Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grounds for Gardens

I'm writing this post because I have a caffine buzz going and Starbucks gave me a coupon for a free cup of my choice of drink for answering a survey.

I have a latte addiction. Large iced latte - light ice. I usually make them at home, but occasionally I drop by one of the local places to get my fix. This time of year, Starbucks is one of my regular stops.

This is not because they make an exceptional latte - the barista is usually chatting up their friends and more often than not screws up my order. But, they have a program called Grounds for Gardens. You can go into any Starbucks and ask one of the employees for a nice big tidy bag of used coffee grounds - the store near me puts them in a basket off to the side. For free.

I put these coffee ground at the base of my basil & tomato plants to keep off the slugs. I've learned that slugs do not like the roughness of coffee grounds on their slimy little bellies. They also count for "green" in a compost bin. Not a bad deal.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ice Delivery Door

This past weekend I wanted a smallish project that I could pretty much finish in a couple of days. So, I stripped the ice delivery door on the side of my house.

One of the POs painted the entire house with some thick paint/cement concoction. I'm not quite sure when this happened. I know the PO three owners back painted the stucco (sigh). But, it seems to me that under the thick stuff there is only one other layer of paint. This stuff has the texture of an orange peel. It is probably the precurser to liquid vinyl siding and was, no doubt, sold by a door to door salesman. Lucky me.

When I say "entire house"...I mean everything. They removed the storms, shut all the windows, taped the glass and spray (yes, spray) painted all of the stucco and all of the woodwork....even the gutter downspouts.....with this goop. Every inch.

It's kind of a good news/bad news type thing - the stuff comes off in thick, big chips. It looks like crap when it falls off, but it is pretty easy to strip. When I first moved into my house, I put primer in some of the spots where this stuff had chipped off and left bare wood just to protect it until I had a chance to repaint (the white left on the ice door is primer from when I first moved in). Now, little by little as I restore the windows, the front overhang, and the ice door......I've been removing this goop down to bare wood.

Of course, today it's raining so I can't prime and paint. Photos of the repainted door hopefully will be coming later this week.

I also am planning on putting a little (non-functioning) opening knob back on. But, I have no idea what would have been there originally. Ideas? A little, vintage glass knob?



Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oogling Bungalows

A few weeks ago, I recieved an email from Steve, one of StuccoHouse's readers. His girlfriend was visiting from Texas and he wondering if I had any suggestions on places to view bungalows in Minneapolis. (Hi, Terri & Steve!)

There is one street in Minneapolis that is my favorite for flat out oogling of bungalows (and tudors). These are not the biggest, most expensive houses in town. These are small houses that were, for the most part, originally built for people that worked in the local mills & river in the early 1920's. Many of the houses here had wood and designs supplied by local lumberyards. Rarely are two houses built alike.

For some reason, the smaller houses here have more details than any of the larger, much more expensive houses located in the tonier parts of town. They have the cool mailboxes, rafter tails, wavy glass, old style storm windows, beadboard soffits, decorative brackets, etc. The streets still have many of the old elm trees that form an archway down the avenue. And then there are the vintage style gardens......

If you are interested, here's are the directions I sent to Terri & Steve......

The route crosses neighborhood boundries, so I've linked to two maps. You will want to download Howe & Cooper.

Howe neighborhood is to the south and runs into Cooper neighborhood to the north. These neighborhoods are SE Minneapolis right by the Mississippi River. The bungalows are really nice on this route and so are the summer & fall gardens. I usually walk it - the houses are close enough to the sidewalk that you can get a really good look on foot. Directions are easy. Start at Either Dowling or 38th Street & 46thAvenue. Start walking north. Both sides of the street are FILLED with bungalows & tudors dating from the 1910 to 1930s. You will hit LakeStreet to the North.....cross Lake Str. and continue up a block or so (the houses across Lake get a bit larger). Then walk West to 45th Avenue and down 45th Ave making a loop back to your start. I'd take any house on this route (except the MN Vikings house - you'll know it when you see it). In case you get hungry......On Lake Street are the Craftsman Restaurant, DQ and Longfellow Grill. To the South is Minnehaha Falls - also Sea Salt Restaurant. (Links to the restaurants in The Neighborhood section of the sidebar)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Old Settlers

Back in 1914, the Daughters of the American Revolution realized that Minnesota history was being lost as the original pioneers began to age and pass away. So, they sat down to interview these Old Settlers about their memories of first arriving and living in Minnesota. The result was a book entitled "Old RailFence Corners - The A. B. C's. Of Minnesota History." Many of these documents were then collected by the Library of Congress and can now be found online as part of their collection.

