Saturday, November 30, 2013

Riley Lodge: Our Story - Life in the Original Crappy Little Trailer

Click to enlarge.

And we settled into ours - the in-law's trailer, which we got special permission from the City to park on the property while we renovated. (One does feel somewhat bad referring to it as the original Crappy Little Trailer. The in-laws were quite generous in lending it to us, after all.) Thus, the very first item on the agenda - more important even than a new roof - was the addition of a toilet and a sink to the third floor attic, as the water-damaged floor in the one and only bathroom had already been ripped out for replacement. It was always a good idea to make one last trip up to the attic before bedding down in the trailer for the night - for obvious reasons.

Days were spent working at our salaried jobs to help fund the restoration; evenings and weekends were spent working on the house. Showers and laundry were done as needed at the respective parental houses. Life in the little trailer was cozy for the insomniac, the spouse and our offspring at that time ... an extremely large Russian Wolfhound named Asia. And when Asia came inside the trailer at nights, everybody stayed in pretty much the same position until morning.

Probably the rainbow makes living in the trailer seem
a lot more idyllic than it was ...

After the relocation, a hole was dug for the new basement underneath the house and a heavy-duty foundation poured, with cutouts in the cement to accommodate each of the beams still running underneath the house.

Pouring the concrete ...

Perched over the foundation,
waiting for the cement to cure ...

Lowered onto the basement ...

Carefully extracting the beams ... all but one,
which still runs down the centre of the basement.

Cutouts filled in with cement ...

Our one regret during the restoration was that we were not able to afford to put the wooden cold pantry at the rear back on. Sadly, the quote to have that replicated would have eaten up far too much of our budget. It came down to a cold pantry or a new roof - the new roof won.

Having salvaged as many bricks as possible from the columns around the original veranda, these were now used to plug the hole at the rear where a chimney had been vented from the kitchen, and to brick up the back where the cold pantry had been. Ridding old bricks of their mortar so they can be reused is not as much fun as you might expect it to be.

HE looks happy because HE just had to LAY the bricks.

HE didn't have to CLEAN the bricks.

The roofer picked the hottest week of the year to install our new cedar roof.

By the third day, he had heatstroke.

He wore a pair of Hush Puppies and carried
a bundle of shingles on each shoulder up that ladder.

It was frightening.

Meanwhile, the insomniac  made a trip to the Glenbow Museum Archives to try and locate original pictures of Riley Lodge so we knew how to rebuild the veranda. As we'd never seen an enclosed veranda, we assumed, as did many others, that the cedar shakes were a later addition and originally it likely had spindles and railings like most other verandas from the same time period in the area.

After having gone through three boxes of Riley family papers and discovering absolutely nothing, we ended up using a picture taken from a 1910 book of house plans as the model.

That new roof made quite a difference ... looks better already.

New brick columns made from reclaimed brick, and restored original columns ...

The completed veranda ...

Ohhhh, look how young we were ...

And Happy, Happy, Happy.

Once the exterior work was done, we turned our attention to the interior. We redid the plumbing and heating, eliminated the old knob-and-tube wiring, insulated and finally drywalled. We wanted to do lath and plaster walls, but again, the cost was just too high.

Insulating the attic ... good times.

After the drywall, we rented a paint sprayer and added a coat of beige-tinted primer to all the walls. Having had no previous experience with industrial paint sprayers, a fair bit of the primer ended up elsewhere ...

A foreshadowing of what the insomniac's  hair might
 look like in the future (like right now), frosted with white ...

Can't blame any of that white in the spouse's beard
on paint though ...

The second the primer dried, we contacted the moving company to get our furniture out of storage; the move-in date firmly etched in our memories as it was the spouse's birthday - October 7, 1987. An ideal time of year to be moving out of a trailer and into a heated house.

The following pictures show how it looked back then, before all the picture rail, plate rail, baseboards, door and window trim that had been labelled and removed at the old site had been stripped of their many layers of paint and reinstalled. It's awfully ... beige, isn't it?

So beige ... and so uncluttered. Ugh.

