Folk Victorian rural farm house

pinch_meJuly 5, 2010

My 1880 Folk Victorian has no character left to it. The porch was long ago converted to the kitchen. Plain Jane makes it sound glamorous. Where can I look to find pictues of typical room arrangement from 1880 to maybe 1950? I think I know where the kitchen was before but I also have a "room" that makes no sense where it is. I don't want to get into wall construction/deconstruction. In the two rooms where I've been down to the plaster walls, there is nothing left of the original room layout. Patched over doors and windows show the entry door and where windows were before the porch was a kitchen. The whole room arrangement now couldn't possibly be anything like original.

There are two bedrooms upstairs, none down. One has a nursery sized room adjoining it. Is that what it is? Would a house built in 1880 only have two bedrooms? I can't think it would. Certainly a boy's room and a girl's room plus a room for the parents. So many unanswered questions about this house!

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Sometimes if you make a to-scale drawing of each floor, it will become readily apparent what changes have been made. YMMV! Also, you might check out other houses of this period in your community.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 8:20PM
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Oh bet a house built in the late eighteen hundreds may just have two bedrooms. I've lived in several of them, and they often were upstairs. The nursery sized room adjoining a bedroom may be a trunk room.

My first husband was a farm boy, and on the family farm there were six kids and they had two bedrooms. You stacked them like sardines. LOL. The back porches of homes in this era, especally farm homes, were often converted later into a kitchen. My last house had a large kitchen like that. I knew because the old exterior entrance to the basement (the proverbial lift up from the floor cellar door) was located in the laundry room ,just off the kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 12:36AM
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If you don't want to get into room construction/destruction, it may be difficult to find out. In the two rooms where you "got down to the plaster", at least some deconstruction was done to find out that doors and walls were moved. Sometimes, you can get clues from woodwork; such as where the trim looks truncated or removed. Does the exterior look original? If not, you may have to remove later siding to see if more windows were covered up or moved. Does the basement or crawl space give you any clues? Look up at the floor joists. Similarly, the attic might give some clues. If your home was locally built, there may not be a "pattern" or "floorplan" that fits. Are there any previous owners or their families in the area? They may also have knowledge of your home's previous layout. Good luck with it!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 12:18PM
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It may also help to find out about the PO's and their occupations. We have one house here in town that has no windows on one side. Seems the owner, a doctor had his office in the next house over and didn't want his wife, a very big gossip, telling tales about who was coming and going so he ordered the builder to refrain from putting any windows on the side of his house nearest his offices.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 4:42PM
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" trunk room"

I am assuming ( we all know how that works ) that the farmers who lived here were not rich. Would they still have had a trunk room?

A new basement was put under at some point. Probably in the 1950's. The newspapers we found under the old sink base were 1950 and that's what makes me think the porch to kitchen was Dec., 1950 or thereabouts. I really have no idea but it's a nice basement. I've wondered where the old basement doors might have been. I can't tell anything from the existing basement. There would have been steps somewhere?? No evidence of cement steps. I don't see anywhere that would make sense for an outside entrance BUT the house is not at all like original. There's been a breezeway and double garage added. The septic is under the breezeway and will have to be replaced this year.

There is not one scrap of complete original woodwork left. I have to think it wasn't very fancy. Taking out a built in cabinet (not old) and taking off two layers of paneling and a few layers of genuine old wallpaper showed the patched windows/doors. I have found three 4 panel doors in the machine shed and one 1950's kitchen door with glass in the top. It's just a regular nothing special plain door. It's back in the kitchen doorway now. The layers of paint matched and the hinges matched so it had to have lived there once. There are no doorways that match the size of the 4 panels I found.

The outside is sided in aluminum siding. Not new. As I said, there is not one shred of character left in this old house. I can't remember exactly where the road in front used to be. The interstate went through in 1975 cutting through at a diagonal. That's when the farm was sold and this acreage survived. It was "this close" to being bulldozed. None of the maps I own show the house in relation to the road as it was. I know I traveled that road on occasion but I was young and things like that didn't impress me.

