Friday, May 31, 2013

Scarlett in her Memorial Day finery!

Our home is located in the small town of Ridge Spring, SC. Ridge Spring (also known as "The Ridge") was settled in the 1700s by folks recieving land grants from the government. Prior to that, Native Americans occupied the area and arrowheads and spearheads can still be found when the fields are plowed. The first actual settlement was made a mile or two east of the current town. It was located where a wagon road to Orangeburg forked off the road to the Congarees...also known as the Columbia Road. An early map calls this area The Ridge and a tavern was located where the Sweeney House once stood. From the Ridge Spring website....

"On November 29, 1752, John Carlin was granted 200 acres situated on a branch of the Little Saluda River called Clouds Creek. This was just north of present day Ridge Spring. Also, on October 3, 1758 William Watson was granted 300 acres on a land on a branch of the Little Saluda. His son, Captain Michael Watson, fell in action against the British in the Revolutionary War at Dean's Swamp, Orangeburg District in 1781. A large granite rock monument stands on Main Street in his memory On May 21, 1791 President George Washington stopped, dined and spent the night at the Michael Watson house with Michael Watson's widow Martha and his children. The house stood just out of the present town limits near the cemetery."
According to some local lore, George Washington's horses were stabled where our house now stands.

"In the decades which followed beautiful plantation houses were built throughout the area. Cotton began as an important crop in the early 1800s. Vast acreages were grown for many generations and transported by wagon to Hamburg, S. C. for shipment by barge to Savannah, Georgia. Many of these lovely homes have survived and grace the countryside."

Scarlett's front porch on a Spring morning.

"When the railroad was constructed through The Ridge area in 1869 a water tank was build near a good supply of water. Hence the earlier “settlement” moved to the town' present location where the train stopped for water. Stores, homes, and hotels began to be built around this train stop by the water tank and depot. The town was named Ridge Spring for the natural raised ridge of the land and for the spring of pure water which provided delicious drinking water."

I thought I might provide a few photos from around town! It truly is a lovely little place with an active main street and tons of activities throughout the year.

A sunset view of the train tracks and the farmer's co-op. These tracks cross over DuBose Street.
The water tower.

As we go along, I'll provide more history.... and hopefully improve my blogging skills! This area is absolutely bursting with history and really, it is fascinating! If you ever get the chance, please enjoy a drive down 23 starting in Batesburg-Leeville and heading toward Edgefield. The peach trees and old homes and small town life are well worth the trip!

The Peachtree 23 yard sale is this weekend!! Never heard of it? It's a 44 mile long yard sale that runs from Modoc, SC (also referred to by Vince and I as "the Lake"!) to Batesburg-Leesville, SC. Vince and I have been twice: once a few years ago (3, I think) and we started in Edgefield and worked our way to Batesburg. Last year (2012) we just walked up the road from the house and shopped the Ridge Spring area. This year, I plan to start in Ridge Spring and work my way toward Modoc!

Since Ridge Spring will be busy this weekend and folks will be passing the house, yard clean-up is in full swing! Cornell, our yard guy, raked and mowed and managed to fill what seemed like 100 bags of yard debris! Vince says it was only 50 bags. It was three pickup truck trips to the dump! We're also preparing to celebrate my cousin Jeff's 50th birthday with a party at the house so we're busy busy busy! Here are some photos of the yard from yesterday evening...
Three cans of sticks. You can tell from the lack of grass that lawn care was not a very important issue with the homeowners for quite a while now. We're hoping to get some hardy, shady-friendly grass planted soon!

The last load of bags of leaves. As you can see, our large Magnolia out front wastes no time in adding more leaves to the ground! We'll start mulching them and raking them up around the base of the tree. Again, what grass is there is patchy and sad looking.
The chimney work continues. They are almost to the top of the first chimney...within 3 feet or so. We are waiting for a good soaking rain to verify that the water intrusion into the parlor has stopped. The chimney looks 100 times better than it did and I think they've stopped the bee trespassers also!!

Anywho, that's all the news from Scarlett this week.

I'll leave you today with a view from our back pasture of some of the Yon's gorgeous cows. My Paint horse is fascinated by them! I think he thinks they're just really ugly horses. Sorry for the dark photo. I have been shooting with my iPhone camera rather than my Canon and this was taken about 8:30 PM.

