The Fresno High Holiday Home Tour 2017

This fall, we were approached by the organizers of the Fresno High Holiday Home tour, which raises money for projects in the Fresno High neighborhood and for Fresno High student scholarships.  Happy to share the house and its history with others, we said yes and embarked on readying the house for its visitors.

This meant getting into deep cleaning and Christmas decorating mode immediately after Thanksgiving – tree(s), additional ornaments, stockings, candles, more outside lights, table settings, etc. Everyone pitched in as no room was off limits to tour attendees. Throughout the preparation, we worked with a home chairperson and provided them with house descriptions and historical information. We also coordinated traffic flow and safety plans.

 

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The tour annually draws several hundred people, so there is a lot that goes into organizing the event. Fresno High School students volunteered as docents and received an evening of training. The house even had its own professional photoshoot. The pictures can also be seen below:

 

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On the night of the tour, we vacated the house, and let the volunteers take over. Members of the Fresno High band played Christmas music on the porch. The student volunteers were assigned rooms and were placed accordingly. Each student provided tour goers information (historical and present) about their area of the house.  Adults were also on hand to help with crowd control and security.

 

It was a bit strange not being present on the night of the event, but for this one, the house was the host and had the party without us!

 

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The Servants’ Quarters – Part 1

Tucked in the corner off of the back porch is a section of the house that was once the living quarters for the servants.  This area included a bedroom (14X9) and a small bathroom. Both rooms can be accessed from the back porch and the back door.  The basement is also accessed from the porch.

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This porch area has a small pantry closet and the remnants of a built-in ironing board.  The ironing board cabinet is not usable, but we have kept it because of its character.

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This entire area is separated from the rest of the house by a door leading into the kitchen. It is peculiar that this is the location of the present day refrigerator as it is completely separate from the kitchen. However, when one realizes that this is where the old-fashioned ice box would have been located, it makes a bit more sense. This location was strategic – it allowed the ice man to deliver the ice without disturbing the family.  He would have been able to come in through the back door and fill the box with ice without ever entering the main quarters of the house.  The original “ice” box is long gone, but when we moved in, there was an old- fashioned electric ice box in the basement. Stay tuned for more on that.

 

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As I have been researching the families who have lived in this grand house, I have come across a variety of census documents listing the names, ages, of heads of household and family members.  Included in the list is the same information for each servant living with a family.  I have found it interesting that most of the families affiliated with this house had one or two servants.  These were mainly young women in their late teens or mid-twenties from Denmark or California.  According to Virginia Eaton (who lived here as a teenager in 1936-1940 – you met her in a previous post), her mother also employed two servants (maids) while living here; however, after World War II started, it was harder to keep the help.

 

 

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

This colonial revival house begs to be decorated for Christmas.  Not the type of people to go over the top crazy when it comes to decorating combined with a lack of time available to commit to that endeavor, we have kept it simple this year.  However, with a goal of being warm and welcoming, I think we have achieved our purpose.

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A real tree

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Stockings were hung…
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We hosted the Dove-Tail company Christmas party

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Room by Room – the Great Room

A wonderful feature of this old house is the grand living room. It is huge!  Several comments have been made about pushing the furniture against the wall and holding a full-fledged dance party.  It could happen.

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In the process of restoring the floors.

This room has a grand old fireplace with intricate wood detail and two sets of French doors (one to the front porch and one to the back yard). We have not used the fireplace as we do not know the condition of the chimney and there are very few wood burn days in the Central Valley.  The wood trim and the crown molding continue in this room and add to its character.

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The wood floor in this room is also spectacular – old growth timber, quarter cut, gorgeous patterns. When Tim, our floor restorer, saw the floor in this room, he said not to let anyone else touch it – he wanted to be the one to bring it back to life.  We all agree that he did a great job!

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One of many designs in the floor

We elected not to penetrate the ceiling to install built in light for this room. This meant less holes (and less expense).  However, now we need to add more floor and table lamps as the lighting is just a little too subdued.

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Minor wall penetrations for this room!

There was no wallpaper in this room (thank goodness!), but it was painted a washed out shade of yellow and the crown molding had a wide blue stripe.  As  result, the fine wood trim and molding were not well showcased. In addition, the bold stripe in the crown molding made the ceiling feel lower.

Before…

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Painting the trim in the room would have been a huge job, so we cleaned it up a bit and decided to paint the walls a shade of latte. This color is enough to provide some contrast and really highlights the trim.

After…

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We have enjoyed hanging pictures in this room (and in the dining room and entry as well) using the original picture rail molding.  We purchased picture rail hooks and wire, which allow us to hang pictures without making holes in the plaster walls.  If we want to change the location of a picture, we can just slide the picture rail hook along the molding.  Cool.

 

Room by Room: The Library

Like the sun room, the library did not require a lot of paint.  In fact, no holes in the walls meant that we could preserve the vintage wallpaper.  We left the bookshelves blue and refreshed the room by refinishing the floors and repainting the ceiling white (covered over that dusty rose shade). This really brightens up the room and highlights the old-fashioned light fixture, which we really love!

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Doors Galore

This house not only has a lot of walls, it also has many, many doors: solid wood doors, doors with windows, interior double French doors, exterior double French doors, an interior single French door, a swinging door, thick folding doors…  By the numbers, there are seven exterior doors (three regular doors and four double French doors). That includes the standard front door and basic back door (both red, by the way).

Interior doors total 20! That makes 27 exterior and interior doors!! Talk about a lot of hinges!  Four of the interior doors are double French doors and there is one single French door.

The swinging door from the kitchen is a fun one – think restaurant-style.

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The windowed door from the back porch to the kitchen and the basement door are full of character as well.  Each of the three panels of the heavy folding doors separating the living room from the dining room are approximately 2.5 inches thick.  When folded together, they are almost nine inches thick. This reflects the thickness of the door moulding on that interior wall.

Of course, with all of these doors, a variety of door knobs can be found.  I love the old fashioned glass ones!

Now if we can just keep these doors and knobs functional in order to preserve all that character!

Wild about wallpaper

There are a lot of walls in this old house.  And, a lot of these walls are covered in wallpaper.  The collection is quite eclectic really.   Some of the designs are more vintage while others are well,  just plain loud.

These are on the bold end of the design spectrum:

More subtle:

Moving towards vintage:

And, what I believe is the most vintage of all:

At first, I thought this pattern was “way over the top” crazy; however, it has grown on me a bit.  I would love to know how old it is.  We had to peel some off the wall, and it has a wood product backing which makes it extremely stiff and it’s almost 1/4 inch thick.

Many of the other designs will be replaced with paint due to the fact that some of them just don’t suit the character of the house.   Mostly, they will be going because we need to redo the entire electrical system, and there will be a lot of wall penetrations throughout the house.  So, I have a handy wallpaper stripping crew that will be hard at work this summer. Stay tuned.