1846 Homestead Renovation,  Uncategorized

South Pen: Original Floor Renovation Mystery

When Details Tell Tales…

The flooring situation in the south pen continues to be a mystery to me and one that I would love to solve because it would tell me so much about how the house was used.  The original floor had been covered with an oak floor during some past renovation.  They type of flooring helps to determine the purpose of the room and so this was a big mystery for me.

When you begin any renovation project, there are going to be things that make you wonder.  Little mysteries that previous owners took with them.  In our home, built in 1846, we were surrounded by questions about the previous residents.  What were their lives like?  How did they survive?  Did they have regrets?  The house itself was nothing but mystery.  From unlikely construction methods to repairs, we scratched our heads.

The south pen presented the mystery of the oak flooring.  The original plank floor was a renovation mystery as it had been covered with tongue and groove oak.  I spent countless hours trying to determine when the renovation had been done and daydreaming about why this room was upgraded and what its function had been.

South Pen Flooring

The south pen was in a lot better shape than the north pen.  It wasn’t as nasty as the north pen and it just felt like it had been taken better care of.  The sheet rock and wall paper were removed to reveal a beautiful green paint on the walls.

There were two hardwood floors installed in this room.  The original floor had been covered with a tongue and groove oak flooring.  The flooring had termite damage and some wood rot.  Just my luck…two floors to remove in order to assess the floor joists and to complete the leveling process.

We followed the same procedures in here that we had in the smaller pen.  The floor was removed.  The floor joists were in great condition and so we left them in place.  We removed nails from the joists so that the new subfloor could be installed.

Jacob helped to install the plywood underneath the joists.  The insulation was rolled into the spaces between the joists and, finally, the AdvanTech sub-floor decking was installed.

There was floor support missing in front of the fireplace where the hearth would have been.  We plan to replace the hearth and fireplaces at a later date.  In order to get the house all buttoned up, we opted to do some simple framing and install flooring over where the hearth had been.

Time to Ponder

This room was the only room in the house that had two layers of flooring.  I wondered when the renovation had taken place and why this room was selected.  Also, during the renovation process, I discovered something amazing.  When I am doing a mundane task, my brain is all over the place.  I am thinking about the next project, thinking about what to cook for dinner, wondering if an idea I have for another room is going to work.  Not Jerry.  When he is working on something, his entire brain is engaged there.  I was astounded.

This difference meant that while I was generating ideas, his brain was totally engaged in what he was doing.  When I wanted to talk, share an idea or comment, he wasn’t very receptive.  If was as if I had pulled him away from thinking the deepest thoughts possible.  We have been together for 37 years and I never knew this about him.  The house wasn’t my only source of things to ponder.

So, while I was pulling nails and uncovering the original plank floor in here, I was pondering and picturing this room in the 1800’s and wondering what decisions had been made.  I was very much entertained by the Mystery of the Oak Flooring.

The Mystery of the Oak Flooring

The oak floor covering the original floor presented me with a bit of a renovation mystery.  I knew it wasn’t the original floor, but at some point, someone had decided that this room needed to be upgraded.  I still don’t know if this was a formal parlor where guest were entertained.  A stove had been installed in the middle of the floor in front of the fireplace in the north pen.  But the south pen had gotten beautiful flooring.  Hmmmm.

A quick Google search revealed that tongue and groove flooring had been invented in New York in 1885.  This article on the history of hardwood flooring states that originally, wide planks of flooring were used in informal areas like bedrooms.  Narrower pieces of flooring were used in the more formal areas.  That bit of information muddied the water for me a bit.  The open breeze way and the two small pens had the narrow board floors.  Two large pens had the wide plank floors.  The south pen later had a narrow board T&G oak floor installed over the original flooring.

My understanding is that the house was built in 1846 and welcomed stagecoach passengers in the 1860s.  This, of course, may be incorrect.  Stagecoaches may have been stopping here all along.  However, it doesn’t make sense that the open air breezeway and the two smallest pens were the “formal areas” of the house deserving of the more elegant, narrow flooring.

The answer is shrouded in the mists of history.  It could be that the narrow flooring was less expensive than the other boards.  Maybe that flooring wasn’t original.  It was neatly tucked under the baseboards and it was nailed down with square nails.  I still think it was original.

Speaking of Square Nails…

The T&G oak flooring was invented in 1885 in New York.  That is a heck of a long way from Texas (especially in the 1800’s).  We knew that it couldn’t have been installed prior to its invention in 1885, but were there any other clues as to when this upgrade was made?  Yes, actually there were.  The floor was installed using cut AND wire nails.  This narrowed the time frame down quite a bit for us.

Square nails were used exclusively until about 1880 when the wire nail was invented.  Our floor installer had some of the new wire nails, but was still using the cut nails.  It could be that he had the cut nails and was trying to use them up.  He may have used them for floor installation because they had better holding power than the wire nails.  No matter the reason, the floor had to have been installed after 1885 and I am guessing very soon after that date because by 1880, wire nails were 90% of the nail market.  All of this information shed some light on the original floor renovation mystery.

But I may always be wondering why and when exactly…

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