Thursday, June 4, 2015


It is not unusual to find cracks in the wall of old homes.  Rather than "groan", it can be a source of information

These cracks tell of an earlier wall finish that had been sprayed on.  The finish is very, very hard and difficult to cut even with a vibrating blade.  The smell when cutting reminded me of the smell when having dental work!
The original mortar shows beneath the finish in this section of the Kitchen wall.  Both of these cracks are located in the chimney area and may be related to the crack on the west outside wall that we repaired.  Of course colors seen tell stories of past owners.  In this age of one line twits, I often wonder how many people can deal with the duration and detail of a project that takes years.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Links between local Italianate Style Homes

Marilyn and I went to a meeting of people who admire old homes last Sunday evening.  The property is known as "Fette Orchard" in Hannibal.  The barn was constructed in the 1850's with later additions.  In the 1870's, the house was built in the same Italianate style as Shelbina's Mansion.   We admire the effort which Scott and Jean Meyer  have committed to the restoration of the Fette Orchard property .  Just beginning, they have a lot more experience with restoration than we.  If fact, they own a restoration business that did the work on Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, IL.  While discussing their project, I mentioned that we also owned an Italianate style home called the Benjamin House.  Scott quickly replied that he knew the house well and had worked on it for both the Crist family and the Longs.  What a connection of styles, age, and workmen!

Linoleum from the past like flooring at Shelbina's Mansion
Large room ready for restoration to begin.

Early stage of renovation

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thoughts about the yard

Daffodils make me Daffy!
Each Spring we enjoy seeing the flowers that return to add color to the yard.  First the crocus, then the daffodils grace the yard with their presence.  Others soon arrive like the hyacinth and paper whites, but most have small foliage.  The daffodils take up so much room with their leaves and bulbs.  Even after the blooms are long gone, the round flower garden is covered with daffodil leaves. Today I dug up many of the bulbs to make room in the flower garden.  To give a little color to the southeast corner of the front yard, I replanted them at the corner of College and Shelby streets.  My thought is to spread the joy of first blooms and to more easily allow for the removal of the foliage when needed.  Digging and carrying the bulbs was tough.  I am getting a bit out of shape for this at age 67.  
Add caption
It is a joy to retain the lineage of flowers planted by previous residents so many decades before.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Not all decisions are big, but sometimes difficult anyway

Which "Red" should we use?

Sure, it isn't so tough when it isn't your floor!  Maybe I worry too much, but I really don't want to re-paint or even worse, look at a color that I don't like.  So many decisions.  It all began when a couple of layers of floor were removed and old finish stripped.  Two different colors were found around the perimeter of the kitchen floor.  Seemed appropriate to recreate the effect.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

North Shelby grade school visits the Mansion

North Shelby visits Historical Mansion - 2015

Teacher Susan Coe brings her class (and parents) to the Benjamin House
It is always fun to meet the young people of our county and answer their questions.  The young people of today come armed with smart phones, laptops, and electronic tablets!  There might have been a picture of the Benjamin House in China before anyone left the building!  General Benjamin and his wife would have been flabbergasted.  We hope the day was memorable for everyone.

And the support crew

Old, new, and questions.....

View of north porch with newel post

When we first saw the Benjamin House, a green wooden fence that matched this newel post separated the drive from the backyard.  The railing that attached to the green post was a green 2 x 6 that my wife's hand could not easily grip.  We looked for a railing system that would support our aging knees and diminishing balance, but the answer was elusive!  Different people measured and made suggestions, but none seemed to want the project.  Finally, after three years of talk a company from Quincy agreed to build the handrails when business slowed in the winter.  The Spring of 2015 brought more than just pretty flowers!  The matching rails  now adorn the front, south, and north porches.  This should help our visitors of all ages from the young trick or treat goblins to the long time admirers of Shelbina history.  The north porch is a masonry construction that the Crist family installed and Bob often lamented that he should have redone all the porches this way before the home was placed on the National Historic Register.  It is a lot less maintenance.  We now need to strip and paint the wooden porches, but the handrails conform to Registry guidelines.

