Old Smaller Homes

bzyathomeJuly 14, 2006

I was wondering how many of you have fairly old smaller homes. Ours is fairly old, but I'm not sure just how old. It was moved onto our lot about 60 years ago so it could be much older.

I've tried to get some information at the county clerks office but there's not much info there, just the info on the owners before us, but we knew them well, DH's grandparents. They moved in here in 1961 and we bought the place in January 1981. It's taken all this time but now I'm very curious about my home's history.

Anyone else think about such things????

Marilyn in NM

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Our home is 75 years old this year. I would suspect that it's birthday is about now, as a matter of fact. We knew it had only two owners before us as we were told this when we purchased it. Last year we found out it had originally been the home of a presbyterian minister who obviously didn't have a lot of money!! It had not even had plaster on the walls originally!
The information on our home is not present at the county clerks office either. A lot of these files "went missing" for various reasons in the past. However, we live in an area where some people who were born here still reside. I have a friend who is in her 80's and she helped me find our more about the house. I also ran into one of the original neighbours once.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 12:02PM
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Our house is listed by the county as being 66 years old, but county records show our next-door-neighbors' 150-year-old Victorian as being the same age! Our little cottage has a few details that lead me to believe that it's either older than the records show, or that the builder recycled older hardware and trim (it was, after all, built during the Great Depression).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 12:35PM
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I know from our property-tax assessment info, that our house was built in 1925. Lots of oak woodwork, but I sure wish the closets were bigger!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 1:40PM
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I sure wish our property tax assessment had original build date.
My DH's grandparents had tried to update everything they could. They had even built on a Family Room/Dining Room combo, 3/4 bath and Laundry "closet". There's not any old hardware but the one thing I've tried doing is looking under the house in the crawlspace in the basement to see if there's any clues. None so far.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 2:39PM
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OUr house was built in 1945. We have met few people who lived in the house as well as these who were guests. So far the history is that after a few years being a regular home, it was then used as a home church. Then it was back to being a regular home until some time ago when it was used as a rental before we bought it. There are some stuff that are original from the time it was built. We got the information from former owners and the city.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 2:55PM
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Mine is listed as 1911 but that is also the year that the town became the town. My neighbor who is in his 90ies (he has owned his house since the 50's) told me that he used to play at my house when he was a kid and that it was an older home then. However the house was redone after a fire in teh 1980's. Neighbor told me about the fire but I have since confirmed it through the fire dept and the other neighbor who have owned thier home since the 70's. I love my small older home but I just wish things stopped going wrong.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 7:50PM
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1905 house here; some great old details, but lots gone gone gone over the years. Most days love it, some hate the projects tied to its aging coattails!

Looking forward to this thread....

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 11:52PM
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lizdc, I'm with you on the stuff going wrong....I had some plumbing issues on Thursday but everything's ok 'for' now. We had all the water lines and drains replaced about 4 years ago. The only problem is the old part of the house's Master Bath has a very small section of drain pipe that is still old and drops into the old sewer line that runs to the street where the City takes over. My fear is to have all that back up in my house. The things nightmares are made of.

house_vixen, I also love my house most days. Sometimes I get to looking at the newer homes and townhomes that are for sale and think how nice it'd be to start with everything NEW and then I realize just how much I really do LOVE my house!

Marilyn in NM

    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 6:48AM
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Our 1,000 square foot urban farmhouse on the Jersey Shore was built in 1915. When built, it had no electric service, no city water, no city sewer and no indoor plumbing, but it had piped in manufactured gas for illumination. The grandfather of one of our son's best friends was born in our upstairs front bedroom in 1916. We had several conversations with him about the house's history before he died in the late 80's. His parents sold the house to one of his sisters and her husband in 1935. They connected the house to the city water, switched from coal to natural gas for heating, and installed indoor plumbing in the late 30's.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 10:01AM
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Your local library is your friend. If your library is online, try looking up Sanborn maps for your town. Our library has an entry called "Digital Sanborn Maps" under its databases category. You enter your library card number and you are in. By checking the Sanborn maps, which are fire insurance records, I found that my house was built before 1914, but not much before 1914, because the block west of me did not exist in 1914.

There are Sanborn maps for 12,000 cities and towns in the U.S. and yours could be one of them.

Also, go to your library and see if they have old telephone books. That will tell you when a telephone was first hooked up at your address. In the 30s, 40s and into the 50s telephones were listed by address, not by name.

