Square Nails and Old Growth

Square Nails and Old Growth-1Believe it or not, my public open house today at 423 S. Polk was far more of a success than I’d expected considering how overcast and dampish it was outside.  The people that were there, all save one, were more than just tire kickers; I know because I can tell when the real buyers ask the right questions.  One gentleman who was there said, “If I were 20 years younger, I’d buy this and consider it my new labor of love.”  Since I’ve only been in my profession as a Realtor longer than many trees in our City have been growing, my understanding of the ways of our townspeople in and around the turn of the 20th Century has grown more acute.  Using the home I had open today at 423 S. Polk as an example, most buyers and even sellers have no understanding of the happenings which took place 80 – 100 years ago.  423 S. Polk is in an estate and from what the executor has told me, it’s been in their family for nearly three generations.  What likely their grandparents who’re long dead knew, but the grandchildren don’t, is that it was moved onto its existing site.  So you ask, “How do you know that Mr. Smarty Pants?”  My first clue was when driving up to the home for the first time.  Roof lines, window sizes, and its simple style caused me to question.  The second clue was when walking in and finding some of the original doors and windows still there and seeing them of the pre-1890’s style.  The third clue was walking down the basement and finding it deeper than normal and the walls of poured concrete.  The pouring of basement walls didn’t start until around 1910 – 1915 in our City.  I’m veering off for a moment here and saying our City Assessor’s cards with the rubber stamped date of older homes being built in the year 1900 is quite off track.

There were far many more built in our City prior to that date.  Another clue I had was my inspection of the full cut rough-sawn floor joists.  And finally, the dead ringer of confirmation was seeing not normal round nails in the basement floor joists, but rather square nails.  Square nails went out of general use long before 1900.  Now you’ll likely think I’m bashing our City Assessor when I tell you that according to her records, the home was built in 1920.  “No” I say.  It was built probably in the 1880’s and moved onto its existing site in 1920.  You ask, “Why was it moved there?”  It was most likely moved there because our Historic Downtown was radically expanding and people didn’t tear down structures like they do now–especially homes due to the shortage of housing in those years of our rapidly growing population.  Two of the original windows are still intact in the home and they are absolutely charming.  They’re double hung with six boiler plate glass panes in each.  In those years they had no window weights, but rather spring pins that allowed for only two positions for the windows to be raised.  Some would speak about my ramblings and say, “So what?  The house is much older than everyone else believes.”  In pulling this story all the way back round to full circle, nearly all of the general public have no idea how much stronger a pre-1920’s home is than those built today.  When they built 423 S. Polk they used lumber that was full cut in dimension–a two by four was exactly 2″ x 4″ or more.  I’ll encourage everyone to investigate the advantages of living in a home built using square nails and old growth lumber.  Yes this home is old, but it’s a keeper.

Joe Chodur

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