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House

The last time I made an entry to the old Mr. Neighbor blog was way back in 2006. We’ve done small things here and there, but nothing worthy of photos or commemoration (adding outlets and lamps, stuff like that). My father-in-law and I built a patio a year ago, but I just didn’t feel like posting about that, or the house in general because, well, I probably saw a lightning bug buzz by and chased after it, leaving to rot.

For those who came in late, about five years ago the wife and I purchased a 110-year-old Chicago workers cottage in the northwest side neighborhood of Mayfair. Mayfair is a fairly nondescript place; we never heard of it until the real estate agent took us there. We’re north of Old Irving Park, where all the fancy-pants homes are, including the Ropp-Grabill House, an Italianate-style structure that existed before the Chicago Fire and, likely, the Civil War. I like to joke that the servants of the folks who owned all those Victorians, Georgians, and greystones probably lived in our house. Not so, but it was kept in a single family for many years before we bought it. At one point, nine people lived here, and it wasn’t until the 40s that they converted the attic into a second floor.

Truthfully, the house was never in that bad of shape, and the owners didn’t go nuts with aluminum siding or similar crimes of taste. They did, however, LOVE to paint and wallpaper—too much so. We’ve had to scrape and melt through an eighth of an inch of both to get down to the original wood in the front room and dining room. Currently we have a team stripping our woodwork and hardware and, as needed milling and replacing the original baseboards. Yes, I’d love to keep it all original, but some of the wood is damaged, and the plaster around the bottom perimeter of the walls and the ceiling in the front room is giving up the ghost. The work they’ve done so far is phenomenal; however, it’s a slow process. They promise to be finished by this Friday. I will believe it when I see it.

Anyway, three years ago, when we were rehabbing the bathroom, we discovered some rather nifty wallpaper beneath the cheap plastic tiles and the not-so-nifty 80s paper. I’m sorry to report that we couldn’t preserve a sample of the crane paper, so I’m happy I took pictures.

A few days ago we had the same experience in the kitchen. The contractor’s men already discovered that the woodwork in the kitchen is maple, which will look unbelievably gorgeous when it’s stripped and stained. Out of curiosity, Mike decided to start stripping the peculiar wallpaper currently in the kitchen (I don’t know if I like the old-fashioned coffee grinder or the fish weather vane more), discovering beneath the kitsch some of the cutest, brightest, most cheerful fruit-themed paper we could have asked for. Too bad we can’t save it. Sigh.