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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Helen's House continued

Here is a postcard picture of Helen's house taken before 1915. I am not able to identify the person with the dog in the photograph.

 Here is how the house looks today. Helen kept everything. I am certain that I could find the receipt for the asbestos siding in her papers and tell you exactly when it was installed and the cost. I could probably tell you when the porch was redone and when the roof was last installed. Maybe I will .... later.

 Here are some pictures from inside the house. One of the reasons we wanted to buy it was because the woodwork had NEVER been painted and was original from 1900. The windows need restored due to sun exposure but internally the woodwork is in pristine condition.

Helen left a few things when she moved including her piano which she bought in 1951. I paid her an extra $800 for items left in the house that had some value, including an unused oak wardrobe and the cedar casket in the attic. That is right, I said casket. There is a story about this.

Here are the pocket doors. They have the original skeleton key as do most of the doors in the house.

We bought this secretary bookcase at auction for $100. Ten years ago this would have sold for $450.It would seem that people are no longer interested in Victorian furniture.

We bought this dining room set with china cabinet and buffet for just $350 at an auction which surprised us. We figured that it would cost at least $500. I am not complaining, just letting you know that auctions are worth considering if you are in the market for old style furniture.

These two love seats cost just $30 for the pair. The chair was $12 and the rocker was $40. I guess rockers are still popular!

This secretary desk cost $75 at auction and will end up being a TV stand. The DVD player will go in the desk and some DVDs can go in the side cabinets and the remote in a top drawer.  Nothing like repurposing old furniture!

Next I will show you the kitchen and the basement. The kitchen has already been painted and re-tiled so there are some before and after pictures. The basement is interesting. You can learn a lot about old houses by looking in the basement.

Helen's House

Let me tell you about Helen's House. We bought Helen's House in October 2013. Helen was our neighbor. She was born in 1921. Her mother, Mary Farrenkopf  had tuberculosis at a young age so Helen lived with her aunt and uncle after the age of 4 and her mother eventually died in 1926 aged 31. She had two older brothers that were raised in her father's farm. Her aunt and uncle adopted her as their own daughter and raised her in the City. Here is her mother's obituary.

Helen lived across the alley from us and used to tell me stories about Leonard and Susan Volkenand and how their parrot used to shout obscenities at her from the side porch when she was a little girl. The parrot died in 1936. Helen asked me if we would buy her house in August 2013 because she needed to move herself into a retirement home since she could no longer navigate the stairs in her house and she had fallen down them which sent her to the hospital for a while. Helen had lived in the house for 89 years. The place was a step back in time. The woodwork was original from 1900. The house was built by Leonard Volkenand for his wife and daughter to live in. In 1906 they bought our house from their father's estate and lived there until 1955. Leonard was struck by a car in 1937 in front of the fire station across the main street in front of our house. Susan sold the house in 1955 to move to a smaller house. In Helen's house the wallpaper was put up in 1940. The kitchen was "updated" in 1960 and there were things in the attic that had been there since 1915. The newspapers in the drawers were from the 1930s. Canning jars filled with cherries and beans line shelves in the basement but are labelled with dates from 1939.
We plan to turn Helen's House into an Air BnB or Home away from Home rental. It is effectively a guest house at the moment but I need to get the water service line replaced because there is no water pressure. We are in the process of furnishing the place as well. We want to offer people a unique experience. Life in a 1940s and earlier environment. We bought the vacant lot next door to Helen's house and I am turning it into a Victory garden. I should add that Helen worked as a civilian at Wright Patterson Air force Base from 1940 to 1970 and began her career when the Air Force was the U. S. Army Air Corps. during WWII. Helen was no one special in the eyes of the world. She was a regular person with regular person stories. Which makes her all the more interesting.
Helen made me her power of attorney for her while she was alive and the executor of her estate when she died. She had outlived her brothers and most of her friends. She figured that the former mayor of Dayton would be a good choice because he would be under the watchful eye of the media. Helen died on March 24th after a fall on Christmas Eve 2014. I visited her every week in the hospital. She was sharp and alert until the end. The stenosis from her last fall deprived her of her muscles but never took her mind. So here is Helen. Aged around 18, 24 and 90. She never married.  Supposedly the war took care of that. She never had a car. She never flew in an airplane and she never had children or a mortgage. She also never threw anything away!

I am now working on Helen's House. It is not the major undertaking that "This Old Crack House" was but is worthy of some posts. Stay tuned. There is more to come.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Earning My Stripes

More work has been done on my hall. I am only 14 years into my three year project at this point and I have been meaning to paint the hall for, say 10 years. So while the weather was cold I got the walls and ceiling painted a beige color all the way up to the landing leading to the third floor. The plan has always been to go for a beidermeier look since the house was built before 1848 and years ago I wanted to paint two or three shades of beige vertical stripes in the hall. I routed through some old tins of paint in the basement and found two shades of grey that I could use with the beige. The next step was to mark the walls at regular intervals, draw vertical lines using a level and then put masking tape adjacent to the line.

