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View Diary: Bricks, or the Damnedest Clues in the Damnedest Places (152 comments)

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  •  Fascinating (16+ / 0-)

    Thanks for writing it.

    I spent some time in Louisiana more than a decade ago, and had a part-time job writing articles on bed-and-breakfast places for a little monthly publication called Country Roads.

    The stories told by the owners of these establishments, most of which were old plantation houses, were wonderful -- As were the people themselves, who often got started in the business simply because they truly loved the houses, but the only way they could afford to maintain them was to open them to the public.

    •  Owning an old house changes you. (27+ / 0-)

      You realize you don't really own it.  You take care of it for a while, and then try to make sure you pass it on to someone who will love it as you did.  It's a powerful corrective to consumerism.

      I'll bet you heard wonderful stories and bits of oral history, especially if the owners held the property for multiple generations.  And I'll bet you've heard some ghost stories, too.

      We've been fortunate.  The family that owned the house for 200 years has been generous with information, photos, and whatever details have come down to them in oral history.  We've even met and become friendly with descendants of some of the slaves, and gotten a window on that part of the history as well.  And we've managed not to open the house to the public.  Not that we're standoffish--but I'm not a great housekeeper.  

      "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

      by DrLori on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:32:27 AM PST

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      •  I recently (21+ / 0-)

        (like last weekend) repainted a hallway. The previous owners had hand painted some birds on the wall--I overpainted most of it but spent the time to carefully paint around one swallow as tribute to the previous owners of the house. They bought the house from the original people who built and lived in it for 60 years or so, I'm only the third owner. The house has always been welcoming to me, and peaceful. I think it is content I am it's current occupant.

        "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

        by zaynabou on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:59:50 AM PST

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        •  UGH! (7+ / 0-)

          ITS current occupant. Damn internet has me spelling wrong now and that's one of my pet peeves.

          "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

          by zaynabou on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:31:57 AM PST

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        •  I feel the same way here. (13+ / 0-)

          It's lovely that you kept a swallow on the wall.  You'll never be sorry, and in time I think you'll grow increasingly fond of it.

          When we uncovered some 1850's wallpaper with beautiful handpainted cameos in the block prints, I decided I wanted to preserve and frame it on the wall, along with a piece of the 1880's paper that had covered it.  At the time we had a guy skim-coating the plaster and I had to go to work, so I showed him the part of the wall I wanted him to avoid, but I didn't mark itl.  As it turned out, he thought the later wallpaper was prettier, so he removed most of the older stuff and obliterated by cameo I had painstakingly exposed.  He was so proud of himself.  When I got home, all I could do was shake my head and laugh, and then after he was all done, remove almost all the 1880's paper to find another good cameo.

          "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

          by DrLori on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 11:00:21 AM PST

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          •  My people homesteaded some land in Missouri. (11+ / 0-)

            I always remember that means they took over land that previously had a different context of ownership but I can't do a thing about that.

            Anyway, on that land was a longtime trail heading west, and there was a landmark of that trail there which was a huge old tree. One of my relatives brought it down one day, convinced they were being helpful. My grandfather always mentioned that. The loss of that historical marker, the misguided desire to "improve" a situation.

            I love the understanding running through your writing that we stand in the wake of the past and if we get really still inside we can sometimes feel the lapping of time.

            Poverty = politics.

            by Renee on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 11:31:03 AM PST

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            •  Oh, the folks who try to be helpful! (6+ / 0-)

              It reminds me of an old joke about the difference between Republicans and Democrats:  If you're stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, the Republican will run you over on his way to the golf course.  The Democrat will stop to help you, but you know that, somehow, he's going to end up setting your car on fire.

              I do hope I haven't just offended everyone.

              "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

              by DrLori on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 02:57:20 PM PST

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          •  I know people who have (6+ / 0-)

            exposed old wallpaper and framed it.  A lovely reminder of the former occupants.

