Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Land of 10,000 choices: Benjamin House

Honey, do you want to go to that auction in Shelbina for the Benjamin House?  The first of many choices, and the answer was yes.   For three years we had been looking at old homes in search of one that we could decorate and enjoy.  For many reasons (or destiny), we found the Benjamin House to be exactly what we wanted.  The fireplaces caught our eye immediately as well as the majestic mirrors in the parlor.  Several pieces of original furniture were available to be purchased separately (choice 3) and a nice lady from the local historical society (Kathleen Wilham) provided a booklet with a brief history of the home.  This could be the one! Questions # 4,5,6,& 7 were my wife's hand in the air and we were on our way.  Shortly afterward, my wife's main question was where could she find a working bathroom in which to "toss her cookies".  The excitement had begun as the water lines had frozen and burst in several places during the previous winter.   That evening we reviewed photos that we had taken and ate ice cream to recover from "buyers remorse".

     If you have children or have hunted deer, you understand that after the fun there is a lot of work.  We wrapped up our child  at the title company and a new life began.  Choices like new furnaces, roofing, and paint were obvious, but plaster repair was a tough question.  Lime plaster is very durable, but 100 years of expansion and contraction loosens the bond between the lathes and the hair bound plaster.  Do you wait for the ceiling to fall, or replace it first?  Do you find a really heavy duty wallpaper to apply over the existing 70 year old paper and hope that it hides/holds the cracks that were visible?  Then, if you choose to search for the rare lathe plaster artist, do you tear out the false ceilings that were used to hide past mortar avalanches?  We picked plasterers for the same reason that you keep a three year old.  They are worth it in the long run (I hope).  New ceilings, repaired medallions, huge plaster cornices were rebuilt and a lot of knowledge was gained. 

      Not all questions or discoveries were negative as we did find an energy efficient "green friendly" heating system original to the house.  We call it "stairs".  There are 54steps in fact and they take you all the way to the Belvedere!  As a note, Belvedere is a more accurate term in Italianate style architecture for the little room at the very top.  The meaning is beautiful view;  whereas, cuppola sounds like someone ordering two pounds of hamburger.
So where does that leave us? My wife has recovered fully and you may view pictures of the work on our website(shelbinamansion.com).

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