As luck would have it, they interviewed the woman (Mrs. Pratt nee Jane Atwood) who lived in the house just south of the Wass family - the very first owners of the property where my house is located. There is a cute story in her interview that talks about the Wass girls - These are the very same girls that later became some of the first doctors in Minneapolis. I like the fact that the two little girls that lived on my property were the best dressed in the neighborhood :-)

"Mrs. James Pratt--1850.
My father moved to Minnesota Territory in '50. We lived with my uncle, Mr. Tuttle, who had a mill for some time on this side. He was living in a small house belonging to the government, but my father and he added two more rooms so we could stay with them. In the spring my father took up and built a house down by the river not far from the Minnehaha Falls. He began to work on the Godfrey mill at Minnehaha. My mother was very timid. The sight of an Indian would nearly throw her into a fit. You can imagine that she was having fits most of the time for they were always around. Timber wolves, too, were always skulking around and following the men, but I never knew them to hurt anyone. Father said it used to make even him nervous to have them keep so near him. They would be right close up to him, as close as a dog would be. He always took a lively gait and kept it all the time. One night father was a little late and mother had seen more terrifying things than usual during the day, so she was just about ready to fly. She always hated whip-poor-wills for she said they were such lonesome feeling things. This night she stood peering out, listening intently. Then she, who had tried so hard to be brave, broke into wild lamentations, saying, she knew the wolves or Indians had killed father and she would never see him again. My grandmother tried to calm her, but she would not be comforted until father came, then he had a great time getting her settled down. She said the whip-poor-wills seemed to say as she looked out in the blackness of the night, "Oh, he's killed--Oh, he's killed." What these timid town bred women, used to all the comforts of civilization, suffered as pioneers, can never be fully understood. After that, whenever father was late, little as I was, and I was only four, I knew what mother was going through and would always sit close to her and pat her.

Our home only had a shake roof and during a rain it leaked in showers. My little sister was born just at this time during an awful storm. We thought it would kill mother, but it did seem to hurt her. The Indians used to come and demand meat. All we had was bacon. We gave them all we had but when they ate it all up demanded more. We were much frightened, but they did not hurt us. Father used to tap the maple trees, but we could not get any sap for the Indians drank it all. That winter we lived a week on nothing but potatoes.

Our nearest neighbor was Mrs. Wass. She had two little girls about our ages. They had come from Ohio. We used to loved to go there to play and often did so. Once when I was four, her little girls had green and white gingham dresses. I thought them the prettiest things I had ever seen and probably they were, for we had little. When mother undressed me that night, two little green and white scraps of cloth fell out of the front of my little low necked dress. Mother asked at once if Mrs. Wass gave them to me and I had to answer, "No." "Then," she said, "in the morning you will have to take them back and tell Mrs. Wass you took them." I just hated to and cried and cried. In the morning, the first thing, she took me by the hand and led me to the edge of their plowed field and made me go on alone. When I got there, Mrs. Wass came out to meet me. I said, "I've come to bring these." She took me up in her arms and said, "You dear child, you are welcome to them." But my mother would not let me have them. I never took anything again.

We had a Newfoundland dog by the name of Sancho, a most affectionate, faithful beast. A neighbor who had a lonely cabin borrowed him to stay with his wife while he was away. Someone shot him for a black bear. No person was ever lamented more.

In '54 my father built the first furniture factory at Minnetonka Mills. Our house was near it. The trail leading from Anoka to Shakopee went right by the house and it seemed that the Indians were always on it. There were no locks on the doors and if there were, it would only have made the Indians ugly to use them. Late one afternoon, we saw a big war party of Sioux coming. They had been in a scrimmage with the Chippewas and had their wounded with them and many gory scalps, too. We ran shrieking for the house but only our timid mother and grandmother were there. The Sioux camped just above the house, and at night had their war dance. I was only seven years old at the time, but I shall never forget the awful sight of those dripping scalps and those hollering, whooping fiends, as they danced. I think they must have been surprised in camp by the Chippewas for they had wounded squaws, too, with them. One old one was shot through the mouth. The men were hideously painted. One side of one's face would be yellow and the other green. It seemed no two were exactly alike. [Editor's note: you might want to read some of the other Old Rail Fence Corners intervews for a more diverse view of Indian/Pioneer interactions.]

One Sunday morning I was barefoot, playing in the yard. There were bushes around and I heard a queer noise like peas rattling in a box. I could not see what made it, so finally ran in and told father. He came out and lifted up a wide board over two stones. He jumped back and called to me to run in the house, then grabbed an ax and cut the head off a huge rattlesnake. It had ten rattles. We never saw its mate.

The first school taught in Minneapolis proper was taught by Clara Tuttle, a niece of Calvin Tuttle, in one of the rooms of the government log cabin where we were living in '51. The pupils were her cousins. Miss Tuttle returned to the east the next summer and died of consumption. My cousin Luella Tuttle, the next year used to go over to St. Anthony to school, on the logs, jumping from one to the other, rather than wait for the ferry.

