The Oasis Clubhouse, 515 Oak Street North, Fargo ND

So, we bought this little house - Lot 11, in Block 28, in Keeney and Devitt's Second Addition. According to the information we have, this house was built in 1895 (yes, that's right, 112 years old and counting).
This is over by the river, near the Oak Grove neighborhood.

The Idea

The idea is to create a space where the Shimmy Sisters can practice and extend their expertise through a Middle Eastern Dance Club. The central aim, at this point, is to clear out the main floor so the troupe can dance there.


December 15, 2007

It is winter in North Dakota.

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The bundle of white is cold and right ....

.... the windows are the thing. Heat energy flies out through these glass orifices, and must be stopped ....

.... you can see plastic has been applied ....

.... carefully and skillfully ....

.... on the front and the side windows ....

.... like the Marines say, "right and tight". Boo-Yah!

September 29, 2007 - at Summer's End

We descend on the place to clean and straighten. Winter is coming, we must prepare.

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The basement is swept and the skanky wall board has been clean up

Rita and the shop broom become well acquainted ....

.... and all that detritus is swept up and thrown away.

Look at the back patio! It is free and clear of any and all debris. This cannot last, can it?

Meanwhile, the "garage to die for" is filling up with treasure ....

.... and me, I am sweating to the oldies, and having a fine time.

Late Summer 2007 - Photos taken 9Sep07

The foam floor was too 'sticky' and the dancers were getting sore knees. We brought in some vinyl flooring and laid it on top of the foam flooring. The results? Spectacular!

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The spongy pads were the right amount of 'squishy', but they were too 'tuggy' and the ladies were getting sore knees when they pivoted on the balls of their feet.

So we bought a gigantic roll of vinyl, twelve feet wide and many feet long ....

.... and we rolled it out to cover the spongy pads. I cannot recall why we needed rolls of paper towels, but I am sure we did

I like this working photo. The steel beams are installed, the furnace ductwork is installed, and now mirrors will be installed to make the place a workable space. Rosie rivets, stand back.

Here is where the furnace ductwork emerges from the floor ....

.... and here is the ductwork as it crosses the basement in the workshop ....

.... and towards the back of the house ....

.... and past the new furnace ....

Meanwhile, this is the payoff ....
... there is now a place to hold meetings like you would want.
There is a smooth squishy floor, with mirrors along the south wall, and natural sunlight flowing into a toasty warm room heated from below. It is shiny and silver and good.

Summer 2007 -- 13 Photos taken between 16May07 and 24Aug07

The summer of 2007 saw the Clubhouse put to full use, with several meetings per week. There was construction work too, and photos taken, but not so much website work. We hope to fill in some of the missing pieces.

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5/16/2007: Megan has been in France for five months, semester abroad, and she is just back and jumping back into the Shimmy Sisters and the Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Club. Megan is a charter member.
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5/16/2007: Megan peruses the perimeter
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5/16/2007: the Oasis meeting commences
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5/16/2007: Megan is home, in her element
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8/24/2007: the dumpster of infinity -- we are thinking there will be a roofing job this summer, so we contract with the city to get a dumpster. They deliver the biggest dumpster ever in history. We postpone the roofing job, and eventually the city demands their dumpster back....
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8/24/2007: .... which they get, almost empty, except for some junk the neighbors snuck over and 'donated'
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8/24/2007: Meanwhile, things move along. The Oasis Club prospers with new members and a long-term schedule. Rita has a "following" and there is a steady stream of new members interested in learning more about Middle Eastern Dance.
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8/24/2007: a dishwasher and a microwave get installed in the kitchen, this was all Ree and Megan, who now live upstairs.
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8/24/2007: Adam visits and that vanity gets installed in the bathroom by him, Mitch, and Ree. Audrey says, "those three can do almost anything," and I reply, "if only they could be directed towards good instead of evil!"
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8/24/2007: at about the same time, there is demolition downstairs because water has infested some of the wallboard.
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8/24/2007: Meanwhile, we have contracted with Thrifty Services to install furnace ductwork around the house
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8/24/2007: and we see evidence around the house of progress being made
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8/24/2007: and old parts being stored for the future good


The End of Finals Week Weekend's Progress - May 2007

The ladies have been meeting in the Oasis Clubhouse, and have been enjoying the space. But there is a soft spot on the floor where the wall was taken out, and there were heat ducts coming through the floor. This needs to be fixed.

Meanwhile, we have discovered the Moorhead Re-Store. This is a cool idea, where they take donations of building supplies (which are tax deductible), that go towards Habitat for Humanity. They refurbish this stuff and sell it, which is how we got our new refrigerator and bathroom vanity, as you will see below.

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There is a soft spot in the floor right here, due to a wall and heating ducts being removed, and not enough supporting structure put in to replace the empty space.

When you pick up the foam flooring, this is what you find. There is a 1X6 board in covering the hole to a first approximation. That is the problem, there needs to be more support.
Right: a man with a plan, and a plane, and a pattern, cut from plastic, and a jigsaw.

Note Rita's snazzy new clock high on the wall.

A board was scavenged from the shelving donated by Dr. Schwert, and trimmed to fit the hole.
The old board was replaced by the new one ...

... and the hole was covered.
Afterwards, the dance club members were polled, and all reported the soft spot was gone, cured, resolved, and done.

So we covered it up again, and danced away.

On Friday and Saturday we went to the Moorhead Re-Store. Here is what it looks like after you have assembled two ceiling fans for donations.

This is the fridge we brought back from the Re-Store

Our new fridge is sitting in the backyard, waiting to go indoors. Why? Billy's dolly.

We also bought a vanity to install in the bathroom, at some point, but perhaps not real soon.

Guy donated his truck and his time to our efforts. He is rewarded with various amenities, not least of which is being memorialized on this web page into perpetuity, which is a long time.

Billy's Dolly.
This is the machine we borrowed from Erin and Billy (you will see Billy below, sanding walls). We repair it first, then use it, which is why the fridge sits in the yard.

Billy's Dolly.

