A blog about the exciting, slow, painstakingly planned, and constantly evolving restoration of the house built by General Joseph Mee, and of a family trying to come “home”. (If you are new to the site please click "about" to get started)
The following is a letter found behind the doorframe of a closet in the house. It is presumably to Edgar Haun, one of the five children of the Haun family who lived in the house from 1913-1944.
May 30, 2021
My Dearest Edgar,
I wonder how you are today. I am about half sick and have been in bed most all day.
I got home last night and was not disappointed for I got what I was expecting – a fuss as usual.
They have been trying to find out if I was with you yesterday. The answer I gave them back was a plenty for they didn’t know any more than before.
Edgar, I will never forget you. Although we can’t be together my love for you will be the same and when you come back to me I will still be the same little girl.
I am glad we had that bad luck last night but don’t tell Bula. Was you surprised when you found out I was out there?
When are you going to be leaving for school? Hate to see you go. Would give anything to be with you before you go away but I guess it is impossible.
I can never forget last night. That was the dearest hour I have ever spent with you was with my last.
Edgar, I don’t know what I will do since I can’t be with you. Go crazy I guess. For there isn’t another boy I like even as a friend. Snyder called at noon and I didn’t go to the phone for I didn’t have any desire what ever to talk to him. It was a plenty what they said to me about it and I don’t give G.D.
Dear, Bula said something about us going somewhere Sunday and taking our supper, will it be so you can go?
When Old Tyrant gets your letter I will tell you what he has to say about it. He is trying to get my mail but don’t think he will succeed.
Edgar, everybody is doing their best to get us to quit. But don’t worry, me no one will ever get me to change my mind for I love you and can never forget you. When you went with George I was the bluest girl in the world and why did you treat me that way?
Sweetheart, I am anxiously awaiting for the time to come for you to take me away from this terrible place. My life here is one long day of _____. I had much rather be the poorest girl in the world and have you as for it to be this way.
Edgar, when you call out here have the operator to ask for me, I will call you every time I can.
I am so hot and sick I can’t write any longer. Hope to see you before you go away.
The roof saga continues.
Initially there were leaks around both chimneys.
Then after brief visit from one of Best Buy Metals’ roofers to address the problem the water mostly was coming in near the front side of the South chimney.
So they then sent out a couple more people to address that leak at the end of February.
After the second fix there were leaks near the back side of the South chimney.
So they sent someone else out seal the flashing some more.
After the third fix there was still water coming in at the South chimney. I also investigated around the North chimney to found another situation which had probably been dripping some since the beginning…
Leak March 18
More leaks March 18
This is why I try to do so many things myself – had I been in Tennessee at the time I should have stood on the roof and watched everything that was being done… I also should have crawled around in the attic a lot more after it was finished.
If you hadn’t already seen the post, last fall we got a new roof. The decision on what type of roof to get was a long time in coming, but I thought I had made the right choice. The look is perfect, the type somewhat authentic, and the longevity was the best I could hope for. We purchased it from Best Buy Metals here in Cleveland and also had them do the installation. I had heard only good things about the company and in fact Dad has used them several times for other roofs here on the farm. So far I’ve been very happy with the outcome and customer service, which is good because I have the wing of the house to re-roof, as well as the Slave’s Quarters and Smokehouse that will have to be done eventually as well.
But the worrying part came in not too long ago when we had a pretty big rain which resulted in puddles around both of the chimneys. Apparently the sealant on the flashing had not taken. I spoke with my rep at Best Buy Metals and he was happy to send someone out to take a look as soon as possible. One of the roofers came out and re-sealed around the chimneys. I thought that had solved the problem, but when the next big rain came around I had to take a bucket up to the attic. The problem wasn’t as bad this time, but there was still a problem. I know I was obsessed with getting a roof that looked right, but having one that keeps out water would be nice too! I spoke again with the rep, he sent someone else out to took a closer look and did something else, and so far we haven’t had too much rain but hopefully it did the trick.
Best Buy has been very good about addressing the problem, but with the type of stuff that’s happening it has me concerned about the installation. Originally I wasn’t too happy with the flashing around the chimney because it actually doesn’t all match, but apparently it was done that way to function better – I didn’t quite understand why it couldn’t both match and function, but by the time I saw it for myself it was already done and wasn’t noticible from groundlevel so I let it go. The chineys are not exactly in perfect condition, but the edges against the roofline are stable and solid so it shouldn’t be any different from flashing against a newer brick chimney. I had wanted to get a coppersmith to do real copper flashing but there was concern about the different types of metals reacting to each other and causing corrosion, so I didn’t want to risk it. I can however use copper for counterflashing (which the current system does not have anyway), as long as it is installed with a buffer it won’t have any problems. This would give me added water protection as well as the look that I want… eventually. But I have to make sure the Best Buy Metal’s system is actually going to be leak-proof first!
