Deborah Snoonian, Senior Editor of This Old House wants to know:
What’s the weirdest or most unusual thing you’ve ever found when moving into or remodeling your house?
When we moved into our house, I discovered some very old woodworking tools. An old block plane and what appears to be a few old, forged, metal (probably iron) chissels. It was cool.
My wife and I purchased a house at the coast. Upon moving in, I went into a crawl space in the basement. Apparently the previous occupants had been planning for the worst in Y2K. Over thirty plastic containers of water were stored, along with cans of tuna. The cans of tuna were rusting and expanding,
On the plus side, there were three doors in usable condition, one an exterior mahogany door. The actual owners of the house owned a contracting business and had used the crawl space for storage.
When building a deck in the backyard with my dad, we found about 10 spoons. The area had housed a sandbox decades earlier (when me and my siblings were kids). My mom never knew why her spoons had slowly vanished. We kids had been sneaking spoons out of the kitchen to dig with.
When we moved into this house we found all the tile and mortar from the unfinished floors in the house. We found 20 gallons of paint all half used, a book case headboard, and an old tv cart.
The biggest find was an photograph of someone, it turned out to be a photo of a man that was on the local board of our favorite museum. The previous owner worked there and "he" moved home with her when she lost her job and emptied her office but stayed when she moved away. My husband does work for this museum and found out that the photo was replaced by a painting in the 1990's.
The photo is in our studio now with all the other unframed photos and artwork we just can't find a place for.
The most unusual thing I've discovered was that the last owners put the wallpaper in the bathroom up with a hot glue gun! Guess what doesn't come off no matter how much vinegar and hot water you put on it!
Not surprisingly, I've come across an odd assortment of weird junk over the years, but the most interesting, to me at least, was a section of a 1942 newspaper I once pulled from a wall intersection. Not only did it effectively date the time of construction, but I was able to read about the progress of WWII as if it was going on right then in real time. It had articles like which German city had been bombed the night before, what town had just been lost or retaken by the Allies, that sort of thing. A really eery time capsule and completely unexpected.
My wife just moved into a new house (I am in overseas, so she had to to do it without me). As she was moving boxes and putting them in one of 2 sheds in the backyard one of the sheds was locked. She had hired the neibhorhood kid to help her. As they unlocked the door to the shed and open it wood rats came running at them and all around. You can image a 30 something woman and a 17 year old kid running from the backyoard to the house screamming like to little girls. Our two kids, came running out of the house to see what they where screaming at. Now of course my son want to go "rat huntin' with Daddio" when I get home. Great...
I was cleaning out the attic of a house about 90 years old I was moving into as the previous owns did not. I found a old shoe box with photos inside. I set them aside for when I had more time to look through them. There were family photos from the owner I just purchased the home from. I reconized the women in all her glory !!!!. I would think people having those pictures would be more careful of where they hide those types of pictures. Being they were mostly of the kids and family I called the women up to return all of them. Imagine the look on her face when she looked through them later;) :D :p
Where do I start? There have been a few discoveries, but then our last two houses have been more than 100 years old, and if walls could talk.
The first big find was in the attic of our home and it was during the inspection. The old water tank was left in the attic when the city water was installed and to my surprise it wasn't a tank it was just a water trough (it had no lid to keep things out). The person that the house was built for owned the local hardware store and must have had this put in during construction. When we had to remove it to add the second floor heating it wouldn't fit through the access opening to get it out. It ended up in 3 pieces which was the sad ending.
The second one in that house was the post card from the first owners daughter who had gone off to college. We found this behind a section of the base molding while we were painting and doing some renovation. The house is in Farmington Michigan about 20 miles from Ann Arbor Michigan and She had sent the card with a picture of the Main Building on The University of Michigan Ann Arbor Campus to let them know the trip was a long one but she had made the trip safely and she was enjoying herself. The card was post Marked in 1912, we believe that was about 16 years after the house was built.
In the basement there was a small handmade detailed model of the house dated 1937 (house circa 1928), complete with curtains, garage, driveway, arbor, trellis, fencing, and lead figurines. Later research uncovered a newspaper article that told of a man (the original owner's brother) who made an elaborate village for his model train set that used local buildings and farms as models--my house was one of them. I display the model proudly in the dining room. I also found the original interior and exterior light fixtures in the attic of the garage. I had them cleaned and rewired and put them back in their original spots. All of the leftover original building materials were in the garage attic as well, and they have come in handy for replacing shoe molding, beadboard, etc.