Enon Hall


These journal entries track our progress as we undertake our adventure of restoring this very old home. The main reason for keeping this journal on the web is that we have found that there are very few resources (books or websites) that follow all of the trials and tribulations of restoring an old home...from start to finish.

June 1, 2005

Today I had a visit from Jimmy Golden of Golden Flue. They line old chimneys with a patented cast-in-place system. (He's based outside of Richmond, but has about 70 franchisees across the country using his system.) About 12 years ago when I first started my own ad agency I did an ad for this company that they still run in the back of all of the old house magazines. I think this is the longest running ad that I ever created. And possibly the smallest, too.

(My longest-running television commmercial is one that I produced for Archadeck about 8 years ago. It still runs nationally on HGTV. If you ever see it, watch closely and you might spot Gay and a very young William.)

Anyway, I wanted Jimmy to take a look at our existing chimneys, flues, and fireboxes. We have never used any of them since they're all unlined. One chimney has three flues (three fireplaces stacked one over the other...cellar, parlor, bedroom) and the other has two flues. At first, the inspection seemed to be going better than expected. Until he got up in the attic to look at the 3-flue chimney. I knew things were bad up there. There are actually holes in the chimney and the brick can be crumbled easily between your fingers. To make matters worse, at some point the chimney was rebuilt from the roofline up, adding more weight on top of an unstable situation. So I knew it was bad, but still I cringed when Jimmy's assesment was "I don't think I've ever seen worse." This from a guy who specializes in old house chimneys and has seen thousands. Oy.

We discused a number of things, including lining all of the flues, enlarging the firebox in William's bedroom (it was made smaller at some point), opening up the fireplace in the cellar, etc. I await his proposal. I'm sure it will be a significant investment, but the work is necessary. Yes, being able to have fires will be nice, but more importantly it will be nice to not have the one chimney collapse one night as we sleep. -- Bill

June 2, 2005

"What's on your iPod?" On mine are splatters of paint, dried grass clippings thrown by the weed trimmer, and...is that...yup, a little spot of blood. My iPod Mini is a constant companion during my work around the house, and it's starting to look like it.

It's been cold and rainy today and the same is on tap for tomorrow. So, footing work will not begin this week.

I think I'm on the verge of a breakthrough. I glazed a window sash (with the new restoration glass panes) late last week and would give it a "C-". But the encouraging aspect is that, for the first time, I feel like I'm on the brink of maybe getting good at this skill that has thus far totally evaded me. The series of subtle revelations that have me encouraged are:

  • The putty needs to be warm. Somebody in the past had told me not to overwork the putty because that causes it to stick to your hands. But I'm finding that you really need to work it to get it warmed up and subtle.

  • The angle of the putty knife is key! It took Tom Silva to finally teach me the correct knife technique for achieving those nice corners. Check out the online article, especially the illustrations at the end.

  • The correct glazier's points are important. My muntins are very narrow. I used three different styles of points on this sash, trying to find the one that worked best. My problem was that the points stuck up or out too high interfering with the path of the putty knife when I tried to make my angle. For my sashes the old, flat, triangular points seem to work best, but I really need to push them way in.

  • Forget about that special glazing tool they sell. A flexible, new putty knife with sharp corners works great. It's critical that it be flexible and not stiff.
Again, I have yet to produce a beautiful sash, but I feel that the potential is now there. Hey, at least you can't see the glazing from inside anymore. That alone is a huge improvement. And, have you ever noticed in Williamsburg or Greenfield Village or other such places that the windows look like somebody glazed them with their feet? They're far from perfect, so I think there's a chance for me!

As of today, my two months of bachelorhood are happily over! School is out and Gay and William are now here full time! It's nice to have the family all back together. WooHoo! -- Bill

June 3, 2005

An exciting day with actual foreward progress!

Doug arrived today in the drizzle and got to work breaking up and hauling away the concrete slab from the old carport. In places, the slab was 16 inches thick...concrete poured on top of a bed of bricks. Serious overkill. -- Bill

June 6, 2005

Doug the mason and his helper Joe made amazing progress today. They first loaded up the rest of the carport slab and then established the grade for the crawl space and began marking off the foundation with chalklines.

They used a storyboard and a 360-degree laser level to establish the depth of the grade and then the footing. All of this is critical to ensure that the floor in the addition winds up level with the floor in the dining room.

Then the exciting moment finally came when the first bucket of dirt was excavated for the new addition.

Their work went very quickly until Doug hit a stump at a corner of the garage. Doug was not happy at all to find the stump in the way of his excavation. He worked at the stump for an hour with his Bobcat before finally calling it a day. After he left, William checked out the stump hole.

Despite the stump, I was impressed with the progress.

