Treasure in the attic, basement...other places?

artamnesiaJune 12, 2007

I moved into my 1893 house two weeks ago and since then I've poked around hoping to find, not treasure really, but maybe some leftovers that will tell me more about the house and the previous owners. So far I haven't had much luck. I moved a set of shelves in the basement and found a box with a photo of a girl, a thong and some antipersperant. I also pried out the old entry to the upper floor of the carriage house. I can peep in but can't get up there yet. It appears to be home to a bundle of chicken wire, some storm windows and three toilets. Any one have better luck?

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Last night we investigated the old lino on all the floors (couple of days ago we discovered the original kitchen hardwood) dining room, living room, media room, bathroom, and 5 bedrooms all have lino flooring laying directly on the original wood floors. It was between the flooring and the wood that we found our "treasure". In 2 bedrooms: whole newspapers dated between 1938 and 1942, in the bathroom: whole newspapers dated between 1961 and 1964.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 8:54AM
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It takes time to find the treasures in a home. Some can be so obvious we miss them others you won't find till you remove something or strat digging in the yard.
I've been in my old house over ten yrs. and I'm still finding treasures, from plants that were planted long ago to Indian artifacts that pop out of the soil every now and again to long forgotten foundations.
The key is not just educating yourself to what is a treasure and whats just junk BUT to have an appreciation for what the objects you find in your home say about the house and the people that lived there.
Some of what you're looking for is in doing the research on the house itself. Go to your local historical society or library and start digging. Sometimes in knowing the history of the house and it's former custodians you can find the hidden treausres.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 2:26PM
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My home was built in the mid 1920's and I found 2 sets of the original blue prints in the basement.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 7:39PM
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We've lived in our 1913 bungalow about 15 years. 3 years ago we were tearing out (gutting) the shoddy 1950's walls/fiberboard/rockwool insulation and floors in our upstairs 1/2 story and found a couple of cool things. The best was a photo negative of a little girl in what looks like an Easter dress and hat sitting on our front steps (looks to be about 1920). We took it to a photographer and restorer and he printed it from the negative for us. Now her 5x7 photo sits on the bookcase in our dining room. A friend of my MIL was a relative of the original owners and she identified the girl as Mary E. who is now in her 80's or 90's in a nursing home about 3 hours away. So, we sent a print over to her!

The other surprising thing we found under the 1950 fiberboard walls in one bedroom was 1930's cardboard covered in wallpaper and glued to this all around the room were children's coloring book pages all neatly colored and arranged and a couple of colorful magazine advertisement pictures (a girl with a dog and a boy with puppies). We took photos of all, cut out a few to save and gave some of these to the relative of the original owners that MIL knows. It was a little erie at first to step back to that little child's room! We wonder if the same girl who was photographed on our front porch colored the pictures...

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 1:38PM
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Well we have lived in our 1902 home for about 10 years now and just got around to being able to renovate a little. I began by tearing the wallpaper down and scraping to the bare plaster walls, patching, sealing and painting. Over the years, I have dug up many artifacts like coal, an indian head nickel, a glass cork bottle from a NYC chemist, small metal cars, and the remains of the old outhouse. Recently, by mistake, I met a man that was born in the house in 1942, and he has told me all about it and shown me pictures. I was amazed to find out that we still have some of his parents furniture in our basement and that the bathroom is the same since when he left! As is the kitchen, with the big huge double porcelain sink. Oh and we found out that the little slanted window in the corner of the basement was a coal chute!!! Very cool indeed. I found out that our 3 season porch was added on after they left in 1955. I found out that they used a kerosene heater to heat the house and cook before the furnace was put in......and obviously the people before them had to have used coal.....I'm still waiting for even more pictures from his sister. He is waiting for them to arrive. Oh, another treasure I found is the hardwood floors upstairs and in the living room! I just love old houses. I hope to find even more treasure as time goes on. What I still don't understand is why we have a closed up fireplace. Apparently it was there when they were there as well, and it was filled in then too. Perhaps it was never a fireplace? Just a mantle?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 7:18AM
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The 2 original cabins of our old house were built in 1892. We're the third owners. The couple who bought it after Ms. Samantha passed away (she was born & died in the house) and was in her 90's when she passed...they pulled up the carpets to find beautiful old quilts that has been used as padding. Lucky them!! At the time Ms. Samantha lived there she still burned wood in the fireplaces for heat. Now that we're renovating, the contractor has found newspapers in the walls dating back to 1931. I found some beautiful old glass bottles when we dug a pond in the pasture. What fun!!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 9:37AM
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Things I've found in my 1910 farmhouse:

In the basement:
Wavy glass cabinet (top part only, has glass on all 4 sides), with grooves to hold the plates. I am using it in the breakfast room now.

