NOTE: This is my longest ever post. Make sure you have some time. And a glass of wine. And, this post will be much better on a computer rather than a smart phone.
NOTE: The images may take a while to download.
From my very first blog post:
One thought pushed me over the edge of uncertainty about buying the Cross House.
Just before I signed a contract I wondered:When was the last time I did something crazy? I had not expected the thought; it just popped into my head.
When I was younger I did a lot a crazy things (no, I will not let you read my diary). In retrospect, many of these actions almost wrecked my life, but some, some, proved deeply nourishing. And, you know, even some of the disasters make me, today, smile when I think: I did what? I admit to a certain pride at the impressive, glittering foolishness of some of my actions.
In 2014 I was fifty-seven. As I have grown ever older I have also grown ever more cautious. This dynamic is not unique to me, but…should I, could I, would I be willing to, for perhaps one last time, joyfully jump off a cliff and toward…?
The last crazy thing I did was in 1996. Had eighteen years really now since passed? The thought stunned me. Eighteen years! Was I now frozen in a kind of old-age conservatism?
At fifty-seven was there enough boldness left in me to fuel THE craziest thing I had ever done?
The question stopped me cold.
The answer catapulted me off that cliff.
I have no sense. And, obviously, I am immune to a rational sensibility.
Funny though, since jumping — arms outstretched, a radiant smile blazing across my face — I feel many years younger.
Incaution may be a magic elixir.
This is year #6 of owning the Cross House. This awareness surprises me as it seems like yesterday when I first started working on the house.
Because I have restored numerous houses over the decades, I knew not to create any sort of hard timeline. My only goal was simple: Each month the house had to get better. That’s been my only real self-imposed goal.
Still, had somebody told me in 2014 that I would end up painting the exterior by myself I would have burst out laughing at such an idiotic idea. Yet…
Had somebody told me in 2014 that by 2019 I would not have spent a night in the house I would have scoffed at such a possibility. Yet…
Had somebody told me in 2014 that by 2019 the carriage house would be essentially abandoned all that time I would have shaken my head in disbelief. Yet…
So, while I had no fixed idea of how and when things would happen, I have been nonetheless surprised by a lot of things.
What helps is when I occasionally wander about the house taking stock. Today, I thought I would invite y’all on the Taking Stock Tour!
I’m stunned at scanning through this overview of the past 5+ years.
There are times when I feel that things are not moving fast enough but looking at these many many images takes my breath away at how much has been accomplished, particularly taking in the fact that so much of the work has been done by just me, and with a highly limited amount of funds.
There have been dozens and dozens of surprises along the way, but none greater than my hand-painting the titanic-sized exterior by myself. This was sooooooooo not in the cards when I purchased the house. My plan had been to work inside, restoring one room after another, and hire a painter for the exterior.
Nonetheless, I have no regrets how things unfolded, as no painter would have done the kind of work I am doing. They would have painted rather than repaired the exterior. And applying paint is but 10% of the work required to properly restore the exterior.
The many images prove the merit of my patented Baby Step™ method of working: Just a tiny bit of work almost daily,,,and a lot somehow gets done.
The second most important thing? Audible books. The hours I spend working on the house are enormously eased by listening to books and podcasts. Without this wondrous creation I would have lost my mind by now!
The third most vital thing? Scaffolding. I rarely work with a ladder. They are exhausting (up down up down up down), offer no shelf space, and allow only a limited area to be worked on. Even more important, I am scared the whole time I am up on a ladder. This is just not a right way to work.
With scaffolding all these negatives vanish.
These past 5+ years have been extraordinary, made all the more so by having the crazy idea of blogging about the project. Sure! Why not! I had plenty of time!
But this blog has proved the #4 most vital thing. For, while I am physically alone most of the time working on the house, I feel that I am part of a great team effort. And y’all are not shy about offering advice, criticism, sources, and historical information. And compliments!
Also, how did people restore houses before the internet? Without the internet, I would never have found Stephen, who single-handedly enabled the sliding doors to work again. The internet has allowed me to buy period-correct gas/electric lighting for the house, spend hours photoshopping hundreds of rugs into the parlor, find suppliers and rare, weird things, and on and on. In the 1970s and 80s, I relied on Old House Journal for help but the magazine was nothing compared to the internet.
Another big surprise is hard to explain. From day one, I have always sensed that I will not live alone in the huge house but rather that I will be coupled. I still feel this today. So, for 5+ years now I’ve had this sense that, somehow, via the house, I would meet a fabulous and kind man, that we would fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after taking care of each other and our giant wood baby. You know, my Sense & Sensibility ending.
But…nope. Nothing like that has even kinda sorta perhaps happened.
Hope springs eternal? Or should I stop reading Jane Austin?
There has been another surprise, a huge surprise, which has proved highly positive.
11/8/16 just shattered me.
And almost daily since I am confronted with horrors which seem impossible to be actually happening. What has happened to my country? And yet, many millions support what is happening. And this is the most painful thing to me. People approve?
The Cross House though has proved an invaluable salve. Almost daily, the work I do on the house means that, in a very tiny way, something is better in the world. Almost daily, I work on something positive. Almost daily, I put my heart and soul into doing something good.
Without the Cross House, I think depression would have overwhelmed me these past few years. So, this invaluable gift the house has offered is something I could have never predicted in 2014.
Receiving TWO Heritage Trust Grants has been a godsend. The grants enabled the restoration of all 43 stained-glass windows, many of the clear-glass windows, the relining of the gutters, the shingling of all the secondary roofs, the restoration of the entire south facade (underway), and the repointing of the north chimney (later this year). I believe that, without this assistance, the enormity of the project both in its sheer size and financial burden would have crushed me by now. Indeed, even with the assistance of the two grants, the financial burden of the restoration is…daunting. Months can pass where I don’t have an extra dollar to spend on the project. When the first phase of radiator system restoration was completed, it took me ten months to pay off the invoice. And, during those ten months, essentially nothing was spent on the house. That was a hard period.
My biggest regret is the carriage house. I did work on it, then just let it go. My hope is that, after I am living in the Cross House, I can redirect my focus to the carriage house. But, if I knew then what I know now, I would have left the carriage house mostly alone in 2014, completed the unfinished projects inside, and gotten it rented. Sigh. Now, it’s too pulled apart to do anything about it quickly and affordably. Sigh. My bad.
Well, I’m quite exhausted after working on this post for days and days, so I am going to sign off now. I hope y’all enjoy the many images, and thank you for joining me on this wild & crazy adventure!