Before the arrival of the blinds and lace curtains,
and elimination of the salvaged lighting ...

This was our only kitchen cabinet for
many, MANY years ...

Tomorrow ... the final post. The Before and After photos.


* In 2008, the insomniac  returned to the Archives, and after wading through six or seven more boxes of Riley family material that had been donated since 1987, found four pictures of Riley Lodge in the very last envelope in the very last box; said discovery causing her to utter a muffled whoop of exultation and do a quick fist pump of her white-gloved hand (Archives are almost as quiet as Libraries). That year, we hired Mark W. Chambers Architect Ltd. to draw up new plans for the veranda, recreating exactly how it looked in the photos, and rebuilt it. Everything is now as it should be ...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Riley Lodge: Our Story - York Shaw, House Movers Extraordinaire

On April 13th, York Shaw started excavating - digging the basement out from beneath the house, lifting it up onto jacks, and inserting the large H-beams both lengthwise and crosswise through the house that would help keep it stable during the move.

The insomniac  was never able to get any pictures of the basement - that's how lousy the camera was (couldn't possibly have had anything to do with the photographer). It never did well in low lighting, and it was always VERY dark in the basement - few of the lights down there still functioned. But one does remember the makeshift stage for bands set up in the turret corner with the words “Welcome Space Travellers” spray painted behind it, the large stone fireplace where some told us Dr. McLaughlin, the abortionist who lived there for a time, disposed of the poor little bodies, and the words Min Manor painted on every available surface. Unfortunately, the exact message of that graffiti has been lost over the years as it was never written down - under the mistaken assumption one wouldn't forget what it said. And not that it matters, as we could never figure out the reasoning behind the name anyway. Still, if anyone out there can enlighten us as to what Min Manor really meant, it would certainly help at least one of us sleep better at night.

All one remembers for certain was that the basement gave everyone who ventured down there The Creeps. The insomniac  herself would never set foot in it unless her 6'4" spouse was there, and even he and his equally large friends said the hair on the back of their necks stood up whenever they descended the stairs. The basement was divided into many small rooms and there were far too many hiding places for unknown things to lurk, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on some unsuspecting person while they fumbled around in the utter blackness, trying to locate that solitary working light switch. Thankfully, whatever it was that was down there stayed behind at the old site, and just last night when the insomniac  was in the basement packing up the Attic stock, she wasn't the least bit nervous. Right up until she started thinking  about that old basement ... not long afterwards, she decided to call it a night.

In a Min Manor they ... ?

And they ... ?

We saved those stairs for the new basement.
Never painted them; just kept them as they were.
For old time's sake ...

City Council had approved the ward alderman's recommendation that before a building relocation permit would be issued, we were required to hire a licensed, bonded and insured contractor to perform site preparation, excavation and footing work at the new location. Council had also approved the alderman's request that water, gas and electrical services to the new site be installed prior to the move, so the city would be covered for their costs in the event we decided to back out at the last minute.

Kent Construction was engaged and the necessary contracts immediately couriered to the city; the relocation permit to be released the following day so York Shaw could continue with their preparations. The next morning, the insomniac  contacted the Planning Department and was told the permit had gone missing. Late that afternoon, we were advised the ward alderman had taken the plans and the permit would not be released until he had given his comments - which we were again promised by 9:00 a.m. the next day.

By 9:00 a.m. the next morning, the permit still hadn't been released. The insomniac, the type of person who would prefer jumping off a cliff to engaging in any sort of confrontation, had finally had enough and phoned the Mayor's office to complain about the ward alderman's continued interference. We got a verbal go-ahead from the Planning Department at noon, and the permit was finally issued at 3:30 p.m.

During these weeks of preparation, many people came by to reminisce about Riley Lodge. A fellow by the name of “Dickie” said his dad had helped with the construction of the house. He remembered the 10-foot stove in the kitchen, and we were sad that particular stove hadn't been left behind instead of all the other dysfunctional ones. Another older lady said she remembered Mrs. Riley sewing in the dormer window - perhaps an explanation as to why the insomniac  was inclined to use that window for her sewing as well.

