• Kim

Treasure Hunting In Our Vintage Home

Everyone who has ever remodeled an old home has stories to tell of their adventures, It’s inevitable when you go trying to make changes in something that was built by someone else in years gone by with non-power tools. One of our many stories is about a hidden cupboard we found in our home years ago. First, a little background:

  1. Our house was built quite a while before the 1860s, actually long enough before 1868 for it to be in "disrepair" by that year, according to a very old newspaper article.

  2. The house we live in has been owned and lived in by my husband’s family since 1868.

  3. Our house is built in a farmhouse-style T shape. The newest part is actually the oldest part, as the original section of the house was extensively remodeled sometime before 1917 (still over 100 years ago), and the oldest-to-us section is actually the newest. This part of the house has solid plank walls and the strangest two walk-in closets in one of the bedrooms, which we speculate may have been used as the younger children’s bedrooms connected to the parents’ room. We don’t know this but have never come up with a better explanation.

Anyway, to get on with my story. One evening lots of years ago after cleaning up dinner, we noticed that one place in our kitchen wall sounded hollow. Our curiosity got the better of us, and after knocking on the wall and trying to figure out what was (or wasn't) in there, we did what any reasonable owner of a very old home would do and cut a hole in the paneling...and we found the cutest little cupboard in the wall!

We later found out that this cupboard was the place where the women of the house kept their flat-irons (flat-irons were to iron clothes, not hair and were heated on the wood or coal stove, not by electricity). Apparently, after the electricity was installed and the flat-irons were no longer needed someone decided that that storage space was unnecessary and just paneled over it.

We are rather famous for tearing into walls and ceilings when it looks like there may be a hidden treasure underneath. And so far, we've never been disappointed. Besides this cupboard, which I now use as a bookcase for my cookbooks, here is a list of some of the other surprises we have found:

1. A tongue and groove ceiling still with original mustard-colored paint on it

2. Another original ceiling, this time made of plank boards

3. A brick cooking fireplace and chimney.

4. An original newspaper article announcing the bombing of Pearl Harbor underneath an old carpet. This was one of my first escapades, which happened one day when my husband was at work. That day he came home to find the carpet piled on the porch.

My brother-in-law says that if we ever find a penknife in a certain wall, he dropped it in when he was about to get into trouble for using it in the house. I’m not sure of the particulars but did he maybe cut a hole in the wall? The funny thing is that my husband laughed when he heard this and said he had done something similar as a young boy with a penknife (and these “boys” are at least 15 years apart in age). I doubt if we will go fishing for any knives in the wall, but the secrets this old house could tell….!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advising you to go chopping at the walls and ceilings of your house or tearing up the carpet. But if you find something that makes you curious you may not be able to help yourself, especially if you’re a lover of history and old house stories, like we are.

Have any of you found any “hidden treasures” beneath the layers of an old house? I'll be waiting to hear of them. You can email me your stories at newdaysimple@gmail.com. Who knows but that I may consider featuring your old house mystery on the blog...