I had not planned out any specific winter projects. I figured that I would spend the upcoming months removing old wallpaper from several of the rooms in the Main House at a very leisurely pace and then painting those rooms to freshen them up a bit. I even purchased a steamer to facilitate wallpaper removal. This would be the extent of my winter projects.
Then last weekend my wife scheduled an excursion with several of her friends and their husbands to one of her favorite antique/architectural salvage shops to browse its latest goods. Its an activity that she and I both enjoy, particularly since moving into the Neebor Lee house. It’s an activity that provides us with the opportunity to find items needed for the renovation of the house at good and sometimes bargain prices. While my wife prefers to focus on china and other small items displayed in these shops, I often look for tools, hard-to-find antique hardware and furniture and other large items that I think would look good in the main house or in the outbuildings. It should be noted that these shops are not typical run-of-the mill antique shops. The proprietors are often involved in architectural salvage or obtaining goods in bulk from estate sales. They are often trying to move old items quickly to make room for new items. As a result, bargains can often be found.
Our excursion took us to a shop that was housed in a country barn that was packed almost to the ceiling with various types of items, ranging from antique furniture to tools to jewelry. There were so many items packed inside that building that they overflowed outside in front of the barn’s doors. Because the proprietor had accumulated so much stuff, she opened on a Saturday, which she does not typically do, in order to clean out items to make room for incoming goods. It was thus that we spied an item that my wife and I had both desired for the Main House for some time: a vintage clawfoot tub.
Clawfoot tubs originated in the middle 19th Century and by the end of that century were considered luxury items in homes. Their popularity peaked in the early 20th Century but by 1930 their popularity waned as art-deco pedestal tubs became fashionable. Because the Neebor Lee House had gone through a transformation from a two-story farmhouse to a three-story mansion in 1903, with additional renovations performed in 1918, it is very possible that the wealthy owner of the home at that time, Charles Wetherill Gumbes, had one of these vintage clawfoot tubs installed in the house. Thus, finding and then installing one of these vintage tubs in the house a century later seemed entirely appropriate. It also didn’t hurt that these tubs in my opinion look pretty cool.
The tub that we spied, which was sitting outside the barn doors gathering pine needles from a nearby tree, was in very good shape. It was constructed of cast iron and enameled with white porcelain. The porcelain was in good condition with only a few superficial scratches and no rust; thus, there was no need for repair of the surface with epoxy. The tub still had its original claw feet, of the classic talon and ball type, which included the original clamps to attach them to the bottom of the tub.
The asking price for the tub was a $125. Comparing this to the $2,000 to $3,000 asking price for new clawfoot tub replicas or the $200 to $800 asking price for vintage clawfoot tubs on Ebay that are often in poor condition, my wife wasted no time in claiming it. This surprisingly brought on a sigh of relieve from the owner of the shop, who feared that she would not be able to sell it. Apparently, she never had one in her shop before. Hence, the bargain price.
The purchase of this tub, however, has waylaid my winter plans of removing wallpaper at a leisurely pace. Rather than scraping walls, I will now be spending the upcoming winter months ripping apart, re-plumbing and then renovating my third floor bathroom, which is the destination for this tub. This bathroom is the only room in the Main House that I can confidently say has been “remuddled” during some earlier renovation. The current shower in this bathroom is a hideous triangular, partially-rusted, very plain and very small metal shower stall. Unlike the first floor and second floor bathrooms, no tub is present. The floor is covered by vinyl tile that overlays the original wide-plank hardwood floor. The plaster walls have, in part, been covered with a brown paint as has been the chimney of the house’s center fireplace, which partially protrudes into the room. The bathroom vanity has a nice marble top that matches the vanity tops in the first and second floor bathrooms, but the vanity itself leaves much to be desired. This bathroom is in great need of restoration and renovation. With the purchase of the vintage clawfoot tub, that opportunity has apparently now arrived, although much sooner than I anticipated.
Now comes planning to decide how we will actually renovate this bathroom. I will apparently have time to think about this as I start next week dismantling the old shower stall to make room for the tub. In the meantime, the tub, which being of cast iron is very heavy, will be sitting in my first floor office waiting to be lugged to the third floor to its new location.