Mystery - found a hand-written date inside the wall....

saintpflaApril 15, 2010

I'm working on the house today and trying to finish rehabing my original windows in my 1925 Bungalow.

I removed the exterior window siding which revealed a clear view of a hand-written date on the interior window trim.

The date is 9-14-11....so, assuming that is Sept. 14, 1911. It looks like it is written in a blue grease pencil type of thing.

So, my question is, if my house -- according to the city-- was built in 1925, why am I finding this date hidden in the wall on the backside of the interior trim board?

Thanks for any insight into this!

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worthy

Hmmm....the tenth anniversary of President McKinley's assassination?

(Where's Nicholas Cage when you need him?)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 7:39PM
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saintpfla

LOLOL!!!!....that was funny!

Let me elaborate on my question. From what I have read, bungalows and Arts & Crafts style homes were considered "kit homes". People ordered these homes through Sears, Woolworths and other companies. The homes were delivered with all the parts needed to construct them.

Typically, the date of delivery was stamped or hand-written on several planks, beams or other parts of wood which would ultimately be hidden from view, behind walls or in the attic.

There are people out on this forum who know much more than I do about this subject. This is the first date that I have ever found anywhere in my home.

It's kind of exciting I must admit! I've never found anything in my house which would track it back to it's original time. It's had many, many owners, so anything 'interesting' has been pilfered.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 8:44PM
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Moccasin

Do you think the window is original to the house? Or could it be one which they used to replace the original from an older home, or bought from someone who did not use it.

Old homes are great to explore. When an old home was torn down in a nearby Mississippi coastal town and salvaged for the lumber and fixtures, they had to dynamite it. It was put together with mortise and tenon joinery, and there were roman numerals carved into the parts which fit together. Fantastic old heart pine.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:43PM
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saintpfla

Here are pics I took earlier today of the written date. It's actually a vertical space (the weight pocket of the window), but I flipped the pic so it'd be easier to read.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 10:51PM
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slateberry51

Our assessor's office doesn't always have the correct year for the house. sometimes off by decades. Perhaps your town just guesstimated to fill in the blank when they created/updated the record.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 8:05AM
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calliope

Exactly. The assessor has our house listed as 1900. Rofl. It was here, I know for a fact, in 1835 and one local history book puts it as early as 1822. I have seen pictures of it with a man in a Civil War uniform standing in front of it and you can tell by the scooped-out recesses on the stone front steps it had already been here awhile. I've had assessors ask me if I had any idea of when other homes were built, and whatever I told him, he just wrote it down.

Having done genealogical research........you sometimes gotta take official records with a grain of salt.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 8:55AM
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antiquesilver

"Having done genealogical research........you sometimes gotta take official records with a grain of salt." No truer words spoken!

Assessor's records where I am are notoriously wrong; you would be much better off to check the clerk's office at your local courthouse or where ever they record deeds, etc in your community.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 11:12AM
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saintpfla

You know, that's a very good point.

I also have seen a date at the base of my chimney on the metal door which you open to sweep out the ashes (don't know if there is an actual name for that...). The date stamped into the metal door is: 2-08-12

So, they could have started construction in Sept. 1911, but, not finished building the house until Jan/Feb. of 1912, right? Didn't they build the chimney and fireplace last when building houses?

Does this sound like a logical process and four-five months to complete a house?

I do know that in the early 1900s, my city and neighborhood were undergoing an enormous growth period.

Also, the original plaster wall paint that I've discovered during renovation seems to be from a color pallette popular in the 1910-1920 time.

I thought that perhaps it was sorta what was on hand at the time, but if the age of my house if 'wrong' based on what the property appraisor has, then, this is starting to make sense.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 1:49PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

Looking at how the chalk struck the wood, I think you may be reading it upside-down;
I'd say it reads "11 - (?)1 - 6. Can't really see what the character you believe to be a 4 would be the other way, but I'm pretty convinced it was written the opposite direction, unless your scribbler was a very strange penman.
Casey

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 6:21PM
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saintpfla

Sombreuil....you may be right about that. What made you think that I was readling it backwards?

Here's a better photo of the middle number (that I believed to be 14) and the 11. The middle numbers have scratches on them which makes it difficult to read.