The first effort was a week ago, when we borrowed it to move the old washing machine, and the old refrigerator out the berm for clean-up week.
We discovered one of the dolly wheels was flat, and had no bolts to keep it together. We bolted it together and filled the air, and used it.
This weekend, we discovered the OTHER WHEEL was flat, and so we needed to fill that too, before we could use it. Which we did.
This is how you get your dolly repaired and aired up - loan it to people. You will get back a much better dolly than you loaned.

The Cinquo de Mayo Weekend's Progress

The Oasis Dance Club meetings have started, and we are feeling quite a bit of pressure to get things finalized and nice.

It is Cinquo de Mayo (commemorating one version of Mexican independance), where a 'rag tag' army of Mexicans was able to defeat a much larger force of French soldiers back in, oh, something like 1843. I should look this up.

This year, Cinquo de Mayo also kicks off a much anticipated event, the famous Fargo 'clean up week', where anybody can throw anything onto their berm, with full confidence it will end up in somebody elses possession, unless it is total crapola, in which case the city will take it to the dump.

It is a rainy day, which is too bad, as it ruins the trash. Nonetheless, there is stuff accumulating: a shop vac, a set of spotlight lenses, the front end of a projection television. We have scavenged some palettes for the garage, and we have spotted some gutters to pick up for the house. If you are a dumpster diver, an eagle-eyed entrepreneur, or just looking for ice cube trays, this is the best of times.

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The main floor needs a second coat of primer. So there are workers who fold back the flooring, lay down the plastic, stir up the primer (draining the excess fluid), and spend the day covering the walls.

Left: Rita, Cindy, and Heather, have put a second coat of primer on the main floor walls and ceiling. Now they are working their way up the stairs.

Meanwhile, the boys have been hauling ass, putting stuff onto the berm, it is Fargo Cleanup Week, ...

... and we need to dump all that stinky carpet, the old washing machine we found in the basement ... (24 hours later the washing machine parts were all gone) ...

... plus, Rita insists we whack the fridge ... so long, free fridge ... no less an expert than Dan Reetz pronounces this 'a respectable pile'.

Here is what the kitchen looks like with the fridge hauled out.
Right: Here is what you look like when you are about to climb onto the garage roof and install a rotating vent, so the rain stops falling through the hole in the garage roof. Adam paid for the rotating vent. Note the nice ladder.

Nem and Dan helped this day. I am holding Nem's drill in order to cap the hole dripping water onto Dan's stuff.

The kitchen carpet in now gone, and the nasty floor is exposed.

The Twenty Third Weekend's Progress

Now that the steel is installed there is only one more major decision to make (and pay for). Should we repair the floor or cover it with modern laminate? Each of these choices will involve some measure of time, and thousands of dollars. We are torn, we are conflicted, we are vexed.

We cop out.

We spend a couple hundred dollars and put a bandaid on the problem. Thanks to Ess-Double-Ewe for showing us the enlightened path to the 'third way' (Sam's Club, of all places).

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We have purchased interlocking foam squares - lots of them.

Before laying them down, Mitch and I hack on the floor, patching burn holes and major depressions with assorted lumber.

Then we sweep and mop the hardwood one last time, before covering it up, perhaps forever.

Square zero-zero is laid in the south-west corner of the dance floor. Rita, Mitch, and Audrey, get started.

Audrey works to the north ...

... and Mitch has special talent, cutting around obstacles.

Before too long, the floor is mostly laid, and looking good.

Meanwhile, Rita has bought 'cubby' kits for shoes ...

... and personal items. These are actually assembled at the last minute, just before class.

After laying the floor, Audrey and Mitch are admiring the job, and Rita is overcome with the realization that she finally has a dance space of her own. It's pretty cool, a good moment.

Later, I spring the 'Oasis' poster on her, which I have cooked up as a beacon, indicating the Oasis Club is in session.
You will need to click on this photo, to see the larger version, to have any hope of seeing what the Oasis poster looks like.

I take a photograph of the first Oasis Club meeting, Tuesday, May 1, 2007, at 6:30 PM.
Note, Rita is sitting with Kim, but two other club members are visible in the mirrors.

The Nineteenth Weekend's Progress

There was a pause in the action as we pursue other pursuits, like tripping off to France for Spring Break, to visit our kid, and stuff like that.

When we returned, Darren Beck came in and installed our 'red iron'.

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In the center of this photo you see the problem. There is a vertical column that needs to go. On the floor you can see the 'red iron' which is going to replace the older stuff.

Yes, steel I-Beams are probably over-kill, and these beams will probably outlive the house by centuries.

But the column must go, and that's that with that.

Above: A channel is scooped out of the ceiling, exposing joists that will rest on the 'red iron'.
Right: the channel exposes the chimney, which is part of the support structure for the project.

And then, lo and behold, the red iron I-Beams are installed and the column in gone.
We hired Darren Beck to do this work. We recommend him. Darren speaks plainly, works hard, delivers on schedule, and charges a fair price.

Details for the structural engineers out there. Here is the north-side support system.

This is the south-side of the same beam.

And this is the east-side of the project.

Above: This is the shot I take after every stage of the project, from the kitchen towards the front door
Right: In the basement, slabs have been poured, this one by the chimney, with screw jacks to bear the weight
Far Right: And below the north-side beam, another slab and screw jack.


You should be thinking 'Gibraltar' when you look at this.

As in 'Rock of'.

As in super solid, will last forever.

As in, permanent beyond Tony Home...

As in, well, either you get the metaphor or you don't.

The Fifteenth Weekend's Progress

Once more into the breach. We get more snow, and we deal with it.

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These photos are mostly for Megan and Ree, so they see all the snow they have been missing.

The house from the street. I am looking to see whether the heat tape in the gutters is working. I think it is, but you cannot really tell from this photo.

The garage, mounded with snow, and the Ford, already shoveled out. The guy from across the street (plays drums in the NDSU marching band) helped out with his snowblower. I was getting really tired, and I was REALLY glad for his help. I have asked Rita to knit him a sweater.