Today was my first full day spent interpreting the architect's plans on the jobsite and I was surprised at the number of questions that arose throughout the day. I called the architect three times and made other judgement calls as we went along. Sure hope I made the right calls!

In the course of the excavation, we uncovered the brick foundation to a very small structure that once stood to the west of the old carport (and would have pre-dated the carport). This has me completely baffled. I have no idea what this was, but the foundation was definitely 20th century and there was a waste water line that ran to the septic tank. The building seems to have only been about 6 feet wide and maybe ten feet long. Another mystery. Thank goodness it wasn't an old foundation or work would have come to a screeching hault while we investigated. The dirt in this area is pretty sterile and no artifacts turned up.

While the digging was going on I busied myself on another window sash. This one turned out a little better than the last one, so I continue to be encouraged. -- Bill

June 7, 2005

And then came the rain...

An intense thunderstorm last night left water standing in the footing trenches by the light of day. Thanks to some bailing and some intense heat, the trenches were pretty dried out by the end of the day. Good thing, because we've scheduled our footing inspection for tomorrow morning.

Doug started in on the pine tree stump first thing and had it out in less than a half hour.

Fortunately, no other stumps were encountered.

They finished digging the trench, drove the stobs for the footing height and laid in the rebar. We're all set for a green light from the inspector. The concrete truck is scheduled for Monday morning.

Meanwhile, I continued my window work. I worked on the trim for this window (scraping, sanding, filling, and replacing unsalvagable moulding) and put in the completed top sash. Three of those panes are the original panes and the rest is all restoration glass. It's very hard to tell the difference unless you tap on the panes. Then you can hear the difference since the old panes are much thinner.

The mysterious foundation that we found yesterday appears to be older than I thought. I went rummaging through old photos and found one from around 1910 that shows a very narrow structure with a steeply pitched roof and vertical siding.

A spring house? Laundry? This is the oldest photo that I have of Enon Hall, and unfortunately I only have a photocopy of a photocopy. -- Bill

June 8, 2005

Passed our footing inspection first thing this morning! -- Bill

June 9, 2005

Spring was very cool here, but the heat finally hit last week...and hit hard. We thought we could tough it out, but when we saw these little 5,000 BTU window units at Lowe's for $78 each, we felt foolish to not at least allow ourselves to sleep in comfort after a hard, hot day of work. But as soon as the central air goes in upstairs, they're gonners! -- Bill

June 10, 2005

Today was another hot and sticky day, so we stayed in our newly air conditioned bedrooms eating Godiva chocolates. No...not really. Although it was tempting!

I had intended to cut the grass, but every time I got on the tractor another storm rolled through. I finally gave up and sought an inside job. William and I went to work removing the plaster in the end of the law office that will become his bathroom to make way for a new window, his shower, etc.

I used a masonry chisel to cut a line where the new partition wall will go. This prevented any plaster from being damaged or cracked beyond that point. William took out pretty much this whole wall where a new window will go.

We made several very exciting discoveries. This law office wall butts up against the west wall of the Dutch Colonial. Behind the wall we found original beaded clapboards from the Dutch Colonial with a surprising color...kind of a red-brown. Much like the Peyton Randolph House in Williamsburg.

You can see the distinctive gambrel roof line to the left in the photo above.

Also interesting is the plate beam located about three feet off the floor, visible on the right in the photo above. Turns out that when the dining room was added in the 1850s, it was a story and a half with steps up to a pretty large loft area...probably used for sleeping. If you follow the angle of the cut siding down, they line up with these plates. The floor joists are sitting on ledger boards that are notched into the studs.

Then in the 1880s, this story-and-a-half addition was raised by adding new framing on top of this plate to raise the ceiling and roof. That would have been when the siding was walled in...so we know the Dutch Colonial siding was red in the 1880s when this work was done.

The support for this was on this Web site all along. A family account reads, "The first house had 4 rooms with a wide hall running through the downstairs. The dining room was in the basement and the kitchen in the yard. Grandfather (Henry Straughan Hathaway) added the end room and half. Papa (Walter Ennis Hathaway) raised it." As many times as I have read that, I never really noticed the "and half." And I always assumed "raised it" to mean that he simply added a second floor, when actually he raised the roof to make a full two stories.

There's a whole lot going on in this wall. To the right of the whacky corbeled chimney you can see framing that indicates that there was originally a fireplace in the room on the other side of this wall before the massive end chimney was taken down (probably in the 1850s to make way for the addition). The lath above and to the right of the former fireplace is riven (hand split, likely 18th century) while the lath inside the former fireplace area is sawn...more evidence that the fireplace was closed in in the 19th century.

There are lots more details in this wall that tell a story about Enon Hall's growth and changes over the years. Do we really have to close it all back in? -- Bill

June 12, 2005

In 1968 one of the local museums commissioned a local artist to do a map of the historic locations in Lancaster County. Enon Hall was included. I have often wondered about the way our house is depicted. Was the artist working from an old source that I haven't seen?

