Monday, March 7, 2011

Hidden Treasures

If you've ever taken walls down or removed trim in an old house, you've probably found hidden treasures.  There's always the hope of finding enough cash to pay for the house rehab, but usually you're more likely to find the items of everyday life.  Ticket stubs, photographs, buttons, and loose change slide get lost under the base molding.  Mice move newspapers, clothing, and other nesting materials into walls.  And sometimes items are dropped or placed in the walls during construction.  All of these treasures tell a story of the history of the house, its occupants, and the local area.

We live across the street from an old movie theater and found movie ticket stubs, an ad for an upcoming movie, an old movie reel, and even a single frame of an as-yet unidentified movie.  We found lots of loose change, dating back to the early 1900s when the house was built, though unfortunately no coins worth much more than their face value.  We have lots of loose buttons, a hair pin, and razor blades. 

We had a few small mouse nests with old newspapers and a sock or two incorporated in them.  Of course, one of the most famous mouse nests was found at Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest where the nest provided an archaeological look at life in the 19th century.   Travis McDonald provides an interesting look at the Poplar Forest nest in "Rat Housing in Middle Virginia: The Diffusion of Every Day Life" in Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture.  Our nest wasn't nearly that elaborate (thank goodness!) or exciting, but still provided a look at the early 20th century.

One of the more interesting items we found was a small glass from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with the house's first owner's name painted on it.  The glass was placed on top of the header of the door between the master bedroom and sitting room.  It was obviously placed to be found by someone removing trim to renovate the house in the future.  

What are we doing with these found objects?  We've created a display case in one of the walls where we'll put many of the treasures behind glass.  The back of the case is the back side of one of the plastered walls with the oak 2"x4" framing in the center so the construction of the house is visible as well.  We're creating our own museum to display our hidden treasures. 

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