Here is a snow fort that someone built, on the way from our house to the clubhouse. That is Rita by the side, so you get a sense of scale.

We are happy to see, once again, the snow is not building up on the roof of the clubhouse.

But here we zoom into the shingles, where we can see the ice is doing bad things to the gutters.

Rita moves snow.

In the midst of all this, we have Darren Beck over to the clubhouse, taking measurements. Darren is our contractor for the structural work we have planned, where we will be removing clunky 2X10s and replacing them with nice sturdy I-Beams, so we can clear the dance floor.

Rita moves a LOT of snow.

This is the back of the house, where we have an icicle farm forming. That is Rita in the doorway. To the right is a better view of our icicles. Icicles are nice to look at, but they are not always a good thing. In this case, they indicate we are losing heat through our kitchen ceiling, which is bad.


Meanwhile, the back door has started to act badly. The door won't close, and after a while I realize the lock mechanism has come loose, and this is preventing the door from shutting. These are locks we had installed by Curt's Lock and Key just a few weeks ago (in November). Here we are in March, and they are failing already. I fixed this myself, without calling Curt's Lock and Key, by replacing the nice brass screws with longer ones.

Adam sent us a gift card for Lowes, and we burnt about half of it today, buying screw jacks for the structural work to come, plus some mirror clips, for the mirror that Mitch and Audrey provided, and 16 pieces of re-bar in 2-foot lengths, for the slabs we need to pour. Thanks Adam.

We had a late lunch today with Mitch and Audrey. This was paid for by an Applebys gift card from Grandma Slator. It was a good time. Thanks, Mom.

We are going to France this week, to visit with Megan and Ree in Aix en Provence, and to attend a conference in Chamonix, in the French Alps. So there will be a two-week hiatus before we get back to reporting on the clubhouse. Stay tuned.

The Fourteenth Weekend's Progress

It happens this way sometimes, up here. It started snowing on Friday night, and it snowed steadily for the next 48 hours. Here is the hidden cost of a clubhouse - twice as many houses to shovel. We got 8-10 inches all together.

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We were a little worried about the snow, because the weight can collapse a roof, and our roof is specifically not covered by our homeowners insurance (because of the five layers of shingles - way over the recommended amount).

We went over there with a snow rake (a scoop with a 15 foot handle, used to pull snow off a roof while standing on the ground - some people get up on the roof to shovel, not me). I was very relieved to see there is only an inch of snow accumulated. Apparently the pitch on the roof has the snow sliding off nicely.

We did not even bother to rake. Some of us shoveled, and some of us took pictures.


This house has little or no insulation, so we have been hanging plastic to try and conserve energy and save money. The upstairs 'bathroom' (just to the left) serves no purpose and deserves no heat. We seal it like a tomb, floor to ceiling.

This is my rifle, this is my staplegun, with one I shoot bullets, with the other I have fun.


To the left, energy saving, environment saving, money saving. Above, fun - energy saving fun.

A shovel wielding sidewalk shoveler shoulders her shovel as she shuffles off to, um, Buffalo, I guess.

The Thirteenth Weekend's Progress

There were two main projects this week. First, we finally got the door kit, so we can repair the porch door.

The story here, the porch door is an anomaly. The porch is a permanent 3-season fixture on the house with storm windows and a heavy steel door (the kind of door you would want, if you were worried about slowing down a SWAT team, for example). The door was damaged and taped together, so we explored the idea of repairing it. There were no good and quick fixes. I was thinking about employing 'liquid nails' to seal the thing back together.

I searched the inter-web looking for replacement parts. But I never found anything. Rita said, "let's go to Menards! and Save Big Money".

I discussed this with Ree, and we agreed it was vanishingly unlikely. But we went to Mendards and, lo and behold, they had a kit for sale, for $45. It was in this process we discovered this metal door with stained glass window insert, but no lock, retailed for $1040!

Go figure.

Still, all credit goes to Rita.
Weeks later, the kit arrived, and we installed it, after much travail, as you will see below.

Second, we need to accelerate the progress towards the structural work, and this took up the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, the door job became one of those 'every little thing' projects. You know what I mean. What seemed to be a simple job turned into a marathon, as every little thing that seemed easy, turned out not easy.

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To the left is our empty door, in need of a heavy glass insert
Here we see the cheesy plastic kit that will fix everything.

And here, after many attempts, the door is assembled (Dan and Nem in manly rejoicing)

So let's mount this mother

Just shift it a little bit, THIS way

This could work, really.

Everything takes extra effort. Here we are trying to screw in a door stop.

At last, we are successful.

And there's your door, mate.

The next BIG JOB is the structural work, replacing that vertical column and big clunky 2X10s with I-Beams. To help prepare for this, we need to open up a wall, so a steel column can be hidden in there. The more we do of this stuff, the less the contractor will need to do.

In the leftmost image, just below, you see the problem. There is a wooden 2X4 against the wall. We have snapped a line with my nifty new chalkline, and we need to cut a piece of the wall out, right next to the 2X4. This means making a vertical cut through plaster and lathe, from ceiling to floor.

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The reciprocating saw is an awesome tool. But old plaster and concrete filler are tougher than the average blade.

Still, we are able to make the cut - after a trip to the hardware store for more blades. They have three. We buy them all.

Behind the wall, we find a surprising amount of debris.

And no insulation. None.

But at last, this job is done.

To celebrate, the whole crew went to the north-side Applebys, and the dining experience was, again, awful - slow service, long waits, badly mis-cooked steaks, meals delivered in long sequences, drinks never refreshed. We like Applebys, but we are losing patience, after two poor dining experiences, weeks apart.

We like their menu, and we are loyal to north-side businesses, but our fortitude is being sorely tested.

The Eleventh and Twelfth Weekend's Progress

These two weekends were devoted to moving washers and dryers around and getting them hooked up.

We were given a new washer/dryer by Mitch and Audrey, with the idea these units would end up in the Clubhouse. Rita saw the photos of these devices, and instantly determined they were better than what we had at home. So we decided to move the new washer/dryer into our home, and move our old washer/dryer to the Clubhouse.

