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Unknown House Age

Posted by Locrian (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 19, 13 at 19:31

I've put a contract on an old(er) house that was lived in for 60-plus-years. The heirs do not know when it was originally built and the Parish & town records are vague...going back to 1912 only.

The REA & I are doing a little investigative work because of keen historical interest.

One of the things that caught my eye was the wavy glass in most (if not all) of the existing windows. The glass is particularly dense (thick). Only two panes are cracked!

The archaetecture is standard P&B Double Shotgun, ~1800-sq', with steep pitched roof & deep eaves. (Unfortunately) the owners put tin-wrap siding up some time in the dusty past.

All of the original interior molding & base boarding is intact, 4-1/2" to 5" (painted). The floors are covered in heart-stopping orange & green shag carpeting. Wall paper adorns every single wall... And! There are oodles of built-in cupboards & cubbies.

What is a way to track back a houses age when records are scarce? I know some of the archaetecture treatments are "older" than early 1950s just from my days in theatre & set design. The wavy glass has me stumped, too.

Any suggestions & ideas would be greatly appreciated!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Unknown House Age

phone books at the public library - old ones have listings by address
Sanborn Fire maps - when did the house first appear
Records of Real estate transactions
Building permits
Old newspapers - we found a 1924 For Sale ad for our house
Census records - if you can can find owners from prior years, you can then move on to HS yearbook and then locate people who might still be around today

These things kept me busy for weeks. Hope you have success.


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RE: Unknown House Age

Wavy glass is generally before 1890 or so...by that time cylinder glass was becoming cheaper and could be made in larger sizes. By 1910 sheet glass for windows was no longer showing defects from what I can recall.

My 1908 house has it's original windows, and the only wavy glass is in my stained glass sidelight and transom windows...I seem to recall that reprints of earlier catalogs from Sears and Montgomery Ward sold sheet glass and praised it for clarity and blemish-free nature.

If you are in a town, you might also try water and utility records...Also the Auditor's page might be able to help with deeds. My local auditor has a website where you can check properties by address...mine lists the owners and dates of sale and price.

A property abstract might help you narrow it down, but only in that a significant increase in value occurred around the time the house might have been built--and there might be references to a mechanic's lien.

A phone book probably won't help a lot except to eliminate later dates--not every home had a phone.


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RE: Unknown House Age

I'm in the same boat ... city records are vague for that era, Sanborn's annoyingly quits a block away from the house (they only did the business district) ...

Also ... post pictures of the details. And the whole house.

Keep in mind that some things might have been salvaged.

City directories - the ones that went street by street and told you who lived where - are wonderful if you have them for your city or town. The local historical society might have some.

They can establish, if nothing else, that A house was on the lot, if not the current building.

Old aerial photos, if you can find them - historical society again.


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RE: Unknown House Age

Thank you Everyone for some leads to dating this Old Southern Belle =).

We're going to check with Boise Southern, too. They may have some additional records as historical rumour is many of the original houses were built for roundhouse crews, porters, engineers, conductors, etc.

This house is about one block from the original roundhouse, and is at a tri-via of tracks. Yes, the trains still roll on through!

Didn't even think of wavy glass being a salvage! Excellent idea. We do know the house did NOT have plumbing, heating, electricity. It was retrofit later and upgraded several times. It does have Romex NMS now, but waiting to find out if it's 2 or 3 strand wire. The old hand pump well still works...miraculously...although needs a strong arm & priming.

Can't wait to relo and settle in if all goes well. I'm feeling more like Miss Marple than a classic house hunter. LOL

Old Louisiana Parish records are quite vague and often hazy. Genealogy has spread to houses as a pass-time for me.


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RE: Unknown House Age

Forgot to say: I will indeed post pictures. The house isn't unique for the area. It just has some very unusual things going on.

Most houses I've seen, including relatives', have cypress or cedar paneled walls, natural/painted/papered. This house the walls feel smooth under the WP. Someone may have dry walled or plastered at some point.

Luckily I've had some experience with old(er) houses otherwise I'd never consider buying. And, it's a total blessing having family who are plumbers, electricians, carpenter/joiners, stonemasons and metallurgists/blacksmiths. It seems as everyone is pulling for me to buy this house...just so they can roll up their sleeves and help me restore "her". Must be genetic!


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RE: Unknown House Age

I live in Minneapolis where we have online property records that include sales and tax info and the date the house was built. So maybe your town has better tax records than other ones?


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RE: Unknown House Age

Our county used to list the old homes just as 'older' for tax purposes if a homeowner hadn't provided them with the information and somewhere along the line, they decided to slap dates on them and just coughed up 1900 and slapped it on all of them. It's an injustice, really. It took me a couple years to finally peel back the layers and find out mine was built in the 1820s. I've lived in enough old houses to know it predated 1900 (how it's still listed) because I saw a photo of a man in a civil war uniform standing in front of it. LOL. Another old photo I had was from before the turn of the century of a farm family standing by the front door and the stone stoop was worn into a gentle scoop then. The floor beams were logs with the bark still on them in part of the house, and a later addition to the house showed huge beams with straight saw marks on them. IOW the construction predated circular saws. There are many, many structural and architectural clues in old houses and a lot of info on them even online.


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RE: Unknown House Age

The contract fell through on this one *sad face* Sellers really didn't want to sell their old family homestead I guess and refused any & all negotiations.

That's OK. Put a contract on another house. Not OLD or Old but old brick on slab mid-1950/60 build "rambler". I'll be hanging out here for hints, tips & suggestions just the same. Like to call this one "Vintage Belle" *grin*


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