It occured to me today that in trying to keep this site as "on topic" as possible I have missed a wonderful opportunity to promote the beautiful area where Enon Hall is located. Or maybe even to provide some additional context to our decision to move here full time by sharing a little of what's around us in Virginia's Northern Neck. So, from time to time, I am going to start including some photos of places around us as we go on our excursions. I'll put these photos on separate pages so that if your sole interest is old house restoration, I won't be wasting your bandwidth. Today's featured location: Hughlett's Point.

Also, some rainy day this summer William is going to put together an online exhibit of his coolest old finds from the property. That will be a big project!

The concrete truck is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning to pour our footing! -- Bill

June 13, 2005

It's amazing how much braver other people are with your house than you would ever be. The foundation crew arrived first thing this morning and quickly pulled the old corner of the foundation so that the new footing could be extended under this area. Scary looking.

William and I worked on cleaning up the old brick so that it can be re-used, at least on the exposed face of the new corner. I chipped off the old mortar with a brick hammer and William scraped them clean with a wire brush.

The concrete truck arrived right on time and had to make three trips to pour the whole footing. They ran out on the second trip with only about ten feet of footing remaining.

William and Doug initialed and dated the footing. As an afterthought, William thought that he better clarify "05" to be "2005".

The new footing under the corner. Once the footing is solid, I'm gonna have to put a temporary support under there just so I can sleep easy until the crew comes back on Wednesday to start laying the block! -- Bill

June 15, 2005

The brick truck came from Richmond. The block truck came from Suffolk. Somehow they managed to both arrive at exactly the same time today creating an interesting ballet of dueling forklifts.

Called the mason to let him know that everything was here and he said he would be back next Tuesday. I thought he was coming back today. Oh well. Things change.

I was thrilled to receive a revised proposal from a local HVAC company that was 43% cheaper than their first proposal and more energy efficient to boot!! The architect specified four zones (4 compressors and 4 handlers) and we are able to do it with two large units and still set up 4 zones. Also, I have eliminated the cooling from the first floor of the Dutch Colonial so that we don't have ducts in the cellar in the way of future structural work. We have decided that there just isn't enough value in the Unico System for us to go that route. I'm really not concerned about seeing vents. There are some very nice looking vents covers available these days. (With the Unico System you still have to have the large air return vents which are always the most unisghtly.) Plus, we presently have radiators which are not period appropriate and even less subtle. We also have plenty of un-used attic space for traditional ductwork, which eliminates the other main reason for considering a Unico System. -- Bill

June 16, 2005

One of the great things about having William around to take photos is that folks are less suspicious when a kid runs up to snap pictures of them doing their thing. Like when Ringo showed up with our Port-a-potty and started mugging for the camera.

We found a spot between two cedars where it would stay shady, be out of plain view, and be easy for Ringo to pump out every Wednesday.

This morning I cleaned the putty residue off of my latest completed sash and reinstalled it, completing the window that I started last month. (This is the same window that had the rotten sill.)

I think it looks pretty good! We were in Williamsburg on Tuesday and William took great joy in pointing out thumbprints in window glazing to make me feel better about my job.

I'm moving on to another window on the north side of the house. You can still see traces of the red paint on these sashes. I had noticed this before, but chalked it up to being just a trim color, since we have early photos showing dark trim. But now we know that it was also the color of the body of the house.

The weather was beautiful today...much cooler than the high 90s we've been experiencing. A great day to practice drumming in the backyard. -- Bill

June 17, 2005

I finally got around to putting together the teak outdoor shower that we bought this spring at Target. Pretty cool. But I think I need to get a new hose to use with the shower. The water coming through the old hose is really funky. -- Bill

June 19, 2005

We had a nice, lazy father's day weekend. My only project was to make this brick stoop off of the screened porch steps out of assorted bricks that were lying around.

Today we visited an 18th century home that really needs a lot of work after a devastating chimney fire in 1916. Rosewell in Gloucester County.

It's such a neat place to visit. We were the only ones there and it has a wonderful, ghostly feeling. The foundation that owns it has stabilized it and will continue to preserve the ruins in their present state. Seventeen fireplaces in all! -- Bill

June 21, 2005

Spent all day working on restoring an old window sash. Then on my way to bed, I got my feet tangled up in some shoes sitting on the floor and put my shoulder right through a window pane in another window. Fix one. Break one. Net zero.

No blood and luckily it wasn't one of the windows I've already fixed! G'night. -- Bill

June 22, 2005

William's been scraping, sanding, priming, and painting some of our old porch furniture to earn some extra money. He did a great job.

The masonry crew was briefly back on the job today and will be back tomorrow to start laying the foundation.