Once the house was up on the beams and jacks, the insomniac  got vertigo walking through the house, and kept her interior visits to a minimum until after the move.

Tied together with two-by-fours and steel cable ...

The Shaw brothers were quite worried about the back portion of the house where the wooden cold pantry had been removed. It was braced up as much as possible and, despite their fears, made it through the move just fine. York Shaw really were that good.

It didn't look particularly stable, did it?

Didn't lose one single brick.
Except maybe those three on the beam ...

Although the house needed moving out to the road which was slightly downhill from the site, the beams it was going to be rolled along were laid at a slight upward incline. This eliminated the possibility of the house gaining enough momentum as the truck pulled it towards the street that they might lose control of it. A very large runaway brick house. A frightening thought - even more frightening than being in the basement.

Bill Shaw doing complicated survey stuff ...

More complicated stuff ...

Getting into position to roll the house off the foundation
and onto the road ...

Pipes to keep it rolling smoothly up the incline ...

Coming over the stone wall at the south of the property ...

Oh look, we forgot one last fridge in the basement.

And a ping pong table ...

From the insomniac's  notes that week:

April 18th - Big snowfall last night. Roof leaking badly.

April 21st - Moved the house off its foundation and 30 feet to the south of the property.

April 22nd - Made the front page of the Herald today.

And that was the very last note she ever made - probably because we got pretty busy soon after.

Click to enlarge.

Sitting alone in the middle of the street that evening,
waiting for her big move the next day.

Remember, quite vividly, neither of us sleeping very well at all that night ...

Next morning, the truck is hitched to the house ...

Moving tree limbs out of the way - a bit of
unplanned-for pruning ...

The crowds gather. It was an exciting day.

Especially for those who didn't have their
entire life's savings riding on those beams ...

Unhitching the truck, then driving it around
the corner without the house attached ...

This next picture perfectly illustrates the exact moment when the insomniac  wanted to say to the Shaw brothers, “Wait. I've changed my mind. This doesn't look like a good idea at all. Could you just take it back to the old site, please?” But she didn't.

It looks as though it's going to slide off, doesn't it?

And although they never said as much, pretty sure the
Shaw brothers were a little worried at this point, too.

Reattaching the hitch to the house ...

Spraying Wetter Water under the tires to make the road greasy,
so the house would sli-i-ide around the corner ...

Safely around the first corner ... only one more to go.

The Final Destination

On Bill's handwritten notes he gave us after the move:

  • Total weight when being moved - 120 tons
  • Weight of house - 87 tons
  • Weight of steel beams and moving dollies - 33 tons
  • 2 main beams - 20" x 20" H-beams at 185# per foot
  • 12 cross beams - 12" x 12" H-beams at 65# per foot
  • Moving dollies made up of 56 wheels
  • Towing vehicle - Kenneth Crane Truck with 104 forward speeds (required for “creeper type” movement)
  • Dimensions when loaded, including truck - 40' wide x 100' long x 40' high
  • Moving Crew - 12 men
  • Electric Light Crew - 8 men
  • Telephone Crew - 6 men
  • Cable TV Crew - 4 men
  • Street Lighting Crew - 4 men

  • Planning and preparation for move - 10 days
  • Move and lowering onto foundation - 15 days
  • Total of over 25 workings day to prepare for and move the house

  • Cost of the move York Shaw - $36,000
  • Cost for line removal charges - $2,695.59

    Next - six months in the original  Crappy Little Trailer ... history certainly does repeat itself, doesn't it?


    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    Riley Lodge: Our Story - Preparing for the Move

    The day after receiving the key, we started readying the house for its relocation. Everything attached to the main house had to be torn down, including the two-storey veranda and the wooden cold pantry at the rear. Our building mover, York Shaw, also wanted the brick chimneys demolished, worried they could collapse during the move and damage the interior.

    Fire escape stairs gone ...

    Presumably a later addition for the safety of the tenants, not that
    the stairs themselves looked particularly safe ...