We cleared a path in the basement, to move the old units out the door. Then Paul Jarski showed up with his truck. Nem, Bill, Dan, Mitch and Audrey, all showed up to help. We do not have all the photos we should, but here is how it went.

We loaded the old washer/dryer onto the truck and took them to the Clubhouse. Then we went to NDSU to pick up the new washer/dryer (which was ready to go). So we took them to our house, and hauled them inside. Then we put the topper back on the truck. Total time: 58 minutes.

Then Rita took us all to the bar for snacks and drinks.

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We clear a path, to make room to move.

Audrey helps, dragging detritus out the side door.

While we wait, Mitch considers whether he could do the whole job himself.

Much later, the units are installed in the Clubhouse.

The old dryer has a custom lint trap handle, patent pending, Mitch Omar.

You can see the space is awkward and innefficient. There are hoses and cables and power cords all over the place.

Mitch works on cleaning things up, while Audrey plays 'pinch your head'

It turns out the washer can overwhelm the standpipe, so Mitch crafts a bigger stand pipe.

Meanwhile, the other accomplishment is Rita's, who has finally found a cover for her table (after Vikash burnt a hole in the table top, back in 1988).

Meanwhile, a lot of family time was devoted to sending college students off to France (see france).

The Tenth Weekend's Progress

We are about to host our first social event, so we prepped the house for a party.

Megan is leaving for a semester abroad in France on Tuesday, so she and Ree are having friends over to the Clubhouse on Sunday evening. We moved things around, bringing tables and chairs down to the main floor, hiding tools and such in the basement or on the second floor. Garbage was taken out back.

Rita vacuumed and cleaned the stove.

For a while we worked on kitchen cabinetry and constructing the workbench in the basement. Then we quit.

The next day we were back at it.

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Furniture was moved left to right, up to down, out to in ... and ... over to under, if you know what I mean.

Lynette donated a bunch of card tables and folding chairs.

The party started out with a few people around the table. There were board games involved.

Later, it got really fun.

People churned around

And there was cake.


Meanwhile, things were happening behind the scenes. To get ready, Ree help rebuild a kitchen cabinet.

And a workbench was being constructed in the basement ...


... that Mitch helped with.

Upstairs, the party raged on

Until, we fled, leaving Audrey and Mitch in charge ...

... and the party settled back down

Megan and Ree, they partied hard. Then they worked all day Monday, making final preparations.

They went to the airport on Tuesday, to fly to France.
Then their flight was cancelled due to mechanical difficulties.

They finally flew out the next day.

The Ninth Weekend's Progress

The work day was dedicated to two main projects. Firstly, most of a five-gallon pail of primer was slopped on the walls, to prepare for later painting, and to bind up all the plaster dust from the wall and ceiling sanding that choked our lungs and filled our vacuum cleaners. Secondly, progress was made towards a work area and work bench in the basement.

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Audrey and Rita started on the second floor and worked their way down the stairwell to the main floor. Since the walls were mostly dark, their primer could not cover the darker paint, so they moved hard and fast through the house, concentrating on covering everything with a single coat. Their motto was 'slap and dash'. Here we see them, about halfway done.

Mitch (painting in the background), was assigned to the other end of the house, starting in the back entryway and moving forward. His job was different, since the entryway was a nicely prepared wallboard surface. His was careful work, that will not need another coat (as opposed to Rita and Audrey, which will).

Once the entryway was meticulously completed, Mitch moved into the bathroom. You can see he does quality work.

After you have painted all day, you are tired - very tired.

While the painting went on upstairs, Mr. Reetz and I worked in the basement. Here you see Dan salvaging copper wire and useful electrical parts.

This is the beginnings of a workshop. But, as you can see, the first hack at a workbench is useless. It is flimsy and too high off the floor.

Meanwhile, the garage is a garden of untold potential. Here, you will recall, are the cock-a-mamy platforms we found when we first move in. Mr. Reetz and I determine the raw materials for a workbench are hidden in here somewhere.

No photographs were taken during the process, which is too bad. What we did is, demolished the right hand platform by removing the slanted peice, then shoring up the structure, and then removing lag bolts from the wall, and employing a saws-all to cut the platform in half. Here you see me and Mitch in front of the remaining platform, after the surgery was performed (by Mr. Reetz).

Here you see Mr. Reetz posing by the excised portion, like a hunter who has met the charge of a bull elk. We hauled this into the house. It will become the best work bench ever in history - you'll see.

The Eighth (New Years) Weekend's Progress

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We traveled to Minneapolis and fought our way back through a nasty ice storm.

Grace Electric finished the next phase of their work, culminating in motion lights both front and back.

And I spent 90 minutes with a contractor discussing the 'remove the pole' project.

Other than that, nothing, nada, zilch.

The Seventh (Christmas) Weekend's Progress

The work this week was devoted to electrical upgrades performed by Grace Electric, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, performed by us. Dr. Schwert came over with his Shop-Vac and did yoeman's work, detailing the floors and vents upstairs and down. Rita mopped floors - they shined so nice while they were still wet (but went dingey again when they dried). I pulled a few dozen little nails out of the floors between moving furniture to accomodate the vacuuming.

As of this moment, Grace Electric has installed nine light fixtures, replaced a like number of wall outlets and switches (installing GFAI in the critical places in the kitchen), made things right for the kitchen stove and the clothes dryer which are 220 volt, added by subtraction in the basement - activating the switch at the top of the steps and tying 3-4 lights into the same circuit. Last I saw, she was working on installing a motion activated light over the front steps. Grace Electric has made a huge difference.

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Here you see the floors have been vacuumed and washed. This is the cleanest they have ever been. Note the nice light fixture on the ceiling - Grace has been at work.

Here are some more fixtures, including a light in the back stairway, a real advance over the scary darkness we had before.

Here we see the crew vacuuming and mopping. Note, again, the nice new light fixtures.

Here we see the crew in repose, after a good round of manual labor.