In '58 we returned to Minneapolis to live. Old Dr. Ames was our doctor. He was one of the finest men that ever lived. I had terrible nose bleeds. His treatment was to whittle pine plugs and insert them in the nostrils. It always cured. No matter how poor a patient was, Dr. Ames always did his best. No child was ever afraid of him. He was very slow in his movements."

Ok, this concludes the history lessons.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Way Back When

Those of you that were a tiny bit dismayed at the ease in which I was able to find old photos of my house with no real effort on my part may want to skip this post. It may lead to despair :-)

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through one of those neighborhood type newspapers. I live on the border of a few neighborhoods, so I get three or four of these newspapers each month. Mostly I look through them for coupons to local stores. But, on this day I ran across an article that sounded kind of interesting. It was about one of the first families to stake claim to land in South Minneapolis. In particular, the story talked about two sisters in the family that became some of the first female doctors in Minneapolis....and the country.

Something about the story rang a bell with me. The Wass Family......now where had I heard this name before?? In Minnesota, when you purchase a house they give you the complete Abstract of Title. It is a summary of the history of the ownership of your parcel of land. My Abstract is pretty thick and I've tried to read through it and make sense of it a few times. It includes things like sales, mortgages, deaths, court judgments, bankruptcy info. and foreclosures (for some reason there have been quite a few on this property).

I pulled out my Abstract and much to my amazement, John and Eliza Wass were the very first recorded owners (of course, the Sioux (Dakota) Indians where here much longer) of the land where my house sits - once part of Fort Snelling. According to my Abstract, John Wass purchased "my" property from the United States on January 19, 1856. He appears to have lost it to forclosure in 1862.

The full article, written by Eric Hart, can be found in pdf format at this neighborhood council website. I've included some of the more interesting (to me) excerpts from the article below:

"Nearly 100 years when women were only a tiny fraction of physicians, the amazing Wass sisters, Anness and Lizzie, were practicing medicine in Minneapolis. The Wass family, despite their humble beginnings in the early frontier days of the neighborhood, produced these extraordinary women who practiced much of their adult lives in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles. The sisters parents were John and Eliza Wass.

The family moved to the Minnesota Territory in 1851 from Indianapolis. Traveling with the infant Anness they probably took a train south to Madison, IN which was on the Ohio River. That was as far as they could get by train in 1851, the first rail connection to the Mississippi from the east wouldn't come until 1854. In order to get to Minnesota, they would have to take a steamboat down the Ohio River to Cairo, IL where the Ohio goes intothe Mississippii, well south of St. Louis. There they could get another steamboat north to St. Paul where they would take a bumpy stage coach ride through the wild Minnesota Territory to St. Anthony, their final destination. St. Anthony was on the east bank of the Mississippi at St. Anthony Falls, directly across from present downtown Minneapolis.

It is likely that as soon as John Wass heard that the Traverse-des-Sioux Treaty had been signed with the Dakota Indians in July of 1851, he made plans to come and claim land in this vast new tract opened up for settlement. He didn't go very far to stake his claim of 156 acres on October 1, 1852. This technically wasn't part of the land the Dakota had ceded to the United States (it was still part of the Fort Snelling ) but that didn't stop these hardy pioneers who expected the land to be quickly opened up for settlement. He was part of the group of early settlers that claimed about half the land in the neighborhood in 1852. In 1852 Minneapolis did not even exist and Hennepin County had just been formed. It was truly the wilderness with many wild animals including wolves!

When the Wass family arrived, they had neighbors just north of present-day Lake Street (tenants in the house that Dorwin Moulton built) and the Atwood's lived just to the south of their property. John Wass built a 12X14 foot log cabin in October 1852 which his wife Eliza and their nearly 2 year old daughter Anness moved into before the end of the month. Their cabin would easily fit in the living room of most houses today! Later he would build a slightly larger 12X16 frame house with three windows and two doors. It was probably in this house that Lizzie was born on August 15, 1854, one of the first white children to be born in the neighborhood.

In those early territorial days, Indians outnumbered white settlers by a large margin and often interacted (for better or worse) with white settlers as they passed through the neighborhood. Indians would have been roaming the neighborhood probably until about 1862 when the Sioux Uprising in southern Minnesota caused all of the Indians to be rounded up and put on reservations. John Wass is listed in the 1857 and 1860 Census as a farmer and in the 1860 Agricultural Census he had a modest 27 acre farm where he raised enough crops and livestock to support his family. He had an additional 155 acres that weren't improved and still in their natural state. Breaking additional acres for farming would have been quite labor intensive due to the scattered oak trees and thick underbrush (later much of the area would be used for the grazing of dairy cattle).