The sashes from the front window that I am working on now are clearly much older than the back window that I finished last week. The wood is much harder (and easier to scrape without gouging) and the interior sides of the sashes have more coats of paint. Looks like the present green was painted over a pale yellow (or maybe a gold that faded) which was painted over a light blue, which was painted over the original red/brown. (The same red/brown that was on the outside of the sashes.) These sashes also have no brads or points holding the glass in. Only the putty. -- Bill

June 24, 2005

Yesterday I finished stripping, sanding, and priming the two front sashes that I've been working on. They were in good shape and required no wood repairs.

Might I be the future master window glazier of Colonial Williamsburg? Well, I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but I write this a very proud man. I just finished glazing one of the sahes and I give this one an "A"! (Up from a C- earlier this month!) I promise, this will be my final journal entry about glazing windows, but I wanted to share the last little secret that was the coup de grace for me.

After placing a generous bead of putty all the way around the edges of the pane, use the corner of your putty knife to mash the putty into the rabbet about every inch or so.

This simple step prevents the putty from pulling away from the wood when you draw your putty knife along the rabbet to make the angle. Oh, and I wipe the putty knife down with a little paint thinner before creating that angle.

And voila! A nice looking sash! Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile I ran out of Restoration Glass and had to order more. Seems I was having a bad counting day when I placed the first order.

I wish I could report progress on our foundation, but things have been at a standstill. Our 1,400 pounds of colored mortar finally arrived today (we're attempting to come close to the old mortar) and the contractor's mixer needed a new muffler, which also arrived today. All the planets seem to be aligned for some progress next week. I hope! -- Bill

June 25, 2005

Started priming some of our new sashes today. -- Bill

June 28, 2005

The foundation got started yesterday, but by the end of the day I was too mentally worn out to post an update here. The questions and judgement calls where coming fast and furious. Most of the issues regarded making sure that we were leaving enough access and pass-throughs for HVAC trunks and ducts. (The plan calls for solid foundation walls running under the house instead of piers, so the number, size, and placement of openings is important.) I got our HVAC guy to come by last night and walk the foundation with me and tell me exactly what he needs, which helped tremendously.

Today all of those decisions were behind us and I pitched in (left) to help where I could, mainly breaking bricks in half for the top course of headers.

We are going with an American Common Bond with the top course being headers and the rest stretchers. But since this is a brick veneer over block, we can't just turn the top bricks to make the headers. Instead they have to be broken in half.

We also chose a "grapevine" mortar joint...a technique picked up from elsewhere in the old foundation.

I am happy with the brick and the mortar color (OC), and with the job the mason is doing. But he's already started preparing me that he's going to have to leave our job and bounce to a few others that he has going on simultaneously. Even so, he expects to be finished with our foundation by the end of the next week.

Before he left today I got him to commit that he is definitely coming back here tomorrow. After he left, I broke out more brick halves for tomorrow and I plan to serve on the crew again, providing whatever unskilled labor I can. Actually, I may try my hand at laying brick. He tried to get me to do it today, but I declined, not wanting to slow things down. But I really shouldn't pass up the opportunity to learn how to do this.

Yesterday Gay and I removed the upstairs rear discharge toilet and tried to diagnose a longstanding problem. The toilet just doesn't flush with enough force to fully clear the bowl. So we haven't been using it for the last couple years. Yesterday, we replaced all the guts, all the seals, cleaned all of the holes under the rim, and made sure that there were no blockages in the toilet or the drainpipe. After putting it all back together, it gave us the same lethargic, no-pressure flush. We've now chalked it up to just being a poor toilet design that probably never worked well. Without the benefit of gravity, the water just can't rush out like it needs to to create the necessary suction to clear the bowl. Gay is now investigating newer rear discharge toilets and technologies (perhaps pressurized) to see if there's something with a more powerful flush. Sure would be nice to have a second working toilet. Especially this coming holiday weekend when we'll have 8 people in the house! When's the addition going to be finished? -- Bill

June 29, 2005

Only a small amount of progress was made on the foundation this morning before the crew packed up and left when it started sprinkling. The afternoon was nice enough for me to cut grass while grumbling about more lost time. No telling when I'll see the mason and his crew again. Wasn't a good sign when they took all of their tools. I guess he's off to another job for a while.

A reader fixed our toilet! -- Bill

June 30, 2005

Cool! Just found out that The Wall Street Journal did a quarter-page article on old house blogs in today's issue, including the Enon Hall site! There's an image of our site's home page, and I really love the caption under it: "You think your renovation is tough? Try fixing the mistakes of your ancestors from the 1700s." Makes me chuckle. Anyway, welcome to any new site visitors who found us through today's article and thanks to Kara Swisher for including us! -- Bill

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