I will take some pictures this weekend along the trail of the Peachtree 23! Have a wonderful weekend! Hopefully, I'll be back Monday with a photo of my haul!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home Owners Insurance. What can I say about Home Owners Insurance? Well, here's the deal...if you've got a mortgage, you MUST have Home Owners Insurance. If you don't have a mortgage, I still recommend it. Want to see why?

Yep. That pile of bricks was once a historic home just like Scarlett. The house had been standing just fine for many years....until the fire. OK, I'm going to say it even though it curdles my blood. Scarlett is 163 years old. The wood used to build her (yes, real wood....from real trees) was old before it was cut. It's pine mostly (heart of pine) so let's say conservatively that the trees were cut down when they were 150 years old to use as building material. That means that I have 300 year old wood inside my walls. Basically, for all intents and purposes, my house is 4,000 square foot of fat lighter. Gives me the shivers just to think it. For this reason, I am the Candle Nazi. No candles are lit inside that house and left burning. Period. Not for any reason. I have candles as decoration but they are never lit. I am extremely careful with the oven and stove and make sure I am in the kitchen when something is cooking. I have a fire extinguisher in almost every room....and every room with a fireplace definitely has one as does the kitchen.  Better safe than very sorry!
A little note on Home Owners insurance on an older home….OK, not a little note. It’s actually a rant. Here’s the scenario. Big Company A holds all of our insurance, which is 2 houses, 2 jet skis, and 11 various cars and trucks. Oh! And a camper. No really. I’m serious! Anywho, of course they are my first phone call for an insurance quote. At first, it didn’t seem like it would be a huge issue. However, they were concerned on a couple of fronts. First, this house is OLD. It is made of actual wood as opposed to the fiber board and plastic new builds contain.  Second, this place is HUGE…4160 square feet to be exact. Third, due to the housing market being in the toilet, we got this big old house CHEAP. Now, according to the Big Company A’s guidelines, they cannot insure anything that would be over $800,000.00 to rebuild. Secondly, they cannot insure for more than 150% of the sales price. Here’s the rub. Per their calculations, it would cost $619,000.00 to rebuild this place should it burn flat to the ground. No matter what amount of money you handed me, you could not rebuild this place. You could build a similar house of similar material but think of all that would be lost that is irreplaceable! You’d never be able to replace all the character and history of THIS house. Now, since the house, per their calculations, would be $619,000.00 to replace, they will not insure it. That is more than the 150% of the sales price that they will ensure for. Yeah, this is fun. Basically, I am informed that none of the “big” insurance agencies will touch it. I’ll need to call a smaller, independent company. Fine. I wonder at this point if they realize that they’ll lose ALL my business. Wonder if they care. Small independent insurance agent #1 is called on a Thursday. “Shouldn’t be an issue. Blah, blah, blah…” Well, one week later and NO RETURNED CALL. Small independent insurance agent #2 was called at 3:30 the next Thursday afternoon. They had called me back within half an hour with a quote. High quote, but no less a quote. I continued to shop small agencies for a week or more before finding an agency that quickly got us insurance at an affordable rate. Unfortunately, since the smaller agencies farm their insurance out, we were placed with a larger company. Remember, the larger companies I was told would not insure this house? Guess what? A week after my first payment was made, the insurance company sent us an immediate cancellation notice stating that the home was in an incredible state of disrepair with the chimneys on the verge of collapse and trees needing to be trimmed off the house. They did not give us any option to fix these issues, just a cancellation. This sent me into panic mode. I ended up running to the company that had held the previous owners insurance and I went armed to the teeth with receipts for repairs we had done and letters from chimney companies stating the chimneys were safe, and proof of a tree appointment to take out a few dying trees and trim up the rest and any other information I thought she might need. I had a stack of paperwork at least 4 inches thick! With the help of a very AWESOME, very sympathetic agent who went to the ends of the earth for us, we FINALLY got insurance. I can't tell you how much work this agent did to make sure our home was covered. She made multiple visits to the house to take photos, brought managers out to tour it, spent hours on the phone, and seriously sold this house to get that insurance.
This is the house just after closing on 4/25/2012.
This is the house on 5/31/2012. See the difference?
Those two live oaks had gotten a blight that was attacking old live oak trees in SC due to years and years of draught conditions. They were rotting from the inside out. While it broke our hearts to remove the trees, they had to go. As we were standing under them in the yard discussing their fate, a big limb came crashing to the ground right in front of us. That was the death knell. This is what we were dealing with...up close and personal.
You can see the black rotted holes and broken branches that these trees had. It wasn't pretty. Removing them really opened up the front of the house and we've received many compliments from neighbors on the new look.
All this to say, if you’re buying an old house be aware that home owners insurance MAY be an issue. Call around. If the big companies won’t help, call a local agent in the area where the home is located. Ask your real estate agent for a reference. Don’t underestimate real estate agents. They are a wealth of information in my experience! My agent knew Scarlett very well and even had some stories of previous owners. She got us painters and contractors and recommended insurance agents. You may want to consider keeping the home with the same insurance company the seller was using. Your real estate agent can get that information for you. I cannot stress this enough…..ask your real estate agent LOTS of questions. They are there to help you.

