I’ve been slow to post lately. Life keeps changing, with those changes oftentimes serving as distractions from our restoration projects. Not all of these distractions are bad. In fact, the latest has to be as pleasant as a distraction can be; that is, if you can even call it a distraction at all (which it is not!). Last month we experienced the birth of our first grandchild. She is beautiful, and my wife and I are looking forward to spending the remaining years of our lives enjoying and spoiling her.
Her birth, as wonderful as it is, creates some challenges with regard to the Neebor Lee. It can be difficult enough to child-proof a modern home. Those difficulties increase significantly with an old historic home. Consider that the Neebor Lee has electrical outlets in some rooms that are not on the wall but rather are built into the floor, facing up, where it is easy access to a crawling child. Also consider our steep circular stairway that connects the home’s three floors, which both my wife and I have slipped and fallen on in the past, and which a toddler will most certainty tumble down if allowed access. And then there are the exposed hot water pipes in the corners of some rooms which cannot be moved since running pipes through the home’s 18-inch thick stone walls is not possible. Then there is the location of the house itself, which is positioned next to a busy road. Add further to that the lead-based paint that still covers a number of the home’s windowsills and door moldings, some of which are chipping, and you realize that we have significant amount of child-proofing ahead of us. For a time, then, restoration work will refocus from the outbuildings to the Neebor Lee itself in order to make our home safer for our new granddaughter and future grandchildren. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, we have continued with the renovations of the former Mason Lodge (now distinctly called the “Lodge” by my wife and I). I spent the early and mid-summer largely restoring the exterior front section of this outbuilding, removing layers of loose paint from the exterior wood siding using a power-washer and scraping tools. This was followed by repainting. Other exterior restoration activities included stripping, repairing and painting the building’s front shutters and associated hardware.
By the Fall the work had moved indoors, where we continued the fix up the lodge’s interior to make it more comfortable as a place where family can assemble and hang out. Before this Fall, much of the interior was cleaned up and made usable largely through an upgrade of the building’s electric service. Moving from 20 amp to 100 service allowed us to add a 55-inch television, surround sound stereo system and a much-needed beer fridge. Not wanting to entirely lose the historic/rustic ambiance of the building’s interior, which has an open truss ceiling and herring bone wood paneling, I re-mounted the antlers from the moose head that originally had hung on the wall above the fireplace and added a vintage art-deco bar (circa 1940) bar, a wood stove that serves as it structure’s only source of heat, and Revolutionary War-themed decor in honor of nearby Valley Forge as well in honor of the origin of the Neebor Lee.
This past Fall we took further steps to upgrade Lodge’s interior. The first task was to restore was the Lodge’s chandelier. This vintage pre-electric era chandelier was present inside the Lodge when we purchased the Neebor Lee four years ago. At the time of purchase, the chandelier was missing about 80% of its crystals, and those remaining were caked with soot. Over the past several years we searched antique shops far and wide for matching crystals. We eventually found a large number of vintage glass crystals that, although not a perfect match to those originals remaining on the chandelier, were close enough for restoration purposes. We cleaned the original crystal, re-hung them and then hung the new ones we found in various antique shops. It turns out that we found just enough; there was not a single one left over after they had all been mounted. The results were striking. It brought the chandelier back to life. All that is missing now are candles for the four candle-holders that adorn the chandelier’s lower tier’s four corners. What is most striking is that on an early sunny morning, when rays of the eastern sun shine through the Lodge’s large round window, the crystals split the light to fill the room with tiny rainbows. It is quite beautiful.
The next task was to replace my old pool table with a farm table. My children never used the pool table and weren’t planning on doing so in the future, preferring instead to replace pool table with an ordinary table large enough to play board games or to host a dinner. I decided to be bold and took it upon myself to build a farm table, which is something that I have never done before. Only I forgot to tell my wife who, unknowing to me, bought an old table and chair set at a furniture re-seller. Not to be dissuaded, I pushed the purchased table aside and made a new table anyway, larger and better than the one my wife purchased. Using plans found on the Internet, with my wife prompting me to make it as big as possible, I confined myself to my Workshop with my power tools and a newly purchased pocket drill jig and made the table. At about five feet wide and eight feet long, with an oak top, I am quite pleased as to how it came out. To add additional seating, I also made a matching bench to be used on one side of the table. After selling the pool table, I moved the newly constructed table, bench and the chairs that my wife had purchased into the Lodge where it all fit quite snugly. My wife was so impressed with the final product that she decided to christen the table by hosting Thanksgiving dinner in the Lodge. It went quite well and the table was a hit with the family. Going forward, my wife plans on serving all future holiday dinners in the Lodge, where we not only have the space to serve and eat dinner, but also space to entertain. It will serve as the “great room” that the Neebor Lee, due to is age and configuration, was never destined to have. In addition, practically every Sunday now, my wife requests that we fire up the wood stove so that we can watch football in the Lodge, where it is now quite cozy and comfortable.
Although the Lodge has become a major family hangout, it is still a work in progress. The reading nook behind the keyhole opening still needs to be renovated. In addition, the raised “stage” area located next to the new table still needs quite a bit of work. The built-in bench at the rear of that stage has some rotted planks that need to be replaced and the stage’s wood railing, which is only about 1-1/2 feet high and is loose, needs to be replaced with something taller and sturdier to keep it safe for our current and future grandchildren. Finally, at some point the hardwood floors inside the Lodge need to be refinished.
Despite these needed interior improvements, my wife and I quite enjoy spending time in the Lodge. It has become our most favorite space in our little compound.