If you’ve taken the first floor “before” tour, you’ve seen the bathroom and “fish” room (named for it’s whimsical wallpaper). We didn’t think much of them at first, but as demolition progressed, the rooms increasingly appeared to belong to an entirely separate structure.
Clue #1: There was an interior window between the kitchen and bathroom. Interior windows are relatively common today, especially favored by city landlords trying to bring light to “bedrooms” in the middle of an apartment, but those windows were not normal elements of 19th century architecture.
Clue #2: One of the windows on the second floor was partially cut off by the fish room’s roof. It could have been a function of sloppy planning, but again, not a normal architectural element.
Clue #3: During demolition, we found a six inch gap between the kitchen and bathroom walls. Within that gap were clapboards (typically found on a building’s exterior).
After some digging through town records, we found that a small schoolhouse servicing the Whitmore Mills community (North Sunderland) had existed on the lot just south of the cottage. Our hunch is that when the school was no longer needed for the neighborhood, the owners of the cottage hauled it over to their property and gave themselves an instant addition.
We demo’d the wall separating the bathroom and fish room (visible here), but then we faced a dilemma. Our options were to work within the existing schoolhouse structure and its confines (walls out of square, floors 6 inches below the ones that had just been framed in) or to demo the whole thing and start from the foundation up. We were torn: should we try to work within the confines and “stay true” to the house (but create more work for the contractor) or do you make life easier for all involved, start from scratch, and lose some integrity.
After some back and forth (and a little heartbreak for my dad), we decided to completely demo the schoolhouse and start from scratch. For the small amount of character that we would have retained by keeping the original structure intact, it would have been a lot of effort. The character will make its way back in other ways, and we’ll still keep the original scale of the structure (just with a much higher ceiling).
If you thought she looked ugly before, it’s only getting worse from here!