Jelly cupboard, still in bsmt will be using it for storage.

Green metal cabinet, looks like a library catalog, with tons of little drawers. Will be using it for the home office or for storing nails and such.

Antique toliet, the one with the tank on top. We were going to use it for the bathroom down there. It was so beautiful, however, one of our contractors accidentally knocked it over and it broke to smithereens!

Very long piece of molding which is used throughout the house, still trying to figure out where it came from.


At some point the house had a built in hutch with is being used in the garage for storage. DH and I haven't figured out where it belonged. The only place that seems like it would fit would be in the double parlor, not sure if they would have them there though. Will someday find a place for it in the house, but for now its still there.


Behind the walls:
3 old books, 2 letters (writing is so faded), an antique iron, and a wooden umbrella/parasol with pieces of tattered fabric.

My neighbors were given a really thick book by the PO, it contained the city's early newspapers. Apparently, the editor of that paper lived in my house. He was given a chronological book of all the newspapers published during his tenure with the paper. My neighbors gave the book to the historical society, I have yet to go visit, due to the weird hours of operation.

Thus far, that's what we've found. Happy treasure hunting to you!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 11:37AM
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Most of what we've found in terms of artifacts has been fragmentary pieces of historic-period ceramics in the crawlspace. I found a very small sherd of Santa Fe black-on-white pottery in the alley, but I think that was dropped by the PO's kids when they were cleaning out the place before selling to us. We also found a 1920's carpenter's level stuck up high on a rafter out between the garage and an attached stable. We've been working in the attic since June, taking out old shingles from the original roof, removing old insulation, demo-ing the old, higher plasterboard ceilings so we could reach the second, lower ceilings to install new insulation, etc., and the only significant thing we've found is about 350+ square feet of old, loose tongue and groove flooring likely salvaged from some other old structures in this town. We've used some of it to replace a damaged ceiling, but there is so much more up there. Hope springs eternal, and I keep thinking I'm going to find something one of these days when I least expect it, but the property was pretty well cleaned out before we moved in...sigh.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 2:36PM
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We bought this house in March. It's a brick bungalow, built in 1946 and we're the third family to live here. It's not "old" old, but old enough to us!

While I've found a few old coins while digging around outside, it wasn't until we began renovating the back bedroom, that we found a few interesting things.

When we ripped up the carpet in the room, we found the original floorboards (unfinished), which, except for two twin-bed sized spaces on either side, were slathered with what looked like adhesive. They probably had linoleum on the floors originally.

The bookcase unit, which was the width of an entire wall, was also a headboard for both beds. It was about 6' high. It wasn't original to the house, but probably went in in the early to mid 1950s. When we removed it, found a lot of things belonging to the children who once occupied the room, things that must've been put on top of the unit and fallen down the back.

There were movie "fan magazines", letters, postcards from friends and a former school teacher (who sent it from Russia), a personalized plaque commemorating a First Holy Communion, a lot of children's drawings, some teenage "Margaret loves Billy"-type of scrawls on paper, playing cards, coins in a coin purse, lots of paperback books (1940s romance books, esp), and a little girl's wallet.

The books are a hoot because they now seem so corny and dated - this was back when most every girl's ambition was only to be a bride - and a fan book from the 50s about Tony Curtis was fun to read.

I am trying to track down either of the girls who'd occupied the room. They'd be in their 50s now, and I'm sure they'd get a kick out of seeing their old treasures.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 3:13PM
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Marvin Forssander-Baird

I've only been in my 1901 for about two months and I have already been bitten by the bug to find out about the previous owners. I have found old postcards from the 1920s that had fallen behind a kitchen cabinet that I had to remove. Along with them were items such as an order list to be left for the milkman, a postcard from the Buick dealer and a fragment of an old newspaper, all from around the same time.

