Sarah Belhasen's handy relatives worked demolition, scraping off faded blue paint, lifting decrepit flooring, and blow-torching stubborn glue. Along the way, they found scraps of undelivered mail and a stack of chilling artifacts: Cold War–era "safety notification postcards," which people fleeing an air raid were supposed to mail to inform loved ones of their whereabouts. Those paled in comparison to the weirdest structural detail of all: secret passageways that let the postmaster scuttle unseen within the walls, spying on employees. The concrete entrances to these passageways were built into several closets, along with ladders leading to each floor. Belhasen's brother dismantled the concrete "observatories" with a jackhammer, but the ladders remained among the collectibles the building slowly offered up.
Shown: Geometric floor tiling and custom cabinets give the garden room a vintage look.