I'm trying to find surviving relatives but I likely won't. The people before me lived here 30 years; from around 1978 to probably 2002. I am sure they were responsible for one of the two layers of paneling. I think it was they who refaced the kitchen cupboards. I know where their son is and I am going to try to contact him to return some photos I found during this last facelift. He was a child so I don't know what he will remember. I am hoping he has a photo album. The people before them are long dead and I have no idea if/where any relatives would be. I've asked around about the history or other living people who would know but get no where. Everyone is dead or moved away. I think the first family that I know about/knew were not very neighborly??? I think the husband was a "dirty old man". Maybe that's why no one knows what the inside of the house was like? I think they would have been the ones to do the kitchen. I knew them in the '60's so it's likely they lived here in 1950. The cement apron beside the barn is etched 1950. There must have been some money during that time. The barn foundation is still visible. Also two other small foundation outlines. I think a milkhouse for one. I don't know what the other would be. I'd like to find pictures of everything. Probably not possible. There are still usable outbuildings and those have always been kept up.

I was only curious, I will stay here until I die no matter what. I assumed (again) that familes of that era had lots of kids and I didn't think a house of two bedrooms was sufficient.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 8:27PM
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Our old farmhouse, originally had an upstairs area that was for the kids (kind of an unfinished attic) and a very small (10'x10') room that was the parents' bedroom. The living room was 12'x13' and the kitchen about 10'x12'. The bathroom was an add-on in the back, behind the basement stairs.

In the 1950's an addition was added for a new, larger living room and bigger downstairs bedroom and second bathroom. Many old houses were small, especially on farms, because of the cold winters and difficulty in heating them.

Good luck with your sounds like a fun project! Don't get too involved with the original plan, if it's too hard to find, just add some details that you like and make it usable for today. A few moldings and period fixtures/lights will go a long way in bringing the right atmosphere to an older home...but, that's just my opinion :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 11:34PM
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The small room is probably a nursery room. My grandmother grew up in a farmhouse with two bedrooms and a nursery room. There were 5 girls and one boy. The boy ended up with the nursery room and the girls piled into the other bedroom.

One of the interesting parts of farmhouses is how much they changed. Additions were put on, rooms were moved around quite regularly. Although your home may lack character, it more than makes up for that in mystery. I hope you keep us updated, I'd love to hear it unraveled!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:25AM
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I think lavenderlass and autumngal make some good points. Probably the vast majority of farmhouses are like yours. They changed over time with the needs of the people who lived there. It sounds like you love the place, since you intend to stay there until you die. (I always say they'll have to carry me out of my house feet first, so I feel the same way!) Just fix it up the way that feels best to you, add vintage touches, give it back some of the "charm" you think it lacks, make it uniquely yours and you will have done justice to the old gal.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:46AM
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LOL about the nursery room, because my parent's 1920s house has one off one bedroom and I slept in it when I first moved to this area until I can buy a house. It still had the nursery rhyme characters on the wall. A single bed just fit in it with room to get out one side and a nightstand.

As for trunk rooms, they aren't uncommon in old homes when there are no or few closets. Trunks weren't just for traveling, but for storage. I had a trunk room in an 1890 tiny farmhouse. It had a cellar, but cellars back then weren't really like basements are today. The spring troughs for milk storage were down there and the old coal furnace and a pantry for storing canned food.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 3:11PM
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Thanks everyone. I do hope to track the son down this weekend and deliver the pictures. I am really hoping he has a photo album or a shoe box. But like everyone says, fix it up, live in it and be happy. So I'm there already!

When I took the penensula out of the kitchen it just felt so right. Is it me or was it the kitchen? It now feels like it's right. And the room seems happy. but maybe new cabinets and fresh paint would have made it happy even with the peninsula.

New modern bathroom is next. The oak vanity and three mirrored medicine cabinet that really didn't contribute anything are on the way out. Walk in shower is being built now. I know I woudln't find that in the old house but I probably wouldn't have indoor plumbing at all if I were determined to do it right. I hope to recreate the built in cupboards on the opposite wall. We saved everything. I love running water. I love a thermostadt on the wall that gives me instant heat. I love turning on a light by flipping a switch on the wall.

If I can remember which forum I posted this on, I would love to keep you updated. I live over at the kitchen forum and a lot at the bathroom forum. I ventured here mostly for conversation and brainstorming. I bet this house could tell tales.....

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:16PM
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Don't know if you still want interior pics, but this site is really full of them--from ads, photos and silent films. I've found it pretty useful for suggestions, though most are in black and white, alas.
Hope it helps!

Here is a link that might be useful: Old Interior Pics

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 12:55AM
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That site is a gold mine! Thanks for posting.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 5:59AM
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