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.
January has been pretty slow at the Jenks Mansion. I haven't seen this much snow and sub zero weather for decades. We are almost finished cleaning the junk out of the second floor. The basement is cleared out too. What a lot of work and I think we are on our 7th thirty yard dumpster. I might have lost count, actually. lol
The vagrants have stolen anything of value. I heard recently that some people broke in and found rings in the basement and pawned them a few years ago. I don't know if that is true or not, but it is not surprising.
It's been pretty chilly out to really do anything. I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I hope that Monday we can resume clean out in the basement, second and third floors. I find it terribly exciting to be able to see the actual hardwood, so I can make a plan of how to refinish them when the time comes!!! God Bless and Merry Christmas!!!
My roofer and carpenter Shane Abbott insisted that I go up the lift and look at the new roof shingles. I must say I am not a huge fan of heights or Farris wheels. In order to be respectful, I climbed into the basket of the lift. That was my first mistake. I didn't know that these baskets sort of bounce around when they stop and turn and raise (like a Farris wheel). I took this selfie with Shane Abbott 3 stories up. I immediately resumed screaming just after this photo. I screamed all the way to the ground. The crew couldn't stop laughing. Did I mention we ran out of gas and I was stuck up there for a few minutes until my gardener came to the rescue with some petrol???? Yeah.....no more lifts for me in the near future.
Another view from the lift waiting for more gas. Notice how everyone except me is calm???? Also did I mention that we have fun doing these restorations??? I'm a single parent and my crew is Native American. We all have a good sense of humor because there are strange things that happen when you renovate old mansions. We just have learn to expect the unexpected and roll with it.
The first photo shows the new roofing shingles on the south side the Mansion Boys installed. We typically would never put shingles on a mansion in November, however this year by some miracle and good luck, the weather was fabulous. Almost like it was meant to be.
The second photo shows the gorgeous stone fence and wrought iron gate and the south side of the mansion. Note the extremely poor condition of the old roof shingles. It was sort of an emergency measure to tear the old shingles off and replace them. I had to get the water leaks stopped, so the interior can be restored. Lots of work. The next photos give a bit of a glimpse of the interior damage from the roof leaking.
I also have almost finished restoring the founder's house the Paris Gibson Mansion. www.parisgibson.com It is an amazing Victorian build in 1890, It was covered with about 2 inches of stucco, which we removed. I have not put the tower back on the house yet, because I have to get a variance from the city for height and it is going to cost a small fortune. The original wood siding was intact and once the stucco came off we found the beautiful details on the gable ends. I need to put turned pillars on the front porch and curve the porch roof, so it is as close to original as possible.
The weather for the most part here in Central Montana has been pretty nice and cooperative. We are still on the roof. The 4 layers of old worn out shingles on the south side are a bear to get off. My crew is really quite excellent and today I nicknamed them "The Mansion Boys". lol I'm not sure how they feel about that, but they are pretty easy going, and got a good laugh. So far I think there are 2 ghosts in the house and I think The Mansion Boys would agree. Some weird things happen around here daily. lol
We have pretty much cleared out the debris and junk from the first floor. We can only do that when the weather is too cold or wet to go on the roof. I think the next floor to clean up is the basement. From what I can tell, there are a couple of broken old stained glass windows down there among the debris, that might actually belong to this house. At this point, I have no clue where they would have originally been. I can't find any original photos of the house from 1908, so if anyone might have a photo please come see me at the house or call me. This is starting to feel like a game of Clue.
I have enlisted the help of Michael Winters Sr. (former Mayor of Great Falls) to help with the reconstruction of the leaded glass windows on the house. When I figure out if and where the stained glass windows in the basement go, they will need to be reconstructed too. Thank you Mr. former Mayor. I appreciate all your help and enthusiasm.
Well, its been a little over a week since I purchased this grand old Lady. We started on the roof because it is in bad shape and I need to stop it from causing any more water damage to the interior.
There are 4 layers of roofing shingles to remove. The good news is that the condition of the old wood boards under the roof is excellent and thus we do not have to re-sheet the entire roof. The bad news is that the old shingles are very labor intensive to remove, so that has eaten up the roof budget and the allowance for new sheeting. The joys of historic renovation!!!!
I am also having the exterior fascia crown molding reproduced, so we had to temporarily install some boards to keep the new roof shingles in place until the crown is ready to install.
Below is an interesting article I found today about the Davies - 2nd owners of the house. Just after they got married in January 1919 and purchased the house. Mr. Davies apparently died from food poisoning eating Chop Suey in Honolulu. Mrs. Davies lived in the house for another 10 years and then sold it in 1929 to Dr. Offerman a local Chiropractor.