Fixin Up The Old House

House in the 19th centuryBack in 1873 before Takoma Park, Maryland was Takoma Park my house was built along with about 10 others that year in what is now Takoma Park. My parents bought the house January 2, 1969.  I inherited it in June 2015.  Now I am looking to restore as well as expanded out the back.  There is a lot history in this housed and I want to preserve and restore what is possible while doing some modernization. If you are interested in renovating old houses I invite you to follow my adventures in renovating my old house.



Part of Carroll Farm

In 1873 there were 11 houses built in Carroll Farm. Three where built in what would become part of Takoma Park in 1886 (also know as New Takoma Park) when Benjamin Franklin Gilbert made his second purchase in the area which was part of Carroll Farm from Major General Samuel S. Carroll.  The other eight houses were in a section that would become part of Takoma Park later on. Gilbert went on to make several more purchases and subdivided them in 1988, 1889 and 1890.  There were stories when I was growing up that our house was servants housing for the main farm house. I am not sure if this is factual or speculation.  Carroll’s manor house was about 1000 feet a way.  You would think General Carroll would want to keep his servants a bit closer.  Since there were 11 house built in one year it seems possible that Carroll was ether building several guest houses or was trying to develop a subdivision.  Currently the oldest Plats available online start in 1883 so until I can access older  Montgomery County plat records I can’t find out more.  You will also notice on the plat, on the other side of Carroll Avenue an area owned by H.P.R. Holt who seem to be someone  of some importance but not enough for me to find much other than he was a pay master for the Navy. Due to lack of information I can not be sure the 0ther eight houses built in 1873 where not on his land since they were on that side of Carroll and west of his house by several blocks.  (If you have any information on this leave me a comment below)  Another interesting note is Gen. Carroll got divorced in 1886 so that may well have been the reason he sold the land to Gilbert.

Changes Over the Years

The follow floor layouts show how the house has changed over the years:

Work We have done

Things done before Parent Bought it.

  • In 1919 The basement was dug out which is the back half of the house and 5 by 10 area forward along the right side for stairs.  There was a close under stairs to the second floor and it’s floor was cut out and the basement stairs were add.  Previously there was  root cellar under the kitchen and there was a trapdoor in the kitchen to get to it.  It is presumed that the first  furnace was coal burning and was add when the basement was dug out.  The second furnace which is National Heat Extractor was probably install around 1945 and is oiling burning though it can burn coal.  Based on the first picture we have of the house it is presume that there was a central fireplace/stove that was probably removed when the basement dug out since it seem to have been located just back from the center of the house and if it had a foundation it got removed during the dig out.  It is also presumed that the upstairs bathroom was added in the 1919 remodel. Previously there was outhouse/bathroom on the back porch.  We are unsure what was originally there but there is a sew pipe from there running forward.
  • In late 1962 the house was bought and only owned for 6 month.  It is presumed that the owner was a renovator and added a new fireplace on the left side of the house.

Things My Dad did

  • He remodeled the entry way and living room by remove a hall way from the Dining room that went along side the living room.  This left two doors from the expanded living room to the dining room so he closed one of them off. He paneled the walls the living room and up the stairs. He did a lay in ceiling of 2ft square tiles in the living room.
  • He tiled the floor in the dining room and kitchen. He did a lay in ceiling in the dining room.
  • He was an electrician and replaced and added to the electrical system.

Things my Mom did after my Dad died.

  • My maternal  Grandfather installed pull down attic ladder (see Attic Ladder  ).  He also replaced the decking on the first floor front porch.
  • My Mom had the electrical fuse panel replaced with a circuit breaker panel in the early 1980s.
  • Around about 1998 Christmas Eve a big tree fell down and squashed my workshop and we rebuilt it with help from my Brother-in-Law.  Me and my Mom rebuilt a concrete block retaining wall next to the shed.
  • She had my brother-in-law renovate part of the back porch and pantry into a bathroom/laundry room in 2013.

Things I did.

  • When I was 18 I built a patio and shed system with a 8 cubic yard concrete port with help from several friends and my uncle (actual my dads cousin).  I then built a 8 x 16 metal shed that my Dad had bought before he died but never built.  I fixed up an existing 10 x 16 shed into a workshop but then start college and didn’t do much with it for years so my Mom took it over.
  • Around 1990 we replaced the decking my the lower and upper front porch.
  • There is a concrete ramp coming down from the patio to the workshop landing that as my Mom got older had trouble with so she wanted some stairs so I built another retaining wall on the other side of the ramp with enough space for the stairs, setup the forms and did a 38 bag pore with a cement mixer my Mom had bought when we rebuilt the retaining wall.

Plan for the Future

My overall plan is:

  1. Replace the foundation which includes digging out the basement.  Currently about half the area under the house is craw space and half is a basement.   The walls in the basement are a mix of brick in some areas and cement in others and on spot that seems to be stone. I believe that there was a root cellar under the kitchen and was dug out in 1919 to have a basement to put a furnace.  I want to dig it all out and do a nine foot basement.  As part of this I will need to replace the center beam which has deteriorated.
  2. There is an enclosed back porch that wraps about 5 feet around the left side and is about 6 feet back by 16 feet across.  I want to replace all that with a 15 feet back by 17 feet across and wrap it 10 to 15 feet up the left side.  I also want to make it 2 stores so I can expand one of the bedrooms upstairs and add another bathroom.  The back porch also currently has a mix of craw space and 5 foot deep basement area.  The expansion will have at least a 7 foot  deep basement.
  3. Restore the front porch with all the fancy wood work.  I am thinking of using tong and grove composite planks for the decking. We have replace the wood decking twice since my parents bought the place.
  4. Replace the windows and siding.  The siding is 40 year old aluminum covering what might be the original wood siding. I am still researching options.  I think most of the windows are original but there has actually been I believe 5 windows added at some point.  I plan to replace the windows but use windows that are recommend by the historical society.
  5. There is a number of things that need work on the inside such as major repair or replace the floor on the second floor front and renovating the upstairs bathroom.  Also the insulation needs adding and/or upgrading.

Quirky Things about my House

Here are some quirky things about my house:

  • There is a trap door in the kitchen floor.  This is probably to allow access to the root cellar before the back half was dug out for a basement.
  • The foundation along the front is brick and the brick work is curved as if it was a partial arch.
  • There use to be a chimney in the middle of the house (see picture above) but the only evidence left is a patch in the roof viewiable when you are in the attic.
  • One of the front porch columns had a large chunk of sandstone for the footer.  We replace it with a regular footer around 1990 because it was settling crooked.
  • Back around 1945 the then owner apparently felt the need for some insulation so they used newspapers.



Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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