I'm only half-breaking my promise not to update until the wall was completed. It's been cold and rainy here, so building the wall has been a no-go. However, I did get a visit on Monday afternoon just as I started working outside from a previous owner! I could tell he is the sort of person who loves to talk and tell stories, so I picked his brain about the house. Some things I found out:
1. The bricks we've been digging in the yard weren't there originally.
His brother (who is now 66) installed them, so they've probably only been there for 30 years. Yeah, *only* 30 years. The family owned a construction business (the largest in town at the time), and whenever they had to dig up roads or alleyways, he'd gather the bricks and use them in the yard. That explains why there are so many different stamps on the bricks.
The bricks that I found more recently, buried next to the sidewalk, simply lined a flowerbed. The flowerbed contained 4 rosebushes, 2 of which still exist.
His green-thumbed grandmother planted them, and they're over 100 years old.
3. I speculated that the side porch was not original, due to the different mortar thickness and color and the fact that it's not integrated into the pilaster very well.
I was partially right. He told me that a drunk driver ran into it, but that it was rebuilt the way it was. So, the work is new (relatively), but the design and materials are original. He also said that the original owners had run short on money when building the house next door, so their porches were done in wood instead of brick.
4. A mysterious pole in the side yard, that our neighbor warned us could be a vent (for what I don't know) and we therefore shouldn't remove it, is just part of an old clothes line. It's probably not even anchored in cement, so it should come out pretty easily.
5. According to him, the state gave them virtually no time to clean out the house before a forced sell date. I can only assume there were back taxes owed on the property. He said they threw out all sorts of historically significant items, including original blueprints to local landmarks (remember, his family owned a construction company) including the stadium (the original home of what is now the Detroit Lions). Being a lover of historic architecture, knowing these were thrown away breaks my heart.
And the absolute BEST part is that he's going to give us some old photos of the house and surrounding area! I may be a total architecture nerd for loving such things, but I won't apologize for it.