Also, ask your librarian how to find the info you need. That's what they are there for, and they have a lot of local knowledge.

Good luck on your search--

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 11:55AM
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I have already redid the kitchen not just because it was ugly but because the floor joists were rotten. It was a total gut down to dirt of the crawl space that is under it. Replaced the roof, added a fence. Last fall I had to replace the hot water heater because a flood. Now with the crazy ne rains I replaced the hot water heater agian. May have to replace the heater, and just got a quote for 10k -15 k to fix my cellar so that it doesn't ever flood again. It had 5 feet of water in it July 1st. Of course since it was a flood it isn't covered by insurance. Lucky for me I perchased this home just before a boom in my area which means that I have been able to do most of this from the house. Which basically means I keep paying more for my house. In the end my house will be amazing. But had I known what I was getting into I would have gotten a differnt home. I love my house and in the end it will be perfect. I will also be poor.

I just keep repeating I love my old house I love my old house. I am sure that some of you can relate. I know that I am not the only one in over my head in an old small house. On the bright side I now know more that most people about house things and home loans :)

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 12:35PM
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Hi all..I was surfing the forums today and came across the 'smaller homes' forum, to my delight! We are in the process of buying a little old farmhouse and 6 acres here in upstate NY. The house is only about 1000 sq. ft. It was built in 1850..so it's 156 years old. So far that's the only info we have, but I'de like to thank you all for the ideas of where to get more info on it. There have been renovations done in the home, like a new bathroom with a jet tub and a seperate corner shower unit.

When we looked down cellar we saw that the beams were made from whole trees! So exciting to see. There are stacked stone (I think it's called) walls and an old fashioned cystern (sp?) down there too.

Anyway, thank you for letting me kinda barge in on you like this. I just had to tell someone about our new place! LOL! And to see what others are doing with their older small homes.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 2:03PM
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brooksiefan, I'll have to check into the Sanborn Maps. I did go to our local library link and it's not available there but I may have to research it through my Title Co.

lizdc, I'm sorry you've had to put so much $$$ into your home. It will definitely be worth it when it's finished. We've been here for over 25 years now so we did small projects all along but about 7 years ago we started with the big ones. Son was married & gone and DD was already 20 so was out of our hair most of the time...lol. So that Spring we put turned posts and corbels on the porch then in the Fall we replaced the entire roof with pro-panel. I'm so glad we did...cost was higher than shingles but DH & the kids helped.
Then we had the plumbing all redone 5 years ago NOT 4 as I stated earlier. The conversation jogged my memory so I asked DH and he said it'll be 5 in Oct.

Then I couldn't stand not having railing on my porch with those great turned posts so DH and I had visited a B&B that gave us the idea of how we wanted them to look so we came home from our anniversary trip and went to work! I absolutely LOVE my porch now. I do need to put hand railing down the steps on both ends of the porch though. The steps are so steep and I'm getting older....lol.

Last summer we just couldn't stand the old formica cabinet doors in the Kitchen anymore so we just started taking doors down and sanding.....they had been up for over 35 years and that was the strongest glue I'd ever seen. We started out hand sanding and finally went and got a power sander. Got them all sanded, framed them and then started on the countertops. I put down 12x12 porcelain tiles and I just love it. Painted everything to look alittle French Country and Tuscan and haven't regretted it yet. My big purchase was my sink. I got the large double Kohler and since it cost so much, we just kept our faucet that I had since it was only a couple of years old. Now I'm saving for a new faucet and new hardware for my cabinets & drawers. I'm really not unhappy with what I have but would like the dark FC style but it may take awhile before I get them.

After we did the kitchen in July, I started painting the Guest Room and finished it before our grandbaby was born the end of August. It's hard to believe it's already been a year.
AND now we need to rip up tile in DH's 3/4 bath and redo the entire bathroom. He's just not good at plumbing so I think the ugly shower is going to stay....UGH! I want a new one in there but he's balking at that so I may just settle for the tile on the floor & walls. I'd like to put a pedestal sink in there and a seperate cabinet but we'll see.

OK last project planned is ripping carpet in LR/GR/MB/Hall and refinishing our great wood floors. I think that may happen this Fall before the bathroom even. We'll see.

Anyway, those are our projects and NEEDS for our OLD SMALL HOUSE!

