February 26, 2015

The House in Pictures: 1890 - 2014

It occurred to me recently that I had never posted in one place all of the old pictures of the Enos Kellogg House that have come to us in various ways over the past fourteen years.  So, I sat down and tried to establish a chronology of the images in our collection.  While I knew the dates of the most recent photos, dating the earlier pictures required some detective work (and a lot of "circas").  

Trees proved to be the key to establishing the chronology of the early photos (and I'm talking about something much more rudimentary than dendrochronology here).  Clearly, as is the case with any real movie star, our house has a "good side", as almost all of the pictures that we have found were taken with the southeast corner of the house in the foreground.  This meant that I could watch the comings and goings of specific trees, as well as their growth progress, from a consistent angle.  An insanely huge elm tree in the oldest images was particularly helpful.

When viewed in chronological order, it is fascinating to watch the ebb and flow of the house's condition, as it goes from well-maintained, to a bit rundown, and back to well-maintained again following the renovations that occurred periodically.

Underneath each picture, I have noted where we got the image, as well as who lived in the house at the time pictured.

c.1890s
This image has descended in the Kellogg/Comstock family, and was very kindly shared with me by Enos Kellogg's great, great, great, great, great granddaughter (thanks, Deby!).

Living in the house at the time (and almost certainly the people pictured in the photo) were George E. "Edwin" Comstock and his wife Emma R. Comstock.  A super-close zoom will show a child in the half-open dutch door - presumably their adopted daughter Nettie.

Note the small vine growing on the post of the addition on the right side of the house.



c.1900-1910
Another picture from Enos Kellogg's great-times-5 granddaughter.  Clearly later than the photo above (that little vine from the first image has taken over the house!), but that massive tree is still in the right side of the frame.  It looks like they also replaced what I assume were the original 9-over-6 windows at some point between the previous picture and this one.  Bummer.

The residents are still Edwin, Emma and Nettie Comstock, plus Emma's father, Harvey Lyon, who was a partner in the nursery operated on the property.


c.1912
Click to Enlarge
I know this photo to be from 1912, as it is the front side of a postcard advertising a "Dahlia Fete" benefit held at the farm that year to raise money for the construction of Norwalk's Home for the Aged.  Emma Comstock was the Chairwoman of the group that raised funds for the home.  The September 17, 1912 issue of the Norwalk Hour recounts that "The Hour received a photographic card with a fine picture of the Comstock farm on one side and on the reverse the following original and catchy verses."  We were lucky to have found a copy of the same photographic card in a 1960 Yale University architectural history study of our house that was given to us by the previous owners.  The catch verses are shown at the right.

The residents of the house are unchanged from the previous image.



c.1935
This image was found online as part of the records of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program to create a "Census of Old Buildings in Connecticut", which I previously posted about here.  The WPA survey of our house appears to be from 1935.

Note that the (not original) front porch has been removed by this point.  

In 1935, at the time of the survey, the house was owned by John J. and Agnes Cavanagh.  The Cavanaghs, however, lived in a mansion elsewhere in Norwalk, which was a more befitting residence for the founder of the world's largest hat manufacturer, the Hat Corporation of America.  Town directories for Norwalk describe our house as the "Private Estate" of John Cavanagh, and show the resident of the house at this time to be Pliny Rogers, "Farm Superintendent for John J. Cavanagh".  Presumably our property was Mr. Cavanagh's gentleman's farm out in the relative "country" of West Norwalk.



1948
This image was also found in the 1960 Yale study of our house, and is dated 1948 in the lower left-hand corner.  The photograph was almost certainly provided by Mr. and Mrs. Robert R. Newell (whom I wrote about here).  The Newells purchased the Enos Kellogg House in 1947, and remained there until 1973.