Treasures I enjoyed today was in cleaning out the old coal room and discovering a still working coal chute. Imagine the surprise when I went into the center room of the basement which has been covered with all kinds of imaginable debris and discovered that my son had cleaned the room spotless to reveal a beautiful herringbone patterned brick floor. Another great treasure was looking at the floor joists and all of the enormous square nails used in the construction. I love to think of the people who put those in place. These old girls speak to you if you will just listen to them. That is the true treasure.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 1:38AM
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Our house was built around forty years before the Civil War broke out. We are still finding artifacts and probably always shall. Most of them have been on the grounds as we dig for gardens or do excavation. Many objects just sort of work their way to the surface, too.

In the house other than the amazing building materials (logs with bark still on them holding as floor joists) and hand sawn beams, we have found a few pieces of old Roseville pottery, and I found a medicine bottle under the kitchen floor from 1861.

Outside we've found a couple old, old coins. All sorts of glass and pottery shards, the remains of a porcelain doll, a bone-handled three tined fork, old metal files, horseshoes, the top of an old water pump, a hay hoist a brick pit where they fired the bricks for the house on site, lumps of coal (there was a coal bank on the premises), lots of itmes I have completely forgotten about but keep a bowl where I throw them when I find them. Cedar shakes under the newer slate roof, stacks of roofing slate, an iron toy or two.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 12:32PM
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I'm not sure I'll find anything much at our house at this point besides another thing has has been neglected.

The last people who were in my house were the p/o who was gutting everything and has left a HUGE mess, prior to that a transient had occupied the house, and prior to that a man and his children with their children had all lived in the house together. I'm going to search the records when I can with the hopes of finding out something prior to that and hoping the house had a better start.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 7:04PM
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We've got a 1920s Chicago bungalow. We've found lots of odd stuff. Maybe not treasure, but...

We found an old 1950s metal horse . He's a stallion - which I find humorous as I think he was a child's toy. He's wearing a western saddle and bridle. About a foot high and long. Weighs quite a bit.

Also up in the attic is an old 48 star flag. The previous owner was a WWII vet. The flag has seen better days. We're not sure what to do with it.

Great for us but not very "exciting" is the quarter round trim we found up there. The front three rooms (family room, dining room, bedroom) had all been carpeted. We spent weeks pulling up old carpet and padding and then had the floors refinished to the original golden oak color. The POs had taken the time to pull up the quarter round at the bottom of the trim. Rather than throw it away they stuck it in the attic. They even bundled it by room, all neatly labeled. Gotta love POs like that!

Nothing was cleaned out of the garage. Tons of old heavy gardening tools, shovels and rakes generally. The rafters of the garage are filled with scrap wood. We've been pulling it down bit by bit. Some of it is old 2x4s. The true 2" x 4" kind. We're hanging on to those as we hope to do some remodeling at some point and they might come in handy.

Found an old (1950s?) kids sled up there.

We also had a mystery box. Finally pulled it down earlier this spring. Ended up, it was filled with potato sacks. ??
I've kept them as some have really cool graphics on them. I'm guessing their 1940s or 50s. I need to find a way to clean them up a bit though.

Also found a cool piece of a glass window with the word LUNCH engraved in it. It's quite big and heavy, must have come from a restaurant (maybe that explains the potato sacks?) It's broken on either end. I'd like to take a stained glass class to see if I can fix it up. It would look really cool hanging in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 7:17PM
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My 1858 Greek Revival had been owed by a slumlord from the 1950's until we bought it in 1988 so it was fairly stripped of anything that wasn't nailed down! Besides a few ceramic marbles, a lot of broken glass, & an early Otis Redding record that had slipped behind a baseboard, we found a brick herringbone patio that was under 9" of soil. Not only is it useful & beautiful, it defined exactly where the outside kitchen had been.

The garage roof had collapsed onto the contents & all of it had become near compost when we arrived. The best surprise was finding a concrete floor under all the mess - & 2 old, large enamelled B F Goodrich tire signs that obviously came from a repair shop. A friend's teenage son helped with the cleanup & we gave one to him. That's been 20 years ago & he's grown & married, but he still has that sign proudly displayed.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 1:27AM
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My house was rolled across Main Street and set in its current location in 1920. When we started our major rebuild we thought we would surely find some neat 'treasures'. Well, 7 years later, after removing all of the plaster walls and ceilings (gasp), and literally rebulding EVERY wall we have concluded that we live in a 'deaf mute' house LOL!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 10:25PM
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Some of my best finds were across the street at an estate sale. I found a bunch of books with the original owners name from 1913.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pecan Place

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 5:53PM
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