We, and Shelby County Historian Kathleen Wilhelm, have not found a photo of the north porch from before 1960.  The Todd boys (Mike & Butch) gave us some insight of a porch that used to connect to the west wall of the mansion.  It too is long gone.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Another Great Visit (with more history)

With the blooms of Spring, we had another wonderful visit with the Crist family.  This visit included Heidi Crist Templeman and her family.  Husband Scott is really nice and the two grown children (Callie & Brooks) would make any parent proud.  Sister Robin is always a joy to see and their father/grandfather, Bob, is a great role model as he climbed stairs at age 90 and provided good humor to the day.  Betty Lou Crist is always present with us at Shelbina's Mansion.  We always enjoy stories from the Crist family.  Can you imagine the thoughts of Callie and Brooks as they toured the home where their mother grew up.  You don't see this style in Kirksville!
Scott, Brooks, Bob, Callie, and of course Heidi!

It was a beautiful day, so we got Bob to pose with his daughters outside too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


My back hurts.  I want to fish more.  Of course I change my mind the next morning and realize how meaningful it is to preserve the old mansion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Heidi is coming, Heidi is coming!

It is always nice to visit with Bob and Betty Lou Crist.  Through all our conversations, there are events and people discussed.  One of the children, the baby (Heidi), often comes into the conversation.  We have met her sisters (Robin and Camilla), but must use our imagination to visualize Heidi.  After a recent visit with Bob and Betty Lou, we received an email that Heidi and her two children were planning a visit to Shelbina with hopes of visiting the mansion in which she grew up.  It will be so exciting to hear her perceptions of "Growing up Benjamin".  Heidi went from being lowest on the pecking order of 5 children, to having the house to herself!  It is always exciting to meet someone who lived in the Benjamin House, but this is going to be special as her sisters plan to join in the homecoming!  I am sure the energy and memories will be flowing.  Heidi plans to bring her children to share the day.

Kitchen blues!

Ideas are a blessing, but they sometimes look better in your mind's eye than real life.  The kitchen has been a long time coming, but
there is progress.  The latest work on the walls has me a bit doubtful as to the results.  The kitchen of 1873 was a place where the servants worked rather than a "hangout" as we know them today.  With this in mind, our restoration has a more simple taste as a goal.  Rather than the smooth walls and coloration of the main part of the house, we have tried to project a more humble surrounding.  The walls needed repair, but we chose to keep the finish a bit rough.  Sounds good, but after a lifetime of smooth sheetrock walls, it takes a bit of time to accept the result.  It also takes more work than you might imagine to achieve a textured finish.
Also, working with "white" is not easy when judging how much "texture" has been achieved.

I am certain that some people will enjoy the kitchen walls, while others will lift their nose and sniff.  I understand, because Marilyn and I have mixed emotions about the results.  It has grown on me and I hope that you can appreciate something different than you have ever seen.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

More than just a building!

The mansion and furnishings catch a person's eye and curiosity, but there is a lot more.  The people that come in contact with the house seem to be special.  This  past week we had another Spring snow.  While having breakfast, I looked out the window at the bright white surface that coated everything and muffled sounds from traffic.  Eating breakfast toast with honey reminded me of where the honey originated.  Clayton Armstrong and his wife gave it to us from their harvest.  Clayton, a bee keeper among many things, is a really interesting fellow and has helped us learn about the bees that have long inhabited the mansion.  He and his family are the subject of another blog on catching bees!  Later that morning, Marilyn and I traveled to Shelbina to do a bit of work.  Can you imagine our surprise when we found the snow removed from our driveway.  Buddy Ratliff  is the culprit and does so many things to help people.  Memories and people are such an  important part of the home we call Shelbina Mansion.