08 October 2015

Finding Physical Evidence: The 1946 Addition

Locating the 1946 permit and the accompanying application for the enclosure of a rear porch on the house answered some questions, more specifically the question of when the rear "addition" was built (or part of it at least). However, the permit documents raised several questions as well. So, I physically went above, below, and outside this portion of the house in search of more insight. What follows in this post are some of the questions that remain about this porch enclosure addition to the house, as well as what I found as I investigated further.

When Was the Porch Built?

The 1946 permit was for a porch enclosure. So when was the porch itself originally built? The application mentions the use of floor joists in the construction, but does not say anything about a foundation, presumably because the foundation had already been built.

Clip from the 1946 permit application for a porch enclosure on the house, listing some of the materials used: "studs 2x4, joists 3 lb, german siding"

Was the Entire Rear Part of the House Built at One Time? Or Not?

Take a look at the current view of the house from the backyard. Architecturally, an A-framed gable structure is on the left, enclosing what is now the third bedroom plus half of the main living room. To the right, a flat roof structure enclosed along its entire length by windows (and one door) completes the rear elevation. Peeking out from behind these lower structures is the gable of the original house, just barely visible.

Is it possible, or even likely, that the rear of the house was built in multiple phases? The portion with the flat roof seems more porch-like to my eye, whereas the left-side gabled structure looks more like an actual addition to the house.

Let's Go Crawling...

Remember in the very beginning, when I shared a doorway in the basement leading to a crawlspace? Well let's head into that crawlspace!

Upon opening the door, one is greeted by a set of stone steps leading up to what once was exterior dirt. Straight ahead and to the left in the background of the photo you can see what appears to be a concrete block foundation wall at the perimeter. Immediately to the right is a block and brick masonry wall, likely retaining further dirt. Insulated copper water piping serving the home's radiators is also seen, as well as some cloth-sheathed non-metallic (NM) wiring, and some additional abandoned water piping serving the "Old Kitchen".

The masonry wall to the right of the stair stops shortly after you reach the top of the steps, but picks back up again along the same line with more concrete block. This discontinuous wall appears to be in line with a wood beam in the ceiling of our living room, which sits on post framing (or doubled-studs) at each end. Further, this happens to align with the juncture of the flat roof and the bottom of the gabled roof on the exterior. 

Peeking into the existing gap in the block wall (but not squirming my way through there on this jaunt), I could see yet another block wall (with a similar gap in it) which appears to support the wall between the living room and the bedroom. Thus, the thick wall on the main floor likely has some load-bearing capacity, as it lines up with the ridge beam (center beam) at the top of the gable roof.

Another semblance of a concrete block foundation wall in the background, underneath the wall between the living room and third bedroom

...and Climbing

Next, to the attic! Fortunately, it is easy to poke my head into the attic space above the addition, as an access opening exists near the top of the attic steps. Doing so, and looking straight ahead, we see the ridge beam supported by a series of posts, in line with the first floor wall below.

Looking to the left, we see the rafters for the flat roof framed into the rafters of the gabled roof. The pitched rafters rest on the beam at the living room ceiling, which we now know appears to be largely supported on a block foundation in the crawlspace.

Rafters for the flatter roof of the former porch are fastened into the pitched rafters of the gable roof.

Outdoor Examination

Let's take a closer look at that flat-roofed portion of the addition from the exterior again. As I pointed out earlier, this area has windows lining the entire perimeter with the exception of the door. The very corner of the house is pretty clearly a post supporting the roof, something reminiscent of enclosing an outdoor area, like a porch, rather than being built as an indoor space from the start.

Someday that aluminum soffit will wave bye-bye
A step backwards, showing the porch enclosed with windows along its entire length.
Examining the spot where the addition meets the original house, we can see how the more recent exterior wall of the porch enclosure rests on what was likely the line of the porch floor.

Although the rear wood deck was built after 2001, it is easy to see the concrete steps underneath it that led to the back door, serving as the main entry for the tenant during the time period that the back of the house was a rental unit.


Although I'd prefer more documentation or floor plans to back it up, I feel confident with the working theory that the 1946 rear porch enclosure only encompassed the small flat-roofed section of the house, about 100 square feet, and that the bulk of the rear addition came earlier. The continuous windows, the corner post, the walls inset from the original house and from the rest of the addition, and the plane of the floor surface seen from the outside all tell me that this was a porch that was enclosed. Another clue for me is the construction cost of this work in 1946, listed on the permit, amounting to $125 (roughly $1600 in current value). This does not, to me, seem to be a sufficient amount to enclose the entire 350 sf rear addition with exterior walls.

I believe the larger pitched-roof portion to be earlier, from sometime between 1936 and 1946. I use 1936 as the early end of that range because only the original house appears on a 1937 map (assuming that the map surveyor may have recorded the house a year before publishing). It is quite possible that the open porch and its foundation were built concurrently with the larger addition and its foundation. The flat roof of the porch may have been constructed with the 1946 porch enclosure, or may have been designed into the rear addition from the beginning, creating the attractive assymetrical roof line seen today.


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