I'll leave you today with a photo of an older home in my neighborhood that has been undergoing what appears to be a full-on restoration for quite a while. I haven't met these folks yet but they are doing a WONDERFUL job with this place! I love that color!! They've done so much work here. All paint is new, windows are new. They've removed lattice work from the porch that needed repair. This place is really shining now!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

“I think every home has an echo of the people who lived there before.” Aiden Waite "Being Human"
I decided to unravel a thread in our home's history.
A bit of a back story here....
Saluda County was formed in 1896 when Edgefield County was divided up. Scarlett stands not too far from the two county lines: one that separates Aiken County and Saluda County and the other that separates Edgefield County from Saluda County. So, from it's build date of 1850 to 1896, Scarlett was in Edgefield County and from 1896 on, it was in Saluda County. Got it? Good! Remember that. There will be a test later!
On Monday, I was cleaning the parlor and noticed that our little Ridge Spring history book was on the coffee table so I picked it up and flipped through it. Our house, known locally as the W. H. Stuckey house, has a very small mention as the home of a Dr. J. Boyd DuBose. The street across the road from the house is called DuBose Street. Maybe named after this family?
A blurry cell phone photo of DuBose Street on a foggy morning. Very noir, no? This was taken from the front steps at Scarlett.
We had been told when we purchased the house that "it" (a certain room, we thought at the time) had been a doctor's office. After asking around, we learned that the room was added on in the early 1960s when a teacher had been the owner of the house and was restoring it. After finding the name and reference in the Ridge Spring history book, it's possible that the house was used as a doctor's office. This will require some research! I love research! What I know so far is that Dr. John Boyd DuBose (born 11/11/1840 - died 02/15/1895) was the owner of the home at some point between 1850 and his death in 1895. Dr. DuBose had 4 children; at least three of which are mentioned as past owners of the house. I've visited the Saluda County courthouse and been able to trace the home's owners back to April 15th, 1897 (here's where that brief history lesson comes in!) when "Miranda D. Asbill and W. D. Barnwell" owned the house and 161.3/20 acres of land. At this time, the land butted up to land owned by Sumter Boatwright. I am assuming that Miranda D. Asbill was Miranda Scarborough DuBose (born 08/23/1871 - died 11/1960) who married Dr. Fletcher Gladstone Asbill in 1895 and that W.D. Barnwell is Wilhelmina DuBose (born 09/11/1868 - died 05/09/1899) who married Rev. Robert Woodward Barnwell in 1885. Dr. DuBose died in 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland and is buried in the Ridge Spring cemetery. Because Saluda only has records back to 1897, I will need to visit the Edgefield County office to trace the house to it's original owner. I will continue to research Dr. DuBose and his descendants. I look forward to the challenge of finding more information!
I'll leave you with one of my favorite shots of the house taken this Spring....
Sorry about the randomness of the blog currently. This is my first attempt at blogging and I'm still getting the hang of it! Hopefully, you'll stick around and I'll get a bit more organized! I am currently looking for old photos of the house and it's previous inhabitants. Research takes time that I am desperately trying to find more of! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The chimneys.....ah, those lovely brick chimneys....