Dr. Schwert took us home, and showed us the very nice laminate flooring installed in their kitchen. While we are waiting for our minds to clear on the structural work and the final plan for the floors we will occupy ourselves with painting some walls.

The Sixth Weekend's Progress

A banner week. The biggest thing, we got all the textured plaster sanded down, some walls washed, and a lot of plaster dust vacuumed up. This was huge hurdle in the project, and very satisfying. We got just enough help, as you will see below, to get 'er done.

The first estimate for repairing, sanding, and sealing the dance floor. It was in the sticker shock area. We have another flooring company coming in to visit this week - plus a structural engineer to look at our load-bearing issues - and the electrician will be back for the next round of rewiring. These are heady times, and more fun than a barrel of ferrets.

First, a photo retrospective for the structural engineers out there.

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This is Nate. He came in to give us an estimate on repairing, sanding, and refinishing the hardwood floors. He looked at the upstairs floors and pronounced them soft wood, perhaps with old lead-based paint on them (great news, Nate, thanks). He also looked at the old flooring we salvaged from the front room. Nate pointed out this had already been sanded once, and could hardly be used again for anything else....

Nate said, "You could use it for lathe, I suppose." And I am thinking, "old maple hardwood lathe, I wonder if there is a market for this?"

For the structural engineers. To the left, and above, is the overall picture. We have this huge clunky horizontal beam, supported by this vertical post that is obstructing the dance floor space. We would like to support the upstairs of the house, obviously, but would like to remove the vertical post, and support it somehow differently. And we would like to replace the clunky horizontal beam with something just as strong but smaller, like a steel i-beam.

Here is a close-up of the base of the vertical post.

A close-up of the west end of the huge clunky horizontal beam.

And a close-up of the east end of the huge clunky horizontal beam.

Now, a collage of the work and the workers who made the sixth week such a blooming success.

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Dan Reetz worked through the morning, even before we arrived, moving stuff, hanging plastic, and later switching the doors on the regrigerator so we could move it north to south.

A working man, ready to rock

I might looked haunted, but I am actually smiling, behind the mask.

Bernie showed up and worked like a horse. Sanding walls and ceilings.
To the right, Bill showed up and worked like a horse. Sanding walls and ceilings.

To the right, Ree showed up and worked like a horse. Sanding walls and ceilings.
Without the help of these good folks, we would not have finished.

The Fifth Weekend's Progress

This week was divided between continuing the demolition, making the place more hospitable for our temporary guest and caretaker, and preparing for next week's developments. The demolition involved removing more wallboard and trimming beams to continue opening up the space, along with removing another million staples remaining after carpet removal. The hospitality elements involved a number of small things, like providing a pancake spatula, a snow shovel, and some sidewalk salt, along with hauling an old flip-out couch/bed for creature comfort. Next week's developments involve a visit from someone from Kensock's Flooring (who were recommended after their work with the Plains Art Museum) on Monday evening, and another round of electrical improvements by Grace Electric on Wednesday (at some point between then and now we need to choose lighting fixtures for them to install for us).

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This is intended to be an illuminating sequence. I try to take these pictures from the same spot, lined up on the far windows and the light on the ceiling fan. This is what it looked like when we started.

This is what it looked like last week. Note the decorative looking ceiling element (sanded for no good reason, as it turns out), in the upper right.
Also note the studs sticking down from the ceiling across the top of the picture. I cut these off with my chain saw - you can barely see the stubs in the photo to the right. This was actually the biggest cosmetic accomplishment of the day. See how different it looks - open and airy.

And here is what it looks like now. Note the exposed 2X8 lumber in the upper right. We hoped there was nothing of substance behind that decorative looking wallboard, but alas, there is load-bearing structure there.

The work day starts with Rita at the top of the stairs pulling staples. Her quota is one million before the day is done.

Dan and Nem are working on something. I can't remember what, and this photo is too dark to tell for sure - pulling nails, maybe.

We have created a lot of debris along the way. Audrey bought three 45 gallon garbage tubs, and we have dumped them countless times in our own backyard landfill. This is about 270 gallons of debris, by my estimate.

Nem and Dan are working on the last of today's demolition, exposing the load bearing beam.

Dan finishes the deed (just after clocking himself on the cheekbone with a wayward hammer stroke). Dan recites Russian poems while he works, "The worker works with energy and culture", or something like that.

The final touches of today's demolition. Rita has almost finished grooming the stairway (one million staples), while Nem and Dan deconstruct the infrastructure. I call this photo "Everybody is working, but me".
My camera failed on the candid version of this shot, so I had to get everyone to 'pretend to work' while I got my camera sorted out.

Meanwhile, we have house guests now, so certain amenities need to be dealt with. Plus, we have a 'floor guy' coming on Monday.

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I keep trying to take pictures of the burn holes in the floor, and they never really turn out. This is the best one, indicating the most serious of the burns.

As to amenities, we went to fetch the fold out bed, and only loaded it by a miracle of determination and bungie cords.

Then we dove the best NDSU dumpster and found a working Simplex clock, a good day making event.

The Fourth Weekend's Progress

A lot of hard work this weekend. I was waling away on plaster board and support beams, prying boards apart, and completing the demolition of the wall. The construction hidden behind the plaster included support pieces nailed together, a very sturdy arch construction, lathe-and-plaster hidden under wallboard, toxic furnace piping, and about two metric tons of dust and debris. All gone now.

But, I broke the handle off my nice ice-chipper while using it to separate nailed-together lumber. It was still useful after that, as a giant chisel, but I need to buy a new handle for it, if I ever want to use it as an ice-chipper again. Meanwhile, my hands are threatening to cramp as I type this. I am still getting into the 'shape' necessary to handle power tools and wale away on walls all day.

