More than three years ago I posted about finding marriage marks on our kitchen walls.
Shortly before that I’d written about the many layers of kitchen flooring and what we found beneath: bug-eaten floor joists nestled in cruddy sand.
But we kept everything, because everything from nearly 400 years ago is an artifact.
Last weekend we reorganized our garage storage space and in the process John brought a bug-eaten joist outside, into the light of day.
He noticed it had marriage marks.
Then I noticed more marks.
In our haste to get that old wood out of the way for our restoration – and in order to create a workable kitchen – we had not previously noticed the amazing qualities in this piece of bug-eaten wood.
We’re not sure how to read this mark. We tried looking at it different ways. Is it “IIIL”? Or “LIII”? Or is the character that resembles an “L” actually some other character not found in the Roman numeral set? Perhaps a signature?
This mark clearly looks like “VI”:
But beneath the “VI” mark is a notch; an old mortise:
Looking into this mortise opening we see some depth:
Remember, this timber was acting as a joist in the floor, and it was not connected via any tenon to any other joist in the floor. This can mean only one thing: this floor joist had been repurposed, hundreds of years ago.
To which structure had this timber originally belonged?
Our kitchen restoration revealed an exceptionally old room, but the fact that the ceiling beams were diagonally notched (as I’d mentioned in an early blog entry) indicates that the ceiling had started as a saltbox wall, and, therefore, our really old kitchen is actually an addition to the original structure (which is, therefore, older than really old).
All this begs the question: exactly how old is our house? (We’ll talk about that later.)
Here are a few other characteristics of this repurposed joist…
What was once a knot in a tree, which became a piece of timber, which became a wooden beam, which became a floor joist:
More mortice and tenon examples:
We’re not sure what this carving is; it could be the Roman numeral “V”:
But it could be something else.
My husband’s middle name is Fairbanks. His late mother had said he was named for the part of the family that had that old house in Dedham. We hadn’t realized until after buying our old house that the Fairbanks House in Dedham is considered the oldest in the country.
A few years ago John and I decided to visit the Fairbanks House to look around and compare it with ours. We were astonished by the similarities (I’ll write about this in detail in a future blog entry).
But on our visit we also learned that the colonists were intensely superstitious and they would often carve an inverted “V” over the mantels to keep away the witches. Could this be that? Here’s the inverted view:
Here are some wood protrusions, which may have acted as tenons at some point in time:
And here is an old nail that we salvaged from the old timber:
Rant Du Jour
When John and I bought our old house, we thought it would be an exciting adventure to restore it to what it once was. Our youngest was going off to college in NYC and we were confronting an empty nest, so we felt that our old house would be a good distraction.
But we hadn’t realized how big this adventure would become. What I’ve written so far is the very tip of the iceberg.
We did not buy this house for the status of owning something old and valuable. We bought it because we are fascinated by the history of the 17th century, and we are a family of artists. Our house is entirely hand-made. To us, that is absolutely priceless.
I stopped writing this blog more than two years ago because we’d discovered things that were overwhelming. I’m only now beginning to process the enormity of everything.
I’ve recently resumed writing this blog because our house is in danger and I’m desperately trying to save it. I’ve written to our state representative and I’ve written and talked to the town Select Board and to the town historian, but our house remains in imminent danger every moment, every single day.
So I’ll keep writing, hoping to find someone somewhere who will step up and provide solutions on how to save our street (which, in turn, will help protect our house).