Let's discuss those chimneys.

I don't know exactly how old they are but I'm guessing they are original to the house, so let's go with a build date of 1850 making them exactly 163 years old. That's pretty old. At some point in the house's history, someone noticed that the mortar was...shall we say, vacating the premises. This someone added mortar but didn't do a very artistic job. Let me show you what I mean....

See WAAAAY up there at the top?

Not sure what I'm talking about? Here. Let me zoom in....

Here's a view of the bottom of the chimney. See the concrete mortar patches?

Yeah, that. Not real pretty. Also, no longer sufficient. Now, there are two fireplaces per chimney and on this side, only one fireplace is actually open...and by "open", I mean not walled up and sealed up. It has a gas log set-up in it and it is in the main parlor. Why the drive to get the chimneys repointed? Well, we had two is allowing water into the house and one is allowing bees into the house. Yes, bees. Masonary bees to be exact. The little buggers dig holes through the mortar and end up inside my house. They come in and die by the hundreds. This is what their holes look like...

The water is an issue also. It flows through the ancient mortar and carries it into the house staining the white marble hearthstone and rotting the floors. Here, I've wiped some of the dirt off the hearth to show the difference...

Here's my rotted out flooring underneath the rotted and moldy carpet and pad. You can see the hearthstone there on the right.

So, who do you call to fix an ancient chimney? Why a chimney company of course! We chose a fellow out of Columbia who had done lots of this type of work on very similar homes and was familiar with the ins and outs of the old mortar. Here's Jay and his assistant Mason (yes, a mason named Mason!) working hard on the leaking chimney.

Basically, to repoint the chimney, the masons take a small pick and a hammer and gently hammer out about an inch of the old mortar. They then use a trowel and carefully add new mortar into the joints.

Here's a close-up of the work after they've done the section...
You can tell the mortar is still wet here. Looks much better!!

This is the lower part of the chimney that I showed you before....
You can see all the dust from the old mortar on the ground. As of today they are about half way up the first chimney. They are squeezing us in between other jobs are we are pretty far out of their way and we're not in any particular hurry....unless South Carolina suddenly hits a rainy season!

I'll post more photos as the job progresses!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What the seller did, in her own words:

Bought in 2006…. Final bill for repairs was around $138,000.00…
1. Structural engineer was brought in to lift the house with steel piers. The stairwell area was lifting in 3 areas. The back hallway was lifted and all 3 ends of the library were lifted. The front outdoor columns were lifted and rebuilt

2. The kitchen was updated with additional cabinet added for the dishwasher, sink replaced with deep double farm sink, moldings and panel boards were added to back of sink cabinets, all new mill work around ceiling and a rebuild of an old broom closet to produce the 2 wonderful pull out pantries with additional storage above. A new face for the electric stove and a garbage disposal added. Pink Formica counter tops were ripped out and replaced with the new counter tops. Three layers of vinyl flooring revealed a beautiful wood floor which was refinished. Electrical boxes added to a couple of spots. A pet door added to a new door leading to laundry.

3. Every wire in the house was pulled out and all new wiring was put in (a massive job) with a new electrical panel which can also feed the separate barn panel, although I've never hooked that's all ready to go. The wires are buried starting in the garage out the side where the satellite dish is and out to the barn. All ground boxes in kitchen and baths. High speed DSL was brought in upstairs through the local phone company and all rooms are wireless friendly. Phone jacks were added where there weren't any. TV and cable plugs added to all bedrooms and living room. Two ground boxes were added to the front and rear of the house. The smoke detector updated electrical boxes were installed all over the house but at that point money was tight so I just put the regular smoke detectors over the holes. Don't know how much it would take to hook the system up to the electrical system of the house.