My younger brother Kevin was in town (sorry, no photos), and we went over to the clubhouse about noon on Saturday. I gave him the tour and Paul Rye stopped by to look things over (again, sorry, no photos). He also took the tour and the three of us discussed the various options for repairing the (dance) floor, or replacing it. Later Nem stopped over (sigh, I forgot my camera), to pick up the 'samples' that Mazz has agreed to analyze for us. Nem was not feeling well, but stuck around to help me saw off a beam. We tried to use his nice electric saw, but it is calibrated to modern lumber, and this house has 'old growth forest' lumber. The first cuts were not deep enough. We ended up using my chain saw.

Meanwhile, Paul pronounced the house 'basically sound' (he used a different expression, though), and walked me through the pros and cons of each approach to the floor (repair and sand/refinish versus cover with modern materials).

We did more careful measurements.

The (dance) space is 18X22 (= 396 sq. ft.) minus about 30 sq. ft. because of the stairway. So figure, with rounding and fudge factors, that we need to calculate in terms of about 360 sq. ft.

Nem, Shawn, and I did some searching for flooring and came up with this pretty nice looking option. Dupont Laminate Flooring (this URL will likely be dead in a year or less). This is a wood-like product that you snap together. It has a soft backing, and you do not nail it down, which is why it is called a 'floating floor' (see below).

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I spent the day completing the demolition of this wall.
This is what it looked like at first.

This is what it looks like now, from approximately the same vantage point.

And here is the view from the front door, looking back towards the kitchen.

This is what our floor looks like right now, with my poor abused ice-chipper in the frame for perspective.

This is the detritus resulting from the demolition (note the garbage tub filled with flooring material - Paul Rye thinks these are at least 50 years old.).

These are the bundles of floor boards we ripped up, to maybe re-use or sell. You want these? Make an offer. It took, like, two hours just to sort and bundle them.
Note the green bucket filled with short pieces, the blue-grey bucket filled with slightly longer peices, the same garbage tub filled with even longer pieces, and bundles of the longest pieces laying on the floor.

This is what your floor looks like if you employ Dupont Laminate Flooring (available from Home Depot).
It looks real nice, don't it? Each Plank is 11-5/16"W X 46-11/16"L X 10mm Thick (plus the padding).

This stuff is sold in 18.34 sq. ft. cartons, for about $72/each, which is about $4/sq. ft., meaning we need to buy about 20 cartons, for about $1,429.20. Whew!

This is the 'comfort underlayment' padding that is stuck to the back of each board.

What we do not know at this point, is the cost of the finish carpentry (to patch the floor nicely), plus sanding and refinishing.
Is this more? Quite possibly.
Would we do a nice job if we tried to patch/refinish ourselves? Quite possibly not.

The images in this row are totally ripped off from Dupont, totally without permission. We thank Dupont for allowing us to steal these.

I am torn at this point.

I would like to preserve the original 1895 flooring, rather than cover it with synthetic Dupont approximations. But, the Dupont solution will look the best, no doubt. There are 9 or so main flaws in the 1895 floor - burnt spots, heat vents, and pieces missing because of walls and so forth.

Even a skilled carpenter (which I am not) will leave obvious patches behind them. So the floor will always look patched, even if we get skilled floor refinishers in to follow up.

At this point, I do not know how much it will cost to patch and repair. If it is just a little more, I would prefer to stick with the original floor. If it is a LOT more, then, well, we are on a budget.

Later in the week we had our first clubhouseguests: Dan Reetz and Andy Filer needed a place to stay, and we offered a dusty construction zone with lights, heat, and hot/cold running water. Plus, the price was very reasonable.

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The fellows moved in, cleaned and straightened, and took some pictures. This one from the front door, looking back to the kitchen.

In the kitchen we see a new table, and, score, a new toaster oven and a microwave hidden under the counter top (both pulled from a dumpster).

Looking back to the front of the house, there is another view of the toaster oven on the left, and a cluttered table in the distance.

In the bathroom, a nice new shower curtain.

In the front of the house, we now have a Pantenna.

I have no idea what this is.

The Thanksgiving Weekend's Progress

Early in the week a professional architect looked at the construction (I should ask permission before using their name), and gave us an assessment of the structural issues we were facing in removing the wall (described below). The short story seems to be that, because the house is relatively small, and the lumber is old and solid, with big solid beams running the width of the house, east-to-west, and big solid joists running the length of the house, north-to-south, we do not need to worry about removing the little wall. We could even remove the one beam we plan to keep.

This is all good news. We also found out the hot water heater is functional. More good news.

This happened to be Thanksgiving weekend, so there was time to get a lot done. Rita and I worked together through parts of Friday and Saturday. Nem came over on Saturday (at just the right time, as we were running out of steam), and helped us finish a major project effort.

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It is time to go to work at the clubhouse. The car is ready to start a new decade.

This is what you look like when you have new coveralls, and safety sunglasses.

This is what it looks like when you decide to sand the texturing off the old lathe and plaster walls. Not shown, the shop vac that (hypothetically) sucks up all the plaster dust.

This is what it looks like when you decide to remove all the nasty old carpeting off the stairway to the second floor.

The two main rooms have hardwood floors (described below), but at some point in history, the westmost room had a second layer of floor boards laid over top of the first layer. Here you can see we have pulled up a few runs of the upper flooring to see what horrors lie below.

Apparently there was a fire, and the floor was deeply burned in 3-4 spots. This is the deepest and worst of them.

An hour or two later, Nem and Rita had most of the top layer of flooring pulled up.

Nem labors to pull up the last few pieces of flooring.

At last, Nem has defeated the enemy. It is time for chow.

This is what it looks like when you have ripped up a hardwood floor.

We did our best to salvage the flooring pieces. This is old tongue-and-groove lumber, hard Maple, I think. We are thinking to use some of this as patching material for the existing floor (there are the burnt spots, places where walls have been removed, and a couple of floor vents we will be removing). After that, who knows, maybe we can use it for paneling, or maybe there is someone out there dumb enough to buy it off us.

The Second Weekend's Progress

This week, an electrician and a locksmith came in on Tuesday. The house has been totally re-keyed by Curt's Lock and Key, specifically by Bob, a good guy. So we now have secure space. Grace Electric replaced the electric service, upgrading to 200 amps, and cleaning things up.

