when the grass is dry.  All the trees are gone too, although my neighbor Floyd and I planted a small dogwood in the front yard near where the horse is standing in the photo, and pretty close to where the tree on the left in the photo must have been planted, although we didn't have this photo to go by when we planted the dogwood.  

Some of this could be replaced:  the brick walkway, the low fence on the east side, the porch, the evergreen tree by the house.  The chimneys are less likely to be rebuilt, because of cost, but not ruled out completely.  Two things are all but impossible:  the privacy fence on the west side, because my neighbor's side porch is built almost on the property line and putting a fence along there would not only look odd but probably not be allowed by the Historic Preservation Commission; and the iron roof cresting, which is considerably outside my present budget.   

At least one of the things that used to be here but now isn't will be rebuilt this coming spring.  Can y'all guess which one?


  1. Does the newspaper still exist that that photo came from? You've probably thought of that already, but if it does or if it merged with a still existing one, they might have the original of that photo in their files.

    That horse reminds me that my great great grandfather, who owned a saloon, had a horse who drank beer every morning. Somewhere there's apparently a newspaper article with a photo of that, but I don't know where. I will have to ask my cousin who may know.

  2. Brick walkway, perhaps? I'll tender my sympathies in advance if that's the answer. :-) I think my days of masonry, now that the patio surface is complete, are over.

    1. Somehow I missed a bunch of posts on your project! Looks great!

      I had the same kind of weird shingle happiness when I had to have my house reroofed. There were only a few types of shingles that were up to the required high wind tolerance code, and I thought the one I picked was going to look odd, but frorn the ground it looks quite nice. Also, two hurricanes later, no lost shingles.

  3. I have photos of the exterior of my house dating from 1942, and of the interior dating from the 1960s. They become wonderful pieces of information, and I do exactly the same thing you do, scour them for information. I wonder if the iron crestings could be redone in a slightly cheaper metal, like aluminum, to get it in budget? I can totally understand how badly you want them back. Also, are there any areas of your property you can scrounge around to see if they were buried/hidden/discarded somewhere? I know I have read that some people, not feeling quite as patriotic, were happy to offer their farm equipment and household scrap, but hid decorative items when the iron collectors came around.