            I may have to have my bedroom walls reskimmed because the last people did a textured treatment that I hate--it's not period and the result of trying to make it look like a Tuscan villa (!) or something has ended in a room painted what my friend calls "baby shit brown."

            I find that in owning a house there is ALWAYS something to do!

            "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

            by zaynabou on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 11:57:41 AM PST

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            •  If you do the skim coating be sure (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dewley notid, foresterbob

              to apply adhesive (I think it's called Weld-crete) to increase the bond.  Otherwise, because your walls are painted, adhesion might be a problem.

              "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

              by DrLori on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 02:54:57 PM PST

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              •  unfortunately (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                foresterbob

                if I have to do the skim coat I'm probably going to have to get a pro in. I can't imagine not messing that up. Pure force I can do, but my artistic/delicate talents are limited.

                "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

                by zaynabou on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 03:09:06 PM PST

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                •  Before you hire someone (0+ / 0-)

                  you should give it a try.  A good plasterer is hard to find and really expensive.  There's no shortage of instructional videos on youtube now, and skim plaster is pretty cheap.  It takes a little while to get the hang of it, but if you find an out of the way place to practice, you'll be surprised.

                  A messier alternative would be to sand down the texturing to get back to bare wall.  That requires a mask and lots of ventilation, and you also have to be sure the paint the last owner used wasn't lead-based.

                  If it doesn't mess up your woodwork profiles, I'd look first into skim-coating.  If you can frost a cake, however clumsily, you can layer plaster on a wall.

                  "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

                  by DrLori on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 05:08:36 AM PST

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      •  The first house I wrote about (13+ / 0-)

        It was a huge old place close to New Orleans. The owner explained how he got started making it into a B&B. A friend called and said he had some clients visiting who wanted to stay in a plantation house; would he consider renting rooms for a night or two. And if so, how much would he charge? He told me he happened to have in his hands the sky-high electricity and heating bills for the previous month -- he named that as the price for two rooms for a night!

        You are right about the ghost stories, and other weird bits -- like the woman who was a direct descendant of the original owners of an 18th century place. When I told a friend I was going to interview her, my friend said, "Isn't she the woman whose husband shot her last year? He was the warden of the local prison!" (Yup, but she survived. The husband was no longer warden, and now an inmate.)

        •  Wow! Now that's something. (11+ / 0-)

          I think my next installment will be about the ghostbusters who visit on occasion.

          We often have people contact us, offering to "cleanse" the house and they won't take "we don't have ghosts" for an answer.

          They're actually more fun than the ghosts have been.

          "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

          by DrLori on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 11:02:22 AM PST

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          •  LOL! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mrs M, DrLori

            (Disclaimer: I am a witch.  Take that and everything else with a bucketload of Entlord's grandpa's home-brewed sea salt).

            I've been getting to know a "ghost-hunter" here in Richmond; she has a couple of books out on the subject which just goes to show that some people will publish ANYTHING (except my very well-written novels, of course).  She uses an array of techie-toys which as far as I can tell provide flashing lights in response to random changes in ambient temperature and the noises generated by cramming twenty people into a small space and telling them to be "quiet".  I've run with her a couple of times now because I'm concerned that if she runs into something real she could get herself and anyone she has along hurt.  I do have to say that she doesn't offer to "cleanse" anyone or any place of whatever haunts she "finds", which is good because I'm pretty certain she doesn't know how.

            My own experience is that an active house-spirit is most often concerned with respect for persons and property.  There was one ghost, for instance, who would only show up to natter at us if we left the dishes lying around; while her husband, the old gardener, would stop me if I was about to accidentally dig up some of his bulbs.  My last house was absolutely APPALLED at what the previous occupants had permitted to go on inside him, and became positively protective after I had replaced a couple of broken windows and painted over the "creative" graffiti covering the downstairs walls.  So I suspect that the love and respect you have given to the builders of your plantation has performs all the "cleansing" that you will ever need.

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