Grace Electric, Curt's Lock and Key, good folks. We endorse them.

We came in for demolition on Saturday.

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This is what the electric service looked like at first. This was such a mess (60 amp service) that our insurance company hesitated to insure the property.

There were seven boxes feeding from a meter installed inside the building. A complete mess. Grace Electric cleaned it up. This is what it looked like in the middle of things.

The chaos was replaced with this nifty new box. Look how nice it is.

And look inside, at how order can be made from chaos. Grace is good, it goes without saying.

Here is the pile of detritus that results from the transformation from chaos to order.

Grace Electric
Electrical Contractor
322 Clearview Court
Moorhead, MN 56560
701-371-3931
Gracecummingspas@cableone.net

Grace Cummings Pas,
Master Electrician

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On Saturday morning, Mitch and I started demolishing the wall - the one that needs to be removed to open up the first floor space.

Audrey turned up a little later with Rita in tow, to look things over. Rita went home, not feeling well, and Audrey went off to buy garbage bins for the debris. Megan and Ree delivered food from Subway, and we had a little picnic in the back yard. Audrey brought the garbage bins, and then Nem showed up to help out. We worked through the afternoon, and got a lot done.

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The carpets were removed upstairs (this is the easterly room), revealing nice floor boards abused with paint

The westerly room also has nice wood on the floor, although also in need of major work

This was a 'discovery' - there is 220 amp service upstairs, meaning at some point there was a stove up here.
Two electric ovens in a house with 60 amp service - go figure.

As you can see, all the carpet was removed from the upstairs rooms and hauled out to the garage by Megan, Ree, and Audrey. An inventory of electric wall plates was conducted by Megan. Ree removed the rotting window (MS2), and repaired the weird inverted storm window. Audrey rolled up the messy TV cable. The carpet padding was rolled up and bagged. There was a lot of sweeping and cleaning. It was several hours of activity, everybody pitched in.

There was so much debris from the demolition we filled three 45 gallon garbage bins, and were forced to create our own back yard landfill to empty a couple of them. Nem and I did this, and it was HEAVY work. Come Spring we will be tearing off the (FIVE layers of) shingles, which will neccesitate a dumpster, and we can dispose of our landfill at that time. That's the plan.

They say demolition is the most fun. They might be right.

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We started off with a little tentative demolition. We have pulled a little plaster off.

We were quickly emboldened. Here you see Mitch whaling away.

And this is the progress, shortly thereafter.

And again somewhat later.

Nem turned up to help out. Note the ankle deep debris on the floor.

Audrey took her turn in front of the camera. Note how clean the floors are now. Every demolition involves a lot of sweeping and vacuuming.

The crew is done for the day, and just about to pull out (left to right: Mitch, Audrey, Ree, Megan, Nem).

This is a final shot, after the troops have departed. Note, the electric outlets and the thermostat are gone - pulled through the floor and residing in the basement.

To the left, a stack of tools. You want to know the best tool for removing plaster walls? The long-handled ice-chipper. We used a hatchet, and an iron pole, and various hammers, but the ice chipper is the best, no question.

I stuck around a little while, vacuuming up a bunch of dust, and making sure all the doors were locked. A lot got done. And we have a plan for the next phase of development. It was a good day.

The next day, Nem and I went in to smooth out the textured walls. The tool for this is the 'orbital sander', which I need to buy for myself.

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Many of the walls are 'textured' which is a dirt and dust trap. Partly because the house smelled so bad (which was mostly mitigated when the carpet was removed), and partly because we want to re-invent the space, we have decided to sand off the texturing.

If you look closely at these images, you can see the peaks and valleys of the plaster. These show the margin between sanding.

Does this sanding raise dust? Here we see Nem's legs and the dust on the floor. We had windows open, and two fans pulling air out of the house, or it would have been much worse.

We sanded and sanded ...

... and sanded and sanded.

It took about an hour for the two of us to finish the walls on this room. Another few hours and we will have the whole deal done. But it is a dust-choking job, no doubt. And we have not even started on the ceilings yet.


The First Weekend's Progress

Rita and I were there most of the day. Megan and Ree stopped by, helped out, and ran errands for us. Audrey and Mitch stopped by later in the day and helped out too. It was a family affair.

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The carpet was pulled up from the front rooms, rolled up, and dragged out to the garage.

The foam padding was also ripped up, and stuffed into garbage bags. We don't know when 'garbage day' is yet.

Rita washed all the kitchen cabinets, and we fixed all the cabinet doors.

The refrigerator had mouse droppings in the freezer. We washed it with bleachy water.

The garage door was secured with a high tech security device (patent pending, Mitch Omar).

And we fed the cat.

Back story: Rita and I were taking a break and heard an unearthly wail. It was a cat in our house (no photo, sorry). This poor thing was big, white, fluffy, but wild looking with blood on its ear and around one eye. It had been in a fight, apparently, and came in our house to get out of the cold. We tried to shoo it out of the house, but it ran downstairs.

Here's one difference between Rita and me. We followed it down to the basement, and I was intent on chasing it away (while keeping a good distance, since it was actually kind of scary looking). Rita leans over and says "here, kitty". And the damn thing runs to her, and she was petting it a second later (and making plans to feed it).

We have nothing in this construction site for cats to eat, so I am dispatched home to bring food.

There was a time when we had both tinned and dry cat food in the house, but I cannot find the tinned stuff. So I bring the dry food, plus our tins of tuna and an old tin of salmon that has been in the cupboard for ages.

We are a little worried about over-feeding a starving animal and thrusting it into food shock, so Rita puts out a little dry food with oil from the salmon can, along with a plate of water. The cat eats quite a bit, but not like a starving animal would, and later we find it nestled on the ledge in the bathroom.

From this we deduce the cat is a former resident of the house abandoned by the former owner, returning to its home. We talk about how we can possibly keep this cat (Rita is terribly allergic to cats, seriously).

We agree to do the best we can to feed and shelter this animal. We fed it more salmon and water that day, and left a plate out, which was licked clean the next morning (see photo, above). But, so far (three weeks later), it has never come back.