The Wass family moved to Hot Springs Township (St. Helena), Napa County, California in the late 1860s. They probably moved in the summer of 1869 when the first transcontinental railroad was completed from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California. If they had left any earlier, they would have taken the long and dangerous overland route by wagon train or taken a lengthy and dangerous sea voyage around the tip of South America. It is unclear why they suddenly moved to California, one possible theory is that one of the family members was ill and they were attracted by the hot springs resort that was just outside St. Helena.

While in California, the sisters must have become interested in becoming physicians and the family moved back east so they could attend medical school at the Women's Medical College of Chicago. At this time women rarely became physicians and for the most part were only admitted to medical schools set up especially for woman. Such medical schools hadn't been set up in the West and the one in Chicago was the closest to Minnesota. The sisters enrolled in the Women's Medical College of Chicago in 1878 and probably lived in Chicago the first year of their program.

The Wass sisters graduated from the Women's Medical College of Chicago in 1882 and immediately started practicing medicine in Minneapolis. They were in the first group of physicians to be licensed in the State of Minnesota in 1883 and two of only 7 licensed women physicians at that time (out of over 700 who were licensed that year). In 1890 there were only about a dozen women physicians in Minnesota, a tiny minority of the nearly 1200 physicians actively practicing that year.

The family lived at 10 different addresses during their second stay in Minneapolis (1878- 1901), mostly in south Minneapolis or near downtown and twice in the Seward neighborhood in the vicinity of 24th Street and 26th Avenue (the home at 2224 26th AVE South where they lived in from 1897-1899 is still standing today). They don't appear to have ever owned their own home and it is unclear why they moved so often. John always lists "real estate" as his occupation which could mean any number of things. One small source of income for the family would have been sales of lots from the Wass Addition, a small subdivision on John Wass' original land claim in the neighborhood that was platted by Anness and Lizzie in 1887.

In the face of strong social norms against women becoming physicians, the Wass sisters overcame those obstacles to have amazing and long careers. It has only been in the last 25 years that women have started to become physicians in large numbers and women like Lizzie and Anness blazed the way for them over 100 years ago.

Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

No glamorous or flashy photos. But, I have been plugging along on my front door overhang. It's been one of those one-thing-leads-to-another projects.

Towards the end of last week, I drove down to Seven Corners Hardware to pick up a supply of LiquidWood & WoodEpox. They carry the large sized containers, so I figured I'd go down there and save myself some postage. If you have never visited this hardware store, you have been missing out (they also have a nice email coupon program). It is huge.

When I got home, I drilled holes into the rotted bracket. The holes were intended to help the LiquidWood sink further into the rotted area. Once dry, the rot would turn into solid material by the hardened epoxy. Well, immediately after the LiquidWood was in place, the temps soared to 101 degrees and the humidity levels reached 70%. Ugg. What normally was supposed to take 4 hours, has taken more than a week to dry out.

As the LiquidWood was curing, I began to notice a bunch of black specks on my concrete step & sidewalk. It looked like dark sand. On closer inspection it was a pile of carpenter ants that had hurled themselves out of the overhang when faced with the epoxy. Not good.

Facing carpenter ants and undrying epoxy (and a wee bit of hysteria), I gave the folks at Abatron a call. They were unfazed. Totally normal given recent weather they assured me. The sales rep. suggested using a heat gun to dry out the surface of the epoxy. And, I was given the go ahead to apply a borate based carpenter ant treatment on top of the drying wood epoxy.

Last night when the sun was going down and the heat abating, I went out and resumed stripping paint off of the overhang, brackets and door surround. I used my trusty heat gun. I also spent some time drying out the epoxy with the heat gun, as suggested. It made a very cool and satisfying crackling noise.

This afternoon (shh, don't tell work) I spent a nice chunk of time chatting with the kind & knowledgable folks over at Lesco. Lesco is the local distributor of two products I am familiar with to fight carpenter ants (remember, we have log cabins in my family): Bora-Care and Timbor. The diluted chemical is applies to untreated wood and acts as both an insecticide and a wood preservative. The borate remains in the wood, well, forever. They also sold me some "nuclear" ant bait to use on the nest in my yard (which I located a while ago).

So armed with my Bora-Care mixed in a spray bottle, I once again climbed the ladder to that overhang. I spent a couple of hours out there tonight applying a nice soaking spray of the borate mix to the now bare wood. The weathered wood soaked it up.

I also tore down the aluminum trim from the left hand side of the overhang (which we knew I would do because the curiosity of it all would have killed me otherwise) . Much to my relief, the wood there was a tiny bit soft, but not rotted. I was even a bit pleased to see that the paint just peeled off this side of the overhang.

I still have quite a bit of wood to strip of paint. Then I will add one more coat of Bora-Care and probably a few more spots of LiquidWood. Hopefully, I will get to the point where I can rebuild the rotted section of the overhand brackets with WoodEpox sometime next week.

.....and then prime and paint......

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