I turned the photo upside-down...what do you think?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 9:13PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

I can tell where a stroke began, because that part of the line is thicker. When you write with chalk, it's not the same grip or orientation as a pen/pencil.
As a carpenter, I write with chalk/lumber crayons a lot.
And the "9" or "6" looked more natural as a six; As a nine, it was scribed backwards- begun at the intersection of the figure and ending with the tail, in one motion. Few people would write a 9 like that. (Strangely, I'm one who does write 9's that way.) In school everyone's taught to start a 9 at the top, inscribe a counterclockwise loop, and then the tail as a straight downstroke.
Casey

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 11:39PM
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saintpfla

I think that number looks like a '2'....what do you think? Rather than a '14' like I had initially had guessed.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 12:20AM
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brickeyee

Sure looks like a 6.

Read the numbers based on that direction.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 10:59AM
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brickeyee

"The assessor has our house listed as 1900. Rofl. It was here, I know for a fact, in 1835 and one local history book puts it as early as 1822."

I have repeatedly seen assessors us the year the formal records starting being created as the date for everything that was already there.

If tax records started in 1910, every house already there was given that date.
Add to that the loss of all sorts of records over the years to fire, water leaks, etc. and the dates get rather fuzzy.

Alexandria, VA has buildings dating back a LONG way (think 1780s for pieces of some structures still there).

The assessor is not going to delve into historical records to determine a real date, he just needs a value to keep the system working.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 11:04AM
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saintpfla

To me, it looks like 11-21-6, now...or am I mistaken?

So, what does this date mean? Any ideas? Could it actually be the construction date?

Thanks again for the help!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 5:13PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

It meant something to the person that wrote it. It could mean 11th piece cut of the 26 pieces needed at 6' long; a running tally. Or a date, or something else entirely which we cannot ascertain.
Casey

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 5:42PM
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antiquesilver

I agree that the 4 looks like a 2 when it's read upside down. It will be interesting to see what numbers are written on the next window & whether there's any correlation. Maybe this is window #11 out of 21 in your house which could be house #6 if he was building more than one house at a time.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 12:43PM
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saintpfla

I wish I knew more! I only have 14 windows (including an original which was removed by a PO). I guess as I move along to other windows, I may find out more info. Or, not....

I did some research over the weekend. I did find out that my street was part of the first section of my neighborhood to originally be constructed. The area was original purchased for development in 1907. It was annexed by the city, officially, in 1914.

There were houses here that early, but, in an 'unofficial' settlement capacity and not part of a formal city/township.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:48PM
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antiquesilver

The original ownership was recorded somewhere (& someone paid taxes) so you should find something in the county where the property was located prior to the land being annexed.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 11:27PM
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bridgecross

My gut reaction is that it's not a date at all. If it really was a kit house it may be part of the installation instruction?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 11:03AM
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karinl

A measurement? The window's not 11x21 by any chance, 6' wall thickness?

That would be kind of small.

What were the norms of date writing back then anyway? I didn't think these numeric forms of expression came in until later.

By the way, that piece of round wood in your original photo looks very 1800s to me, not that I know anything about wood windows, a PO having removed all mine.

KarinL

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 11:46AM
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saintpfla

The window is a good size....it's a double-sash wood window (height 50 x 35 width).

Like I said, it's a mystery. I was hoping it would be something 'obvious' that someone could comment on, but, I guess we may never know.

To me, it still looks like a date - not saying thats correct. Maybe it was the guy's birthday who installed the window?...LOL...

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:09PM
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calliope

I think that 'round of wood' is the iron sash weight.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 6:34AM
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karinl

That's a happy thought, Calliope, in ignorance vs experience guess who wins...

SaintPfla, it may still be a mystery but at least it's right side up now :-)

KarinL

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 6:44AM
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brickeyee

"I think that 'round of wood' is the iron sash weight."

Sure looks like 'pig iron.'

A not very pure iron that was used for things like sash weights were strength was not an issue, just mass.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 8:40AM
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saintpfla

Yes - that 'round wood' is, indeed, the window sash iron weight.

I just wood-puttied the exterior trim tonight taking care of all the old rot. Waiting for it to dry, so I can sand it and paint it.....think I'm still buzzed from all the fumes. Whew!

Then, I can move to the other trim and perhaps there is a clue as to what the date means. Probably not...but, here's hoping!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 8:01PM
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