The Hardwood Floors

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There are two rooms with a purple divider as we look west. The nearer room has broader floor boards, running east-west. You can see there has been a lot of wear, not to mention fire damage.

The nearer room also has a number of patches, where a wall has been removed.

The farther room has narrower floor boards, running north-south. It appears as though these have been laid over top of the older, wider, east-west floor boards.

The Snazzy Modern Thermostat

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Behold the Braeburn Model 5000

The Windows of 515 Oak St. N.

The windows in the house are denoted with a three letter code:
1. Floor - one of Upper, Main, or Basement
2. Direction (the window faces) - one of North, East, South, West
3. Number (from right to left as you face the window from inside the house) - 1, 2, 3, etc.
Therefore, the rightmost window on the main floor facing north is MN1, the leftmost window upstairs facing east is UE2, and the leftmost window in the basement facing south is BS3.

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BS1: this is an 'egress window' for the downstairs 'apartment'. It is sealed shut with sealing foam, and is a nasty mess on the inside. It needs to be refitted.

BS2: there is a storm window laying there that needs to be fitted into place.

BS3: boarded up, good for now.

ME1: the only east facing window on the main floor, it looks out of the kitchen. It is a nice new double paned window, good for now, although it needs a screen.

MN1: the bathroom window, facing north, needs a screen and a storm window, and the counterweight is broken. We need to put plastic on the inside of this window for the winter. The framing needs to be repaired on the outside, obviously.

MN2: the window near the closet, under the upstairs steps, on the north side of the house. The pulleys are broken, the locking hardware is gone. We have implemented a security system for this window. No storm window, we need to put plastic on the inside of this window for winter.

MN3: the nice old-timey window by the front door. On the inside, the wood has been painted, then painted brown again to look like wood. This needs to be stripped, and there are cracked glass panes that need to be replaced.

MS1: they called this a 'piano window' in the old days. It is in good shape for now, but will need putty work on the inside, and woodwork on the outside.

MS2: there is a weird storm window here, inside out, with the screen on the inside, and a bb hole in the storm window. One of the windows is crumbling, with the glass broken out, perhaps beyond repair and in need of replacement.

MS3: the kitchen window facing south, over the kitchen sink, in pretty good shape - does not need immediate work.

MW4: this is the kitchen window facing west. It needs no work at this time.

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We decided to try and buy this house, built in 1895.

Images from October/November 2006

These are photos from the period before we owned the property


The Exterior

The house is brown and dirty looking, with a lot of bad windows and other flaws. The stucco is cracked in a number of places -- mostly this is just normal wear-and-tear, but sometimes it indicates deeper problems.

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The happy owners pose out front of their new clubhouse. Note the sun is setting over the Radisson Tower, which is where we signed the 'closing' papers. Also note the garage in back - the best garage ever. (Photo by Nem Schlecht).

These front steps are tilting and pushing against the house, causing problems. We plan to remove them (sledge hammer? jack hammer?) and replace them with nice wooden steps.

This is the backside of the house. There is bulging in the far corner, by the old coal chute, indicating a problem with the foundation in this corner of the house.

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You can see there are problems around the coal chute.

And this view makes it more obvious than ever.

Nem was nice enough to photograph this syringe on the basement floor. As neighbor Vern tells us, they were 'pushing dope' out of this house before we bought it. (Photo by Nem Schlecht).


The Interior

The main floor has been renovated to an extent, but the overall color scheme tends towards dark.

It is a small house, with just a divider wall between the living and dining room, and an open kitchen area.

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This is the divider between the dining/kitchen area and the living area, looking west. We plan to take this wall down and open up the entire space.

The is the same area, looking north-west instead of west.

This is the closet under the upstairs steps, on the north side of the house.

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The downstairs bathroom has a sink, a toilet, and a shower. It is a big bathroom with hookups for a washer and dryer. It is also somewhat grotty looking.

The kitchen is dark and foreboding. It needs work

You can see there are plenty of cabinets, but they are dark for some reason, and need to get light.

There are two small bedrooms upstairs plus a nasty looking partial bathroom

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This is the bigger bedroom, to the west (front) side of the house.

This is the smaller bedroom, to the east (back) side of the house. This room has some nifty embedded cabinet work.

This was once an upstairs bathroom, but the sink and toilet have been removed. The tub is next.

The basement is a work of art in itself.

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On the left you can see the natural gas furnace, less than a year old, and to the right is the natural gas water heater, ten years old

These are the floor boards and joists of the main floor, shot from the basement. This is what is called 'old growth forest lumber'. Note, the 2X6 joists are actually 2 inches by 6 inches.

There is a somewhat crappy little room downstairs with somewhat crappy paneling on the walls. It is usable space, just not very nice space.

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This is the coal chute wall from the inside. The foundation is buckling, and we are having it shored up with vertical I-beams.

There is a functional bathroom in the basement, but it is so nasty looking you think to yourself 'I am never using this'.

Here is the worst surprise, the biggest worry, and the source of endless problems as we tried to do this deal. That is 60 amp service, and it has been split into seven, count 'em, seven boxes. This needs to be upgraded and fixed, right away, in order for the purchase to be finalized.


The garage

It has this 'garage to die for', every man's dream. Three stalls, fully insulated, with high ceilings and gear for hoisting engines.

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Note the service for both electric and natural gas, next to the brown door on the right, which enters the southwest corner of the building.

Standing just inside the southwest door, looking north, there are weird loft units, and you can see a ceiling fan, and I-beams with (red) gear for attaching block-and-tackle for hoisting engines

Standing just inside the southwest door, looking northeast, you see the sliding garage door, and the blue door leading out to the alley. Note all the insulation.

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Standing in the garage, looking back to the southwest door, you see another fan, the electric service, and the natural gas service (just to the left of the door).

Standing in the alley, you see the blue door leading inside, the sliding garage door, and two strange women.

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Contact: bslator@cableone.net; Modified: 26Oct06

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