Even though we didn’t find anything of value as we had hoped, there were a few items found during the dig that are worth mentioning. There were basically three categories of crawlspace dirt that was removed: topsoil, hard-pack clay, and the “trash pit”. Both the topsoil layer and the hard-pack clay are pretty self-explanatory. The top soil layer was on the surface as well as around the foundation and footings where it had been dug out to lay the brick originally. The hard pack clay was what filled most of space under the house and had not been disturbed even when the house was being built. The trash pit is about a 5 foot diameter area under the original kitchen which contains mostly broken glass and some animal bones. Dad started pulling out pieces of bottles, jars, and kitchen ware from the pit when he first started going under the house as a boy. Unfortunately nothing whole or all that interesting has come out of there yet, but we also haven’t dug to the bottom of it. As to why it’s there, the best I can figure is either they wanted to get any broken glass out of the way and so tossed it into the crawlspace from the cellar which was easily accessible, or possibly that it was there before that wing of the house had been built. We’ve always assumed the wing of the house was built some time later after the main house was built and there had been an outdoor kitchen prior to that. So to have a trash-pit in that area which was then built over would not have been unusual. In the few pictures below there are a few glass items from the trash pit, a couple random lost objects from the topsoil, and then some very round stones found in the clay (there were actually about half a dozen of them total) which my daughter is convinced are dinosaur bones. There was also a piece of melted glass located a couple feet below the surface for which we have no explaination.
The most notable item we found was a Native American celt, which is a stone fashioned into a blade used to remove the skin of an animal. It is in very good condition and was found not too deep in the hard pack clay. Dad has found several Native American items around on the farm, but this is definitely the best quality item of anything he’s found.
After over 600 man hours worth of moving 3600 cubic feet of dirt the “Big Dig” is finally over! We were hoping to find enough buried treasure to finance the rest of the renovation, unfortunately it didn’t happen. But we now have the benefit of more accessible crawl spaces and a basement area for the new heating, cooling, and plumbing systems.
Since we had cleared out and were about to gut the one room which had housed the farm office since the 50′s, I thought I should probably make Dad an office somewhere else. We had considered the corn crib, but Mother Nature ruled that out for us with the tornado (she’s not very subtle). I also needed to have an office space ready for the wife when we came down so she could continue to financially support this renovation. The logical choice was the old slave’s quarters which, I thought, wouldn’t need much to get it safe and suitable…
SQ crawlspace 1
SQ crawlspace 2
Alot still need to be done, but it’s functional and we need to focus on where we’re actually going to live!
I knew eventually I was going to have to get a new roof and fix the box gutters, but it wasn’t a priority until the tornado came through in the spring of this year. Though it didn’t do any heavy damage, it did take off a few dozen shingles from both the first and second floor roofs, as well as rip out the rubber lining of the box gutters on the south side of the house. So needless to say, starting on the top became a priority.
I had quite a time finding someone to re-line the built-in box gutters on the upper roof. A “box gutter” is basically a built-in gutter system that’s integrated into the roof or eave structure, which is generally difficult to maintain and hard to repair. It’s basically a wood trough – in my case part of the large corbled eave - which is lined with some sort of metal or rubber. I talked with several companies and copper workers who either didn’t want to do it, or didn’t want to do it in a way that would be guaranteed to last. Fortunately the guys over at Drain-Right had a great solution, though of course it came with a high price tag. But since they guaranteed their work and the product they used for 10 years, and would be able to re-coat and re-guarantee for 10 years after that, I thought it was worth it.
I had wanted to go with a simple copper or lead lining as that would be the most authentic option. But I was talked out of this by more than one metal worker who told me that with this particular gutter, copper wouldn’t last as long as I wanted it to for various reasons. One of which was the possible corrosion due to the type of metal roofing we were going to have installed. The solution ended up being a “rubberized” aluminum gutter liner with a decorative copper drip edge. They had to use a company in Atlanta to fabricate the size of aluminum trough I would need. It was screwed into place and all of the screws and seams heavily caulked. After that, latex soaked fabric strips were adhered to the seams and edges of the aluminum to seal everything down. Following that a thick rubber coating was applied three times to all of the gutter surfaces. Now, everything is water tight and corrosion resistant. The rubber coating product that was used has a warranty of ten years. After that we can pressure wash the surface and apply another coat which would have another ten-year warranty.
NOTE: The videos below were my first experiments with my new Pivothead camera glasses ( http://pivothead.com/ ) so I apologize for the quick jerky movements… if you get motion sickness be forwarned!
Since I wasn’t around for much of the re-roofing that happened after the gutter was completed I don’t have many pictures of the transformation, but as you can see it’s much improved!
When trying to decide on what type of roof to put on, I was basically trying to find something that would look period, but have the greatest longevity. Asphalt shingles were out, and though it is possible that sheet metal could have been used when the house was built, it was unlikely due to the decking used and I didn’t think I would be happy with the final look. The other two feasible options were either a metal shingle, which is what was already on the house and possibly always was, or slate – either real or synthetic. I loved the idea of slate but both the cost, as well as the added weight of the final roof, made it prohibitive. All of the info I found on synthetic slate was disappointing when longevity was concerned. So we were down to some type of metal shingle. I looked into reproduction decorative shingles which were used in the mid 19th century, but none of them carried with them a decent warranty, which was pretty important to me. As it turns out Best Buy Metals in Cleveland is a supplier of a type of slate-look steel shingle with an enamel finish which carried a lifetime guarantee. It was more expensive than some of the other options out there but it looked great and felt pretty confident that barring another act of nature, I wouldn’t have to re-roof in my lifetime…. we’ll see!
Most of the pictures below are of the “widow’s walk” platform. Due to rot and ventilation issues I had to remove the previous platform and rebuild it. On top I put a grid system of joists to allow free flow of air from all sides with eaves and soffit vents where there had not previously been any. On top there is white EPDM rubber membrane with a copper drip edge over shingle moulding to match the drip edge of the box gutters.