    When the spouse started removing cedar shakes from the veranda, it was obvious somebody was living underneath. Along with a camp cot and bedding, there were plastic boxes with dishes, a hotplate, an alarm clock and books, with carpeting on the ceiling and walls. A note was left for the occupant advising them the veranda was coming down, and shortly thereafter the items disappeared.

    Second floor veranda being dismantled ...

    Both levels removed, with the only the brick columns remaining ...

    Family and friends volunteered their efforts on weekends, the spouse doing the majority of the demolition work himself. After finishing his night shift, he would put in four or five hours at the house before eventually heading home to bed. Because the power and water had been shut off in January, it was too dark inside the house after the insomniac's  work day ended at 4:00 p.m., and she was only able to help on weekends. Her job was to carefully remove the wood trim from around the windows and doors, pull out the nails, then label it and take it offsite for storage. She hauled bricks from the dismantled chimneys down from the attic and second floors, stacking them against the exterior walls on the main floor to provide ballast during the move. The wooden columns, sandstone lintels and extra bricks not required for ballast were also taken offsite (offsite being a fancy way of saying the Sainted Parent's garage). Not to mention, her considerable cleaning skills were also put to good use ...

    Immediately after possession of the house, the vandalism started. Windows were smashed and the house broken into on a nightly basis. One morning there was evidence someone had tried to start a fire in the front hall - at that point we hired a security company to patrol four times a night. We also tried to get insurance for the house ... our regular insurance company who we'd been with for years dropped us as clients, saying it was too controversial.

    The police would often stop by while the spouse was working, especially if they happened to notice the front door open or, in one instance, the plywood in the parlour window being kicked out so the spouse could toss out a load of plaster. They kept a close watch on the house, and we were very grateful.

    Despite the best efforts of the police and the security company, vandalism remained a constant problem right up until the day of the move, and we lost much of the original glass in the windows.

    Since the plumbing, heating and electrical all needed replacing to meet code, we thought it best to remove all the lath and plaster from the interior while the house was still sitting at the old site - to avoid having a mess at the new site and annoying the neighbours even further. Seven dumpsters later, all the abandoned appliances, lath and plaster had been hauled away. The veranda was a popular spot for storing broken fridges, stoves and washing machines - approximately seventeen of them, if we remember correctly.

    Originally, we called this room The Library.

    As it never ended up housing more than a
    single bookcase, it eventually became known
    as simply The Fireplace Room.

    Second floor hallway ...

    Old wallpaper discovered underneath
    the wood trim in the front entry ...

    Looking up the main stairwell to the second floor ...

    Looking down the stairwell to the main floor ...

    Stairs to the third-floor attic,
    and wallpaper inside the youngest's bedroom closet ...

    The Attic, after dismantling the chimney ... 

    Our one and only bathroom ...

    After relocation, the tub was moved into the youngest's
    bedroom and the water damaged floor replaced.

    Chimney bricks stacked against the kitchen
    wall for ballast ...

    On March 24th, the spouse was working at the house when a Building Inspector came by and ordered him to stop all work. Having been in almost daily contact with the Land Department, it came as a complete surprise not only to us but the Land Department as well, when the inspector said the offer of the house had been frozen a week after Council had approved it and we had no right to be doing anything to it. He said he hoped we hadn't removed anything. Just one more in a series of roadblocks that were constantly thrown in our path, presumably in an attempt to discourage us from carrying on. The issue was resolved the next day and work resumed.

    During the demolition, a number of items were discovered in the walls and ceilings - a thermos cup, computer punch cards, receipts, a box of tiles, plus an Edwardian black silk blouse that was donated to the Glenbow Museum. The spouse also found a lock of hair, but he said it made him uncomfortable and he got rid of it. He and a friend who often helped with the demolition said they regularly felt a presence when working inside; always prefaced by a quick movement at the corner of the eye, followed by the smell of perfume and when they turned around, a small, dark-haired woman would be standing there. Both agreed she seemed friendly.

    Old photos and negatives, embossed wallpaper trim,
    engraved metal A.M.D. Gypsum Bandage medallion,
    Red Canal de Vieux Button, an old electrical certificate ...

    We finished our portion of the work on April 12th - the following day, York Shaw started their far more complicated preparations ...