Renovation Update and Domestic Archaeology

So the renovation is going very well. The work crew is replacing boards and patching holes, getting everything ready for power washing and painting. We’ve also chosen paint colors, which is often fraught. So many opinions! Thanks to hard work and good planning, we’re still on schedule, and business at the B&B is proceeding as usual, which makes everyone happy.

Here are a couple of things I’ve gleaned from seeing the house stripped of it’s newest layer.

2014-08-17 13.15.00-1

First, the fact that the porch has clapboard siding tells me that it was replaced before the house was resided with the newer version. I had always had it in my head that they were part of the same process, but that’s obviously not the case.


Second, it was something of a shoddy job. Which, granted, we already knew, given that everything is off-center on that porch:  the porch to the house, the porch’s peak to the base, the stairs, etc. Not to mention that the porch’s shape is absolutely wrong for the house. But the metal corner caps in the picture, used when someone doesn’t take the time to miter the corners properly, confirms it.

This also offers more evidence for our theories about the porch. Porches take a fair amount of maintenance given their construction and exposure; we’ve had to make extensive repairs on ours over the years. We figure that the original porch disintegrated to the point that it had to be removed during the boarding house years, and lack of funds was why they built what they did.


On the other hand, there were some choices that added a degree of hominess to the porch. The ceiling has always been stained beadboard; in recent years a nice contrast to all the ugly siding. The porch’s builders’ use of beadboard extended to the interior walls of the porch. A nice detail, and a nice contrast to the clapboard, making it seem more like an interior. All that was covered by ugly siding eventually.


And finally, ghosts from the past. There were at least four mailboxes hanging on the house in it’s heyday as a boarding house. I’m not sure how many are covered by the plywood barrier (that’s what you see on the right in the picture), but that would give us an idea of the size of the operation and the number of people living in the house at the time the newer siding went up. Knowing that and the layout of the house, we can make educated attempts at answers to other questions. What was considered a decent size living space in a boarding house? How was the house divided up? Where did people live?

Very exciting!

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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Exterior Renovation Proceeds on Schedule

First, let me reassure the worried that the B&B is open for business as usual, and that our renovations only affect the outside of the building. Nothing is being done inside; all the work’s already been done there, as you can see from the photos at our website.

488 from the outside, C. 2003So, this is what we started with. Unattractive broad siding that was put on sometime between the 1930s and 1971, and covered up most of the detail of the house. There’s also a porch that was replaced, badly, sometime in the same time period. Essentially a box with a few Victorian-ish features. Unremarkable and kind of odd looking.

488 Holly during exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014Here’s where we are after all the ugly siding has been removed. The original clapboards are in surprisingly good shape, considering their age.

However, there’s still some work to do before painting can commence.

Detail of 488 Holly exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014There are missing boards to be replaced.

Detail of 488 Holly exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014There are holes to be patched, both from blowing in insulation (the round holes) and wear and tear.

488 Holly exterior renovation, Aug 18, 2014We also need to recreate some of the molding that was removed in favor of the ugly siding. It stuck out too far for the siding to go over it, and was inconveniently placed for it to go around. The dark stripes at the top of the pilaster at the corner of the house show where molding is missing, for instance.

Once everything is ship-shape and tight, we power wash and then on to the painting. It’s very exciting!

We’ve already made enormous progress towards our endpoint. You can really start to see it.

488 Holly in c.1930s

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 4:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Open During Remodeling

Cathedral Hill B&B is proud to announce that we’re bringing the outside of our historic house back to its 1896 glory, complete with new porch and new paint. We’re very excited to have the outside of our B&B match its jewel box interior. The transformation should be completed before fall. 

Holly Ave, north side, c. 1900, tinted. From MN Historical Society Postman and children on Holly Ave, c.1890. From the MN Historical Society.

These are pictures of the north side of Holly Avenue around 1900. Our house is hidden in the trees on the left. As you can see, this has always been a well-to-do and quiet residential neighborhood.

The house was originally built by a banker and occupied by him and his family until sometime in the 1930’s. We speculate that the Depression ended the house’s tenure as a single-family dwelling.

488 Holly in c.1930s This picture of the house was taken in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s when it was a combination boarding (with meals)/rooming (without meals) house, as were many of the large Victorian houses in the neighborhood. We think this phase lasted from 1936-1971, through two owners, and was when the house was re-sided in a more modern fashion, and the original porch was replaced with a much smaller model. Both decisions were probably influenced by financial considerations.

The house changed hands again 1971, purchased this time by a commune, which called the building the Holly House. They did construction, worked at co-ops in the area, and did community work.

We bought the house in 1978 for our large family, and returned it to its origins as a single-family dwelling. It saw 7 children grow and leave, and the building of a number of thriving businesses. In 2003 it was reimagined into Cathedral Hill Bed & Breakfast.

488 Holly from the outside, C. 2003

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 6:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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