A home renovation can sometimes uncover layers of a home’s history. You remove a bank of cabinets to find perfectly preserved floral wallpaper from the 1960’s or several different types of flooring that were installed one on top of another sometimes many layers deep. Peeling back these layers can often lead a homeowner to reflect on the history of their home. If the home is older or perhaps antique it likely had several owners and could have potentially gone through multiple renovations. Each layer tells a story about the house and sometimes even the people who occupied it. Finding these “relics” as we like to call them is not uncommon, we’ve found quite a few over the many years of doing renovations; some more noteworthy than others.
The town of Plymouth, MA has some of the oldest homes in the country and we’ve had the privilege to work on many of them. One project demolition uncovered a date inscribed in the fireplace brick behind the framing, as best as we could distinguish it seemed to read; JAN +1+ 1895. although no name was included, this carving instantly had us imagining the person who may have made the inscription and wondering what life may have been like for them; was it the owner?..or perhaps a worker building this opulent seaside home in an age with no power tools (although ironically the first power tool was invented in 1895)!
More recently another of our projects on Priscilla Beach in Plymouth uncovered yet another relic during demolition; a local real estate listing of the home from 1928 hidden in the walls. The clipping affirmed the date that the house was built and the homeowner also found it interesting to see what the Boston real estate market looked like 90 years ago.
The homeowners Chuck & Cheryl have always owned older/antique homes in Plymouth, many of which have been in the family for generations since their ancestry can be traced all the way back to the Pilgrims. Their house, like many others had become it’s own time capsule, with long lost history preserved in the walls. This steep family history in the area and an appreciation for preserving the past inspired our clients to preserve their own history in the walls of their home in hopes that perhaps tens to hundreds of years later it will be found and a new story uncovered from the past; their story.
The time capsule project thus began…
and Chuck & Cheryl spent some considerable time curating a collection of items that in their opinion may be of interest to future generations. Mind you, the renovation project we are currently completing for Chuck & Cheryl touches almost every inch of the home’s interior and adds on an addition so they knew they would want to tell that story; how the home got to this point, what it looked like prior to the renovation, who performed the renovation (ahem, Thorson of course!) but also wanted to include some personal information about their family and some time stamped articles and items.
The official list of items included were as follows:
- A written note giving a bit of history about their family, the date they purchased the house and the purchase price, a project description and an estimated renovation cost.
- A before and after photo of the exterior of the house
- A Thorson Restoration & Construction business card
- The original 1928 real estate news clipping that was found during demolition
- A 2018 Plymouth real estate page
- The Front page of Plymouth’s local newspaper – The Old Colony Memorial
- A science magazine
- A financial magazine
- A few coins dated 2018
- A photo of Chuck & Cheryl’s family taken with Priscilla Beach as the backdrop
- Last but not least a lock of hair from Chuck (according to Chuck “in hopes that they might be able to use my DNA to bring me back”)
The items were all packaged in a metal fire safe box, secured and placed in a wall cavity of an upper level bedroom dormer just prior to plaster being installed. This location was chosen because it is an area of the home that is less likely to have a renovation in the near future, unlike a kitchen or bath that are likely to be renovated more frequently as design trends evolve. Chuck & Cheryl’s hope is that this home will stay in the family for generations so will also leave some photos and personal effects in the far reaching corners of their attic for grandchildren and great grandchildren to discover them. The reality though is that this time capsule has the potential to remain sealed away in this home for multiple generations and to one day be discovered by either a distant relative or even a complete stranger, one that will have better insight into their home’s history and the story behind those who occupied it before they did.
Today Chuck & Cheryl’s whole house renovation project is almost complete, after the time capsule was sealed in the walls we moved on to painting, flooring & interior finishes. This project is one that we are proud to be part of knowing that we are in effect leaving a lasting mark on this family, their home and even the impression that future generations will have about the building practices of our era. We hope that if any future homeowners do decide to renovate this home they look at the quality and attention to detail and conclude that “they just don’t build them like they used to”!