When that was done the second color was painted between the tape. Then narrower lines were marked and masking tape placed for the third color to be applied.

So I got to this point and I was happy. The walls looked dull and boring which is very beidermeier.   However the wife and daughter did not like it. They thought it was too dull and I was instructed to jazz it up a little and tie it in with the rest of the house.

Red and green are recurring themes around the house and I have red and green paint. I had to go and buy another three rolls of masking tape to add the next round of stripes. You can see that I added a designer touch with my Gucci stripe! This was a real pain to do because the red paint somehow reacted with the original white paint that was on the walls and in many areas the paint peeled off when I removed the tape causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Needless to say there was considerable touch up adding several days to the project.

I will never recommend painting striped walls. The task is very time consuming and requires oodles of masking tape. However, on the bright side, I will never have to paint the hall again and it looks quite good.
The stripes make it easy to line up pictures and furniture!

I have no idea who the old couple in the picture are. That was found in the attic of the house we bought across the alley in October 2013 which I will be telling you about shortly. The lady we bought the house from and who lived there for 89 years couldn't tell me who they were either. I suspect that they were either her grand parents or her uncle's parents. Regardless, the picture looks good on our wall.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Let's Play a Game (Part 2)

Today was trash collection day. However there is more to today's City customer service story. I went out to my truck that was parked across the street from my house to get a sheet that I had left on the back seat. I last drove the truck on Monday evening and was parked on the street instead of behind my house because I had got stuck in snow in my alley on Sunday morning as we were leaving to go to an auction. Since there are still copious amounts of snow around my house I parked on the public street figuring that in a few days I would move the truck back to it's regular spot. I found this stuck in the driver side door. It was left this morning.

My truck, which has no snow on it and has been parked in one spot for 36 hours gets a warning for "Overtime Parking" which is an offense I have never heard of before. The officer would have run my plates and known who the vehicle was registered to and could easily determine that it was parked across the street from owner's property. Someone must have complained.

Now what is so amusing about this to me is that my car has been parked in front of my house all covered in snow and has not been moved in over a week but there was no warning posted on it. So, I was out scraping the snow off the car this afternoon so that I could drive it when the garbage truck came up the alley. I stopped what I was doing. Ran to the house. Grabbed the iPad and set it on video so that I could record whether or not they would take the trash that has been sitting for four weeks now. I got so excited when the guy got off the truck and pulled my can to the lifter. Then this happened.

My guess is that the rug had froze to the bin and so they took the whole thing. Something that would not have happened if the bin was emptied during any of the three previous pick up dates. Now if I remember correctly, in order to get a new garbage can from the city, I need to report this bin stolen and file a police report. Isn't it ironic?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Let's Play a Game!

Let's see how long it takes the City of Dayton's waste collection department to empty my garbage can. Here is the scenario. Over three weeks ago, on February 4th to be exact, I put out the garbage can for the property that we bought across the alley from us. I took an area rug that was falling apart, folded it and secured it with duct tape and dragged it out to the alley and placed it on the top of the can because the can was already half full. When the garbage truck arrived in the afternoon I watched from my window as the guy emptying the bins pushed the rug onto the ground, empty the bin and left the rug laying in the alley.
I went out immediately, picked the rug up and placed it in my bin. Here is the picture that I took from my window.

Here is a picture that I took after witnessing the collection crew drive by it the following week.I added a few sheer curtains to the bin. I have several garbage bags of stuff sitting in the house that I need to put in the bin but as you can see there is no room and the City workers won't empty it.

Now, for those reading this who don't know, I was Mayor of this city for 4 years and one of my pet peeves before getting elected was the way that waste collection did a shoddy job for their customers. We made some vast improvements on many fronts in those 4 years. However, it seems that since the new administration (which is really the same four council members who were there before I was elected plus one of their old school board friends) is doing exactly what they did before 2010. That is ignoring the citizens. So this past year they gave themselves a pay raise, made a renewable part of the city income tax permanent by misleading the voters and have imposed a street light assessment on most city properties based on the previous year property value. (Yes, property values declined this year but the assessment is on the higher rate. We have to pay an assessment on a vacant lot as if the house was still on it ....) All these fees and taxes mean job security for the city employees so they are back to treating the customers who pay those taxes badly. It is nice to know that the former mayor is treated the same as every other citizen. I wouldn't want special treatment, I just want the garbage can that I pay for every three months and use about once every six weeks emptied when I place it in the alley as I am expected to do. If you don't believe they are ignoring this can then watch what they did this week on the 18th.

