Yes, lead. I discovered that the water line coming in from the city main was the original lead line installed in 1908. Although minerals build up and coat the interior of the lead pipe so you aren't really drinking lead, it is frowned upon these days.
We have City codes to keep the public safe for good reason and thus began the excavation to install a new one inch water line to the old mansion. Windy City Excavation - Digger Dan and his crew bored a hole from the City main water line - which, incidentally has never been replaced since its installation in 1891. The ground was hard and it took a long time, or one could say it was boring. lol pardon the pun.
The City of Great Falls water department people came out and tapped the old city main in what I consider almost like watching artists work. When I learned the city main was original from 1891 I though... Oh no!!!.... I have to give the city people credit.... this is one of the smoothest taps on the oldest city main water line I have seen.
AT Klemens installed a new one inch copper water line to the city main and also inside the mansion. A new City water meter was installed and happily we have lots of safe water. Fabulous and overdue upgrade.
The old siding was removed and I carefully pressure washed the original 1908 clear fir siding, which was in excellent condition... but very dirty.
My trusted paint people at Benjamin Moore/Forsyth Paint recommended an oil based primer "Prime Lock", which worked wonders on the old siding.
I am going to have to wait until spring to complete the finish coat of Benjamin Moore - Aura (latex paint). I love this paint. I used it on the Gibson Mansion about six years ago and it is holding up really well. This paint is not cheap but you pay for quality and I do not really want to re-visit painting this mansion for a long time.
Demolition of the two story back porch was completed this week. We discovered that the first floor of the two story porch was original and that the second story was added later. By removing the second floor the south windows of the main staircase came to light. The addition had blocked light from pouring into the main staircase landing between the main floor and the second floor. What a difference!!
We will re-build the main porch floor so that the servants' entrance at the back of the house remains in full use.
Well.... now after 9 thirty yard dumpsters and six months later.... yes 9 dumpsters, we can finally walk around and plan the renovation. To say this property has been overwhelming is probably a gross understatement. I tried to go through the place in a careful and thoughtful way, so that I can return any family photos, trunks and other mementos to the previous owner. A daunting task of sorting through a hording nightmare, that I will never, ever do again.
It seemed pretty easy at first. After it took us a week to get through one room, I had to take a break. That is how it went for pretty much the last 6 months. At first I was excited and it was interesting, then it became a huge chore and terribly time consuming. I had help, but even they got burned out.
I don't think there is any other explanation needed as to why the place sat vacant for the last 30 odd years. I can't even imagine having to go through this stuff if it belonged to my family. I would probably have a nervous breakdown.
The weather is getting nicer. The sun is starting to shine, like usual, in Montana, and once again, after lots of deep breaths and a little insanity for even buying this mansion, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Many of you have mentioned the beautiful backyard of the Jenks Mansion. Here are a few current photos I took. There is a lot of work to restore the fountain, the little stream and the wading pool. It is quite a set up. I am just getting my feet wet (pardon the pun) with respect of how to thoughtfully go about this. The backyard is truly an inspiration for someone who likes to garden. I am excited to finally have the proper season to begin.
While cleaning out the old mansion I came across the vintage photos above. I am still convinced that the front porch had a handrail and balusters around it, but I cannot locate a really early photo yet. I would imagine these photos are from the 1940's or maybe the 1950's. The chairs in the photo are still chained to the front porch. They are really fabulous!
I could hardly wait for the purple flowers of the heirloom Muscari Armeniacum (Purple Hyacinth) to come up at the iconic Jenks Mansion. I fretted a bit, as I thought that perhaps we were trampolining the perennial purple bulbs, when we tore the roof coverings (there were 4 or 5) off to replace with new.
For a bit more than twenty years I have always made a point every spring to drive by the Jenks mansion to see them in bloom. Every year they multiply. I would venture to say it is somewhat of a miracle, without any tender loving care, these little beauties have managed to survive. Perhaps this is why this heirloom bulb has been around since 1877.
Days like these, being able to admire such simple blooms, are what life is all about.
And wouldn't you know it??? Springtime snow storm. Good for the gardens at the Jenks Mansion and at the Gibson Mansion. Should have planted those flower seeds. hmmm.
I have never been a fan of washing windows. Steve my gardener indicated that he used to wash windows with his previous garden/lawn maintenance business, when he was younger. My ears immediately perked up. Could this really be too good to be true???
Yes... yes it really is true. My gardener can do windows. What girl wouldn't jump at the opportunity to get out of window washing??? Well, let me tell you.....
The Jenks Mansion has been vacant for 34 years. One could pretty much assume that these windows haven't been washed in at least 40 years. Maybe 50. It is one thing to wash windows, you know, that have sort of been washed every year. That is a daunting task in itself, in my opinion. Now, multiply that by 40 or 50 years and you can imagine how long it could take to wash each large window in this abandoned old lady.
Today the window washing began. 3 windows took almost a day, using a very strong commercial window cleaner. I have to say that Steve my gardener is a trooper. I also have to say that to see clearly through the old mansion's window is nothing short of fantastic. What a difference. Thank you Steve. I believe this old mansion thanks you too. I am sure there is a huge sigh of relief for this grand old lady. Yes..... restoration is fast approaching. Yes, Virginia there really is a Santa Claus.
Hooray!! It's finally springtime in Montana.
We have resumed clean up work at the Jenks Mansion. My gardener Steve has miraculously spent days and days cleaning up the yard. Not certain the 50 years of neglect could be ever reversed, Steve managed to prove me wrong.
Day in and day out he tirelessly kept at it. He filled a 30 yard dumpster with .... well.... I don't actually know .... Steve trimmed the hundreds of feet of hedges and trimmed and pruned the bushes. To my astonishment, He managed to find the old stone pathway that leads one from the front of the house to the back. It is really lovely, and care must have gone into its creation many years ago. There are bulbs peaking out all around the path. It must have been glorious it its day. I hope they bloom this year, but just to see they are alive and well at this point will suffice.
Kelly Parks is the Mansion Girl, restoring historic homes in Great Falls, Montana. Some girls collect shoes, Kelly collects historic Mansions.
To follow this blog click on RSS Feed above.