A Little More History

I recently talked to the owner of this house for the period 1987 to 1992. He works in my building. He kindly spent time going over some of the changes and renovations he and his wife made when they lived there. He also told me that although they really liked the house and the neighbourhood, they moved once they had their first child because there wasn’t going to be enough room for his growing family. That’s understandable, as that’s how I’m feeling too.
​He said they bought the house for $87,000 and then spent a fair bit of cash renovating, because it was not in good shape when they got it. They laid the drywall over the lath and plaster, put in a new furnace, central vac, and underground sprinklers,  put walnut floor in the living and dining rooms, built the pond, put in the fence, and  a new garage door.
They made the kitchen bump out from a porch that was there –  just knocked out the wall between the two spaces. It had patio sliding doors to the deck.
The Juliette balcony was present, but they replaced the door to it- using a door from the house across the street. This is the same door with the oval window that is there now.
There was no paved driveway when they lived here, so it must have been the next owner who put that in, as well as the sunshine ceiling in the kitchen. He noted he knows he wouldn’t have put in a sunshine ceiling because he hates those.
​And quite delightfully, it was his wife who chose the exterior paint colours that are still in use today and which draw so much attention to this house. Very nice colour scheme, albeit one I would not have chosen.
​I had many more questions I would have liked to have asked and I did ask for photos if he had any, but he’s moved on from this house and doesn’t have the same interest in it that I do. But, a nice bit of history he provided.

A Little History

I’m not a historian by any means, but the research I did do provided me with some insight into the history of this house. ​

In 1911 there were no houses on this block. In 1912 my house appeared as the first house on my side of the street, built by a Scottish immigrant named Robert Rigg (born 1882), who was a carpenter. The value of the house was stated as $3,500.  A house across the street was also built in 1912, and the following year two houses appeared a few lots down, to the east. ​

The 1916 census shows that Mr. Rigg was 34 years old at the time and had arrived from Scotland with his wife Agnes and son Robert in 1911. Robert must have been born just before their travel to Canada. The Riggs resided in the house until 1922.

Between 1922 and 2006, when I bought this house, there were 19 other residents and there appear to be  short periods when the house was vacant. The longest resident stayed 12 years (Edward Ferguson, a CN Clerk, who lived here between 1941 and 1953). I’m next in line at 10 years (as of the fall of 2016).

Some other interesting residents were James Bailey, a Land Titles Clerk (1925-1927); Herbert Godby, a grocer on Broadway (1928),  James Dier (1929-1936), a carpenter and the owner who installed lead pipes for access to city water in 1929; Walter Sacha (1962-1969), owner of Hub City Bindery, who added the attached garage in 1965; and Robert Pywell (1994-1998), who had an engineered structural wall built to support the east basement wall that was buckling. ​

Sometime prior to 1965 stucco was applied over top of the original bevel Douglas fir wood siding. An article relating to this practice from New Westminster, BC, suggests that this was a trend between 1940 and 1950, a post-war effort to encourage spending.

My interest in the history of this house is piqued and I only wish I could speak to the prior residents. I’d love to know what the house was like when they lived here, what changes they made and why, and why they left. Photographs would be awesome!
​I’m sure there’s more information out there about this house, but that will have to wait for when I have time.

The House – A Modest 1912 Foursquare

1912 Foursquare – Exterior Front

It was built in 1912 by a carpenter named Robert Rigg, a recent Scottish immigrant. It’s a modest American Foursquare on a beautiful 25′ x 50′ lot, near a trendy shopping and restaurant district, and close to downtown. It’s got 595 square feet on the main and 535 square feet upstairs. The basement is unfinished concrete block with a 6 foot ceiling and buckling walls.​

As with Foursquares, it’s got four rooms on each floor. Sometime in the past 100 years a previous owner added a kitchen ‘bump-out’ (adding 60 square feet) but otherwise it conforms to the Foursquare plan.*
​I call it modest because of the square footage and the fact that there are few decorative embellishments to be had.

I can’t say whether there were ever any decorative features, but right now there’s little to be seen. The stair bannister and newel post are basic, there’s no fancy mouldings, the dining room is small, and the entry way is small and dark. It was a tradesman’s house.

Clearly there have been renovations over the last 105 years, but I’d suggest that none of them were made with an eye to maintaining or restoring any character the house may have had: The interior window and door cornices were removed; the wood windows were replaced with crappy vinyl; drywall was laid overtop the lath and plaster; replacement MDF baseboards in the living room and dining room;  stucco overtop the original wood siding; and who knows what’s underneath the kitchen and hallway vinyl flooring, the carpet on the stairs, the laminate upstairs, and the walnut living room floor that was added in the 1980’s. A real hodgepodge of flooring.​

The only eye catching features of this house are on the outside – the Juliette balcony, the colour scheme, and the large and beautiful yard. It’s a compelling look, for sure. Pedestrians slow to look.
​But, it’s run down, there’s no bathroom on the main floor, and the entrance is too difficult for my mother to navigate because of an impractical negative incline in the driveway. It makes the approach into the house precarious and the first step into the house a giant one.

My plan is to replace the garage with a two story addition that will raise the elevation/grade so that front step is of normal height, and that will also provide an additional family area, a powder room, and a mudroom/storage area for coats and shoes on the main floor; and on the second floor add a large master bedroom with bathroom and walk-in closet. I’m not a fan of large bedrooms, but storage and bathrooms are in short supply, so I’m happy to have those.

I have access to original Douglas fir trim, windows, and doors from another ~1910 house (Grandma’s house), so plan to use those in the addition. I also plan to remove the stucco and restore the siding (and will cross my fingers for some standout siding features).

Once those jobs are done, I plan to focus on restoring the original parts of the house – find out what’s under the hodgepodge flooring and remove the drywall and hope for decent plaster or at least shim the trim so it’s profile is sitting where it’s supposed to and is not buried by drywall; strip multiple layers of paint from the trim; take down the kitchen bump-out and reconfigure the kitchen from a galley style to an L with centre block; and possibly add a sunporch to the back of the house. Winning the lottery might help in all that.

​* Update: After speaking to a previous owner, I learned that the kitchen addition was at one time a porch, likely on the house from the beginning. I’ve confirmed this somewhat by checking the stucco and can see that the porch at least pre-dates the original stucco application, which I believe was done in the 1940’s.