13 January 2016

Re-Examining the Previous Layouts of the House

As far as I have been able to discern thus far, the floor plan layout of my house has gone through at least four significantly different iterations. I took my first shot at one of these previous layouts several months ago, after discovering evidence of a now-abandoned kitchen at the back of the house. In hindsight, those conjectures were incorrect after further investigation. Now, given the benefit of a lengthy conversation recently with long-time owner Catherine Cantlin's daughter-in-law, I take pause to examine what I know in terms of the layout history. The evidence gathered has been documentary, anecdotal, and physical. The first floor has always been the only real occupied space, with the unfinished basement below and the attic above. What follows is my present understanding of how the layout has changed throughout ithe house's roughly 93-year history.

Original Layout (c. 1923 to 1940s)

During its first 15-20 years, this house was one of the only ones in existence on the block, and it was a very modest home at roughly 750 square feet. Although I do not believe it was a mail-order kit house, the design may have been found in a pattern book I have yet to locate. This kit model sold by Montgomery Ward in 1930 is very close to what I believe to be the original layout of the house. Here is my own sketch:

Throughout its existence, the left half of the plan has generally contained living spaces, while the right half has contained bedrooms. Originally, one entered from the front porch into a modest-sized living room. This room has always held a view through a large cased opening into what is now the kitchen but was originally the dining room. Beyond the dining room was an enclosed kitchen at the rear of the house, off of which was an exit to the backyard. These functions in these locations were confirmed by the Cantlin daughter-in-law. Just to the left of the back steps was an exit staircase from the basement (a set of steps which still exists today but is entombed beneath my living room). I consider it a pretty safe assumption that the stacked staircases to the basement and attic remain today in their original locations. On the right side of the house, the main bedroom was off of the living room, with a second bedroom at the back, and the house's only bathroom was sandwiched in between the two.

New Rear Addition; Duplex Phase 1 (1940s to early 1960s)

Perhaps ironically, I am a bit less sure about this iteration of the layout than I am of the original layout. The lack of clarity rests primarily in whether or not the rear addition was completed in one or two phases, and when. What I do know, positively, is that a rear porch, which constitutes the upper-left corner of the floor plan, was enclosed in 1946 to create more interior space (due to receipt of a copy of that 1946 building permit). The construction and design of the addition lead me to believe that the entire addition inclusive of the un-enclosed porch was built at one time, prior to 1946, with that porch enclosure occurring later. To date I have not been able to locate backup documentation. Here is what the plan may have looked like both before and after the porch was enclosed:

I believe that the gabled, primary portion of the addition may have included a third bedroom to the left and a second kitchen to the right. Off of the new bedroom would have been the porch-- and once enclosed, it expanded the size of the bedroom. During this time period, John and Catherine Cantlin's children were reaching adulthood and the parents portioned off half of their newly expanded house, creating a duplex for their family members. The second unit was not fully closed off from the main unit at this point, as it was family living there. According to their daughter-in-law, all three of the adult children lived in the apartment at some point. The left-side (main) unit contained the connected living/dining room, the original kitchen, and the near rear bedroom. The right-side apartment contained entry from the rear into a new door at the new kitchen. Then, progressing towards the front past the attic steps was the apartment living room, which could also double as a bedroom if required. The original bathroom may have been shared across both units during this time period-- the door opening accessing the hallway from the dining room may or may not have existed. Lastly, the original primary bedroom was now the main bedroom for the apartment.

Kitchen Relocated; Duplex Phase 2 (1960s to 2001)

Also according to the Cantlins' daughter-in-law, Catherine made some further changes after husband John's death in 1961. Most significantly, the house's original kitchen was converted into a new second bathroom. Permit records confirm this change and provide a date of November 1963. If there was indeed access to the original bathroom from the dining room at this time, it was closed off at this time. Kitchen cabinetry and plumbing was installed along the left-side wall of the dining room, turning it into an eat-in-kitchen.

The remainder of the duplex is as described in the previous iteration. The sketch above shows the Cantlins' newer rear bedroom expanded into the area of the porch enclosure.

Re-Birth as a Single-Family House (2001 to Present)

After Catherine Cantlin sold and vacated the house towards her later years, a young couple took ownership and set to work re-establishing functionality of the house as a single-family home.

The function of living room was relocated to the larger back room of the house, into what was previously Ms. Cantlin's bedroom. The second rear door off of the apartment kitchen was filled in. When exactly this kitchen was converted into a bedroom is unclear at this time, but the daughter-in-law reports that the house was still presented as a duplex when she helped sell the house in 2001, so it likely was not abandoned until that time. Both bathrooms were updated, and I believe it was during this ownership that the window at the original bathroom was filled in. An exterior deck was built at the back of the house, covering over both sets of concrete steps.

What exists now is a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom single-family home of approximately 1,100 square feet. For now, this layout works pretty well for us. We'd like it to be perhaps a bit larger, and I have some designs in my head, but we'll get to those in due time. This house is over 90 years old and has seen significantly more change than I realized when I set out on my research. Yet, the journey and the in-progress results are fascinating, as the house has shifted and morphed along with all of its occupants.

No comments:

Post a Comment