Marilyn in NM

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 12:29PM
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bzyathome, consider getting hot water on demand. We are getting that as we can't find a hot water heater to install with the current overhead space codes. They will be placing it high on the wall so no flooding would come in contact with it. We are getting electric simply so that it won't need to be re-installed if we can ever go solar. Plus we have a gas stove so if the power goes out I can still heat water.
Something to think about. There are some good models out there now.

I have a similar room as your kitchen...we use it as a walk in closet right now..but it's so close to the crawl that I can "feel" the joists are not in the best condition. I had one jack put under years ago with a brace across the width of the room to help spread the pressure across all the joists more evenly. Sept. it gets overhauled. The back hall needs all joists replaced again. Done once, done poorly and with el cheapo wood and now it's molding again...this time I'm going to have pressure treated wood installed and spray it all with a product which keeps that gelatinous mold from forming in the wood (and keeps dry rot at bay which is a problem here). So I feel your pain.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 4:07PM
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Our house dates from 1870, and I'm very curious about its history since it's locally designated an historic resource. Every so often I go over to the assessor's office and do some tracing of the deed - I've only gone back to 1946 at this point. Our house is just under 1,500 sq. ft., and was built in three stages. The last deed I found indicates that two families purchased the house in 1946. During this time, the house was about half the size it is today and most likely had no sewer hookup. I have not yet determined whether both families lived in the house together. When I finish the deed trace, I'll look at other public records such as mortgage, liens, census, tax and insurance records. I've found my house on three maps. I'm hoping to find records that go back to the beginning, because it is rumored that the original section of our house was part of the house next door (1840) -- a gentleman gave it to his brother and they moved it to its present location. This would tell me the true age of the original section of my house, or at least put to rest a false story. It's a good mystery!


    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 10:13PM
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Some concrete outside the back door has 1947 written in it, the house is probably older. It's a fairly small bungalow, just under 1000 sq ft, but our lot is huge (double lot).

This house was my husbands grandparents house, they were the original owners. His dad & aunt grew up in this house and now we live in it so it has stayed in his family since the beginning. It's not the fanciest house on the block, and it needs some work, but we love it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 11:10PM
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My house is about 120 years old. The records think it dates to 1875 but I found an 1876 map that doesn't show it yet. It does show up in an 1888 rendering of the village though, pretty much exactly as it is today too (with the kitchen addition off the back of it).

This house has the best details, like a fantastic front porch (rebuilt by the previous owner though), stained glass windows in every room (including a huge one in the living room that goes down to the floor and a bay window in the dining room), a huge dutch front door (top opens independantly of the bottom), a beautiful fireplace with 100 + year old tile and the original cast iron coal burning insert (beautiful detail on it), of course all of the great woodwork and some nice built-in cabinetry.

One of the things that really made me fall in love with my house is that it has a lot of the "fine" details you generally find in larger victorian era houses but without the huge size (that we could not afford to either buy or maintain).

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 5:16AM
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New_in_texas, we bought my DH's grandparents' home, also. They weren't the original owners, though. Still looking into that!
We have a really large lot, too. Total space is just over a 1/4 acre but as lots go, that's really big for anything in town and not rural.

kgwlisa, your house sounds great!

We always love PICTURES!!!

Marilyn in NM

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 8:09AM
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I just found this forum and I am THRILLED!

Our small 1200sqft house is a cape cod style that is 68 years old. One day, shortly after we moved in, I was sweeping the front sidewalk and saw engraved in the concrete "WPA." Turns out our neighborhood was a depression-era Works Progress Administration project!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 5:21PM
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Scraphappy, your home sounds like mine. Built in 1925, loads of oak (floors, sills) but teeny closets. In those days people used chests, trunks and standing armoires, so closets were an afterthought.

Mine is a simple bungalow from a kit. The framing is southern yellow pine, and you can still read the coded markings on the beams and planks so that the assembler could follow the kit plans. Sears and Roebuck and maybe other companies routinely sold house kits back then. They were shipped to your town by rail and then trucked (or horse waggoned) to your site.

Being in New England, we have lots of rock. So the foundation is a genuine cellar that goes deeeeep into the ground and is made of boulders and rocks dug up on site. That is one of my favorite aspects of the house. That, and the orginal soap stone sink that I use as a drain for my washer.

These old houses, even the simplest ones like mine, are full of charm. They are solid and well made with good materials, which is why they have stood the test of time. It's easy to add charm by putting in small details such as a nice portico or porch, window boxes and nice touches such as brass mailboxes, kick plates and door knockers. In the 12 years I've lived here, I've had a blast slowly putting my personal touches on the house without making it cluttered. That's one of the joys and challenges of having an older small house.

