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.

What do you think?