While the trash collectors were ignoring my garbage can, the current mayor made headlines on February 11th in her state of the City speech about a customer service initiative to improve relations with the citizens. Something we never had to do during my four years, since I was described as the most accessible mayor the City had known. Another point I need to make is that the population of the City had declined continuously for 20 years until I was elected, Then it actually started to increase. Customer service begins at home and if you can't provide good customer service then your customers will start to leave once again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sometimes it Takes a Year or Two or Seven.

See this picture? It was taken in November 2007. It shows the doorway between the hall and the dining room. To the right is a door that we bought for $5 at a yard sale. The plan has always been to put that door up.I found a picture from 2005 and that door was in it too! It has been there a while.

Now look at this picture that was taken in January 2014. You will notice that the door is still there.

Now you would think that I would be smart and put the door up to keep the heat in the main part of the house. That is not the case. I never do things for obvious reasons. I tend to do things to solve problems. We have a problem with one of our three cats. Actually two of our cats are a problem. One is getting old and craps everywhere. It is runny crap, not easy to clean up. She is good at keeping to hard wood or tile surfaces and has a spot in the hall where she regularly leaves us a gift in the morning. I also think she has Torrette's syndrome but that is another story. The other cat is the real problem. She likes to come upstairs at 4 AM and call out a lot. If the door is closed she will scratch at it until someone wakes up and opens it for her. Then she will wander around and call out .... did I say A LOT! This is repeated at 5 AM and again at 6 AM. Been going on for weeks. I finally had one of hose "Aha" moments and told the wife that if I put that door up and something to stop her from jumping through it until I get the glass replaced it would stop her from coming upstairs and guarantee us some sleep. This past weekend, guess what I did?

You can see that I reused one of my political signs from 2009 as the device to stop the cat from getting into the hall. I was so proud of myself, the next day I went and found the can of shellac and now it looks like this. Amazing what alcohol will do!

So now the cat is mad at us and hides away all day. That first night the she could no longer go upstairs and annoy us, she peed on one of the floors!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Like Things to Work!

Back around 1996 I bought this phone from Design Tuscano. I think I paid around $200 for it. I bought it for several reasons. I liked it. It went well with the decor of the house and, since I had a couple of room mates at the time, it was not a phone that you can talk on comfortably for hours. The handle is heavy and it will not sit in the crook of your neck very well. If at all. It is also a good item to throw at bad people of you can disconnect it first!

Sometime in 1997 I bought this phone at an antique mall for $60 and spent two days trying to figure out how to rewire it so that it worked. It still has the original 100 year old wiring. I got it to work perfectly after inspecting the refurbished phone's inner workings but since it is all original the sound is not great and it sounds like I am speaking down a tube to someone on the other end. Which in reality, I am. Someone once told be that I sounded like I was "far away" and since they were calling long distance it was true. I was far away!

They worked great for years. Take forever to dial a number and we hardly use them but they are very useful if the power goes out. Our cordless phones need an electrical socket in order to work. Cell phones require charging and I don't own a cell phone. In fact, I owned a cell phone once back in 1988 and it looked like this:


The little hand held ones that fit in your pocket cost around $2000 at that time. I didn't need a phone that badly.

Anyway, all was well until we switched our phone and internet over to ATT U-verse last year. The phones ring when someone calls but they could no longer dial out because the new equipment doesn't recognize Decadic dialing, otherwise known as Pulse. This bugged me. If we lose power, which we did in 2013 for three days, we have no readily available way to communicate except that I keep an old touch tone phone hooked up in the basement. This is so I don't have to run through three rooms and up the stairs to get to a ringing phone!

Well, one day I Googled "Pulse to tone converter" because there had to be a way to make these things work. I found this site which sells the little device pictured below.

These ship from Australia and cost $50 with the shipping. These are designed to plug into the phone line directly but since I have two phones, I did a little wiring magic in the basement where my phone lines converge and routed the two lines that my phones are on to this so that now they work once again and I am a happy camper!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

At it Again!

Remember this from 2009?

Well, it is happening again. If you missed your chance 5 years ago, now is the time to catch up!

Gary Leitzell
For Montgomery County Commissioner

You are respectfully invited to a Pancake Breakfast at
“This Old Crack House.”

Enjoy homemade pancakes with delectable toppings.
View before/after photos of “This Old Crack House.”
Suggested donation: $15.00 per person
All proceeds and donations will go to “Friends of Gary Leitzell.”

Please RSVP or there won’t be enough pancakes for you!
(937) 253-1359 or Gary@daytonmayor.com
twitter @GaryLeitzell
Where: 114 Volkenand Ave., Dayton, OH 45410
(Across the street from Wayne Ave. Family Video)
Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Date: Sunday September 7, 2014


Paid for by Friends of Gary Leitzell
Dan Kennedy, treasurer, 525 Heiss Ave. Dayton, OH 45403