Now, what I'd really like is one of the 17th and 18th-century antique little cottages we have here. I could learn to love warped wide-pine floors and 6-and-a-half-foot ceilings. :)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 5:58PM
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I'm glad to see there's so many "old" smaller homes out there.
Since starting this thread, I've found the information I was looking for on the age of our home. It was built early in the year of 1940. It sat on property out in the country and was later moved to "town" in 1945. This property had been owned by the railroad and the lot directly behind us is where the tracks used to be. We still dig up railroad spikes occassionally.
I think the house actually had something to do with the railroad but I'll have to research that more.
I found the lady down the street from us that resurrected the old train station, which is now a beautiful home, has lots of information about the street we live on and the connection with the railroad.
Anyway, I was very happy to find the info I'd been searching for. This forum/thread really encouraged me to dig deep.
Marilyn in NM

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 8:41AM
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Glad to see this forum started!

County records list my house as built in 1938. It's possible that's just when the land was purchased, and the house wasn't built for a few years after that, but it's pretty close. It has all the beautiful hallmarks of the era: hardwood floors, coved plaster ceilings, 6-panel doors, brass hardware, etc. Thankfully, previous owners have been kind to the house and haven't stripped it of all its original character, as some of the other neighborhood houses have suffered.

And other than the kitchen (which could be much improved by a change in layout, though it would still be small), I wouldn't trade it. $:-)

I'll have to check out those Sanborn maps, and the local historical society, to see if I can find out anything more!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 9:32AM
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We live in Central Texas on 12.5 acres and our house was built in 1932. 2 bedroom/1bath/living room/dining room and kitchen. We have the original hardwood floors in both bedrooms. 2 little closets in the whole house. Original doors and knobs thru out the house. We have no heat or air. Our only source of heat is a wood burning stove in the living. And we have window units for air. DH is a little burned out at the moment but I would not trade our house for anything. I love all the creaks and groans and loss of modern conveniences..lol

Mount Calm, Texas

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 12:33PM
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Marcia Thornley

Ours was built sometime in the 30's. All the natural wood trim,hardwood floors and leaded glass windows are still in good shape. I just wish the entrances were bigger. And closet space is always an issue. But I do love my house and all it's charm.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 5:23PM
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What a charming house you have. I would love to peek inside. Saw your yard pic too...a wonderful garden. Doesn't the photo want you to have spring right now? I keep looking at all the spring cleaning needed in the back and yearn for just our buds to start showing through.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 8:57AM
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Marcia Thornley

I am so longing for Spring! I have a feeling winter is going to hang on for awhile here. It's going to be a while before we can get out and do much. Then everything will have to be done so quickly. I love an early Spring so you can get out and really do a good cleanup and plan things. We'll most likely go from Winter to Summer in one week.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 8:55PM
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Our old house wasn't much more than a cabin when it was built, sometime in the 40's, we think. And built by someone who really didn't know what he was doing, just needed a house. The studs and joists were likely milled locally, from green oak and pine..probably from the property. Have you ever tried to extract a nail from old oak lumber, or drive one in? Forget it! Do you know how much green lumber can twist ant bow? No wonder there is not a square and true corner anywhere. No codes were followed..probably there were none out here in the boonies. There was no indoor plumbing in this place when it was built. This we know from the fact that all of the now-existing plumbing runs along the back of the house (now kitchen-laundry-BR)in an area that was obviously once a back porch. This is all poured concrete, on grade (meaning right on the ground), so all the water and waste lines are buried beyond the concrete. It has been a challenge to make this a home, but we're doing it. The things that sold me on the place 18+ years ago were the land..nearly an acre of sloping hillside.. the natural stacked-stone shower in the bathroom..and the big trees on the property.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 10:50PM
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My brick bungalow-esque home was built in 1910 - so it's almost 100 years old. Wow! I should throw it a party when 2010 rolls around, huh?

The house is 1500+ square feet and feels solid as a rock. It has seen lots of hurricanes and ice storms here in central North Carolina. There are no big closets and the bathroom is very small; I don't like the long central hallway - wasted space. But I do have 9' ceilings, lots of oak flooring, good sized rooms and a lovely front porch. I like my home, but the neighborhood regularly drives me crazy. If I could afford to, I would move, but I bet I couldn't find this much house for the same money now.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 1:49PM
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