4. All the plumbing needed to be addressed. (There is still an issue in the kitchen where the outtake pipe needs to be re-plotted.........The local plumber gave me an estimate of a couple of hundred dollars a few years back but I never got around to it). There was a terrible issue with leaking all over the house when the water was 1st turned on so I had to scramble to figure out all the issues. The plumber has been my hero although the plumbing contractors I used from Aiken should be ashamed of themselves but that's another story. The bathroom upstairs that is not completed used to be a small bath accessed only from the hallway. The whole bathroom was gutted as the floors were caving in with the toilet sinking. We broke through a wall that adjoined the sewing room and added a small storage closet, a whirlpool tub, custom sink, toilet, and built the shower area. All of the tile for shower surround already bought and will stay with the house. All high end plumbing fixtures put in and ready to hook up and electrical boxes added that needs hooking up. Two windows brought in and master closet system added. With 1 of the storms from last year, I had noticeable leaking from the seam in 1 of the exterior bathroom walls but the roofers fixed that when I had the gutters cleaned last year. There's another leak when we get a severe storm in the downstairs back hallway over the door frame buck that joins the library. This, I was told is an easy fix but it's been dry for a while now.

5. In the upstairs blue bedroom, I ripped out 2 cedar closets and added a 4th bathroom with period tile all new fixtures and deep cast iron soaking tub. A little access door for the plumber was added in the closet. Two new ceiling fans in the bedrooms and a personal chandelier added to the stair landing that will stay with the house. An attic access door was made larger. I have never been up there......ever.

6. The stairs were re-secured as they were a bit wobbly.

7. The upstairs balcony was re-secured for safety. It was leaning off the building.

8. New.....old 4 panel doors had to be found for 4 missing doors in the house and the mayor who lives next door helped me find these as she is also conveniently an antique dealer.

9. All the walls were skimmed with joint compound to cover many layers of hideous wallpaper and then painted contractors eggshell.

10. New floor grates in every room.

11. The back hallway leading to the green bedroom has 2 new windows which replaced a door to the backyard near the HVAC.

12. The library had carpet over layers of vinyl and revealed the wonderful barn wood floor which at that time I had refinished but needs a cleaning now.

13. The green bedrooms bathroom had multiple layers of vinyl and I was set to tile it when it also revealed a lovely wood floor which was refinished. A new vanity, mirror, bathtub surround, and all new fixtures were installed. A light added to the closet. Don't know what's under the carpet there.......could be wood but this section of the house was added in the 40's or 50's I think.

14. The beige bedroom floor was refinished but there is a 4x6 area under my area rug that has 3/4" plywood instead of the fancy slat boards and I was told that it was a way for cutting costs back then as most bedrooms had area rugs.

15. I added new rain shower head in the shower.

16. New moldings and baseboards were added where they were missing in parts of the house.

17. Lights were added to the 2 closets in the beige bedroom.

18. A gas fireplace with remote control was added in the living room. It does a good job of heating almost the entire house.

19. The back porch was lifted for stability but needs to be revamped for sure. A screen porch would be nice.

20. Found 2 new (old) screen doors for the back porch where there weren't any.

21. Built the barn and 3 stalls with tack room.

22. Added a hand pump out near the barn.

23. Took down several old trees.

24. Added new pasture gates in 3 areas.

25. Added a door to replace a plywood door in the garage.

26. Rebuilt and lifted the front porch and front porch pillars.

27. Added gutters to front porch.

28. Added a playhouse designed by my then 7 year old (a bribery tool for the move from Florida) had it built in Utah, disassembled and rebuilt here but we never finished it. Our loss, your gain.

29. HVAC central air was serviced twice in 6 years.

30. A little metal door was built for the filter area.

31. Washing machine motor replaced in 2009

32. Refrigerator motor replaced in 2010

33. Fixed the old doorbell. They had the back doorbell off the kitchen working but it stopped a couple of years ago.

34. Added an outtake pipe to access the old tree roots that plague an historic area like this. It's out on the near right corner of the house if you're looking at the house from the street. The roots need to be serviced occasionally so sediment doesn't back up in the bathroom. The plumber suggested putting another 1 in the street because he has to work long and hard to get to those and the township won't pay for anyone to have that done. It would be about 300 I'm thinking. Worth it to do. (Dishwasher (Bosch) needs fixing, it works but leaks and I got frustrated trying to find anyone who fixes Bosch. I miss it. You couldn't hear it at all. A glorious little machine when it was working. It needs new buttons for the panel and the weather stripping stuff.