Note that the house now sports an elaborate (and badly anachronistic) front porch, which was likely added by Dr. Albert Mittendorf and his wife Mildred, who owned the house from 1939 through 1947.  The house seems to have had a relatively recent overhaul.



c.1950s
This illustration of the house is a watercolor painted by Robert R. Newell. It comes from what appears to be an unpublished children's book "The Old House" (see it here).  A copy (but sadly not the original) of this little book conveyed to us when we bought the house.

The second porch is gone by this time, but we now have shutters that don't quite work with the window positioning.



1960
Another photo from the Yale study, although this one is contemporary with the study itself - 1960.  A tidy and well-loved house, still under the care of the Newell family.



2000
This photo is from the real estate listing for the property when we purchased it from William and Jane Ziegler in 2001.  A little overgrown once again, and a bit more run-down than the low-res picture might indicate.  Good thing we were too naive to know any better!



2014
And here we are now (more or less).  This is after 13 years of restoration, including removing encroaching plants, lowering the grade around the house, re-roofing, replacing windows, re-siding, re-painting, re-pointing the foundation, and restoring the c.1784 barn in background.  And that's just the work visible from the outside.


There are, of course, a few holes in our photographic chronology.  Obviously, there are not photos to be found from before the mid-19th century, although I hold out hope of a painting or drawing surfacing at some point (It could happen - an 1860s folk painting of my parents' 1830s mill and miller's house in Maryland turned up a few years ago on the Antiques Roadshow).

In terms of more recent decades, we have no images from the 1920s,'70s, '80s and '90s.  So, if any Cavanaghs, Newells, Miles, or Zieglers out there stumble on this page, please drop me a line.  I need to complete my collection.

August 26, 2014

Old House Television - Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall

My new favorite TV show comes courtesy of one my favorite 70s/80's music acts  -  Daryl Hall (aka the guy from Hall & Oates without the bitchin' mustache). 


Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall (on the DIY network) follows Daryl as he restores a 1780s farmhouse in Connecticut.  As one of what is certainly an extremely finite group of 80's music aficionados (who ordered more than a few Hall & Oates cassettes from Columbia Record and Tape Club back in the day) who are also restoring 1780s farmhouses in Connecticut, I am convinced that I am the epicenter of the show's target demographic.

Happily, the show is a far cry from Vanilla Ice goes Amish or the other celeb-renovation shows that pepper the cable landscape.  In terms of love for 18th century buildings, Daryl Hall is the real deal.  He has previously done some spectacular work on other historic properties in New England, including rescuing, moving, and restoring two other early American homes that were featured on his Live From Daryl's House web show (and profiled on Episode 9 of the Essex House season of This Old House).

On his DIY show, Daryl is restoring and attaching an addition to a spectacular 18th century house in Sherman, CT.  Like me, he has a very, very (very, very) specific vision for how the house should look, and this vision is founded in a respect and understanding of 18th century New England construction and design.  He eschews shortcuts, respects the craftsmanship of the materials (old and new) being used in his project, and understands that modern conveniences and antique homes can co-exist quite amicably.  In short (and said using my best Daryl Hall voice), I dig it.

Of course, the show contains the requisite coterie of interesting characters - the guitar-tech turned project supervisor, and the gravel-voiced carpenter.  Refreshingly, though, every one of them actually seems to know their stuff, and is invested in the project as an artisan, rather than a reality show fame-seeker.

Having watched the first seven episodes, it has been fun to watch Daryl deal with many of the same challenges that I have been through - especially when he is trying to source appropriate 18th century materials.  Maybe not surprisingly, he has turned to several of the same sources that I use in our restoration, including Ball and Ball and Historic Housefitters.  Of course, Daryl's rock star budget probably explains why he can do a restoration in one television season, while mine has been thirteen years (and counting . . .), but I will suspend my jealousy in the interest of being entertained.

So, in the interest of sustaining my entertainment by encouraging a second season renewal of Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall, I am throwing the considerable weight of this blog behind the program, and urge my eleven regular readers to tune in so that we can tell Daryl that we'll be "Watching you, watching you, watching yooooouuuu." (Sorry, but I think it took great restraint to drop just one H&O reference in this post.)