Monday, March 30, 2009

Another bargain in the Shaker Heights School District

I was browsing local real estate when I came across this bargain at 13605 Shaker Blvd. While the address is in the City of Cleveland, it is, contrary to what the listing states, in the Shaker Heights School District. This map clearly illustrates the boundaries of the district - Shaker Square is shown at the left edge of the picture.

Yes, this is probably a foreclosure. But it's also 1576 square feet, 3 beds, 2 baths, and a fireplace, with Shaker Schools, for $4900. One can only screw up a condo so much, right? I have no idea as to the condo fees, but I can't imagine that they could be that much of a deterrent.

Even if the condo needs a full gut, the electrical and plumbing are probably still good. The rest of that stuff is cheap. Since it is in the city of Cleveland, one doesn't have to deal with the pesky point of sale inspections required in Shaker Heights.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My wife is the best!

Grand stove, model 850

We're thrilled to bits with our new stove, a Grand model 850 from sometime between 1945 and 1952. You've read enough about this, surely. In my search for more information about Grand stoves and the Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Co., I came across the stove below on Craigslist, locally, for $100.


This stove is similar in many respects to ours: the burner assemblies and grates are the same, as are the knobs; perhaps even the clock is the same, though I cannot be sure of this. Of greater interest are the doors, which appear to be identical, with the exception of the oven door, which has a window. A window for our oven would be nice. I'd have to get around to finding a replacement lightbulb for the oven for it to be useful, but that is a small issue.

Back to the title of this entry. Now, if I were a single man, or had a less strong-willed wife, I would have waited a while longer and attempted to purchase this stove for parts. I would have swapped out the oven door with the existing one on our stove. As it is, A. is a wonderful wife and gave me the Look of Doom™ when I suggested that we purchase it.

If not for her, I would quickly fill this house (or any other house, regardless of size) with mostly useless junk. I appreciate her ongoing struggle in this matter.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flooring help, please?

I have a flooring issue that I need to address and welcome any suggestions, thoughts, comments, etc. that you may have.

My workshop is in the basement. As a result, I generate a lot of sawdust and other debris. Presently, the basement is carpeted. Imagine the problems that this causes. It's a lot of work to vacuum all that debris out of the carpet.

My plan had been to simply remove the carpet. It was glued down over existing 12x12 vinyl flooring by the previous owner. The glue texture looks and feels awful - leaving it as-is is simply not an option. I tried scraping it off and while that helped with the texture, the dark yellow of the glue is too ugly for A. to tolerate. Given all that she puts up with, this is really saying something.

I'm looking for some way, any way, to cover the existing vinyl tile on the floor and provide a surface that will be durable and easy to sweep. Durability is important, as tools and lumber will accidentially fall off of work surfaces onto the floor.

One candidate I'm considering is Armstrong Excelong vinyl tile. It's available in a wide variety of colors, looks great, is durable, and is reasonably priced, at 69 cents a square foot. Installation is more complicated than many other floors, however. Further, since so many great colors are available, I'm highly inclined to make some really itneresting patterns, which will involve cutting the tile and the expenditure of far more time.

Another idea was to put an epoxy garage floor over the existing tile. However, this fails because the expoxy requires an extremely clean surface to bond - and I can't get the existing vinyl that clean.

A third idea was floating laminate floor. While this sounds nice, and would work well when the room eventually (twenty years hence) becomes the billiards room, I doubt it would be durable enough for the purposes of my workshop. Further, I imagine that sawdust would collect in the ridges.

Overall, we're talking about 650 square feet of flooring. I cannot remove everything in the space - there are some things, like workbench, which have been built into the space. Ideally, the solution would cost $1 or less a square foot. I welcome any solutions and ideas, no matter how bizarre.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

eBay alert!

I like to browse the section of eBay devoted to antique garden and architectural bits, primarily to see if I can get a good deal on anything nearby that would be too expensive to ship. Today I came across one such listing: 300 linear feet of wrought iron and oak stair railing. It's in northeast Ohio, and starts at a mere $99 with no reserve.

If there was any way that I could justify purchasing this, trust me, I would. I hate to put this suggestion out there, but one could sell the wrought iron for scrap, retaining the beautiful oak, and break even. I could see it working quite well as a fence, too. Heck, the seller is even willing to help load and package.

In related news, another local party is selling 20 stacking grey Herman Miller fiberglass shell chairs for a mere $25 each. These chairs retail on eBay, these days, for around $100-125.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dorkyness of flashing painted copper green?

Breakfast nook roof

Among the plethora of projects around the house, one is painting some of the galvanized flashing here and there where the paint is peeling off. There are two possible choices for the paint color here: we can either go with the brown of the rest of the trim on the house, which we still have to decide upon, given that there are no fewer than four shades of brown used on the exterior trim on the house, and I'd really like to just have one; or we can paint the trim a patined copper green.

Painting the flashing brown has a certain amount of merit. It will require less work, becuase for uniform results, we won't have to repaint everything. It'll be a little more subtle, too - it won't scream "look, there's copper on this house, come and steal it!". But it'll be boring, and what's the point of having commer gutters if you're going to be boring about them?

In the past, I've tended to think of the idea of painting flashing green to look like patinaed copper was somewhat dorky. Now, I'm not so sure. I've come to realize that there's more copper on this house than I had thought - the gutters and downspouts are all copper, though some have been painted. Would a bit more green look good or would it just be silly?

Anyway, I'd love to hear some thoughts on the subject.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Library ceiling progress

Leveling the library ceiling

We're making progress. Really. Especially now that I understand what I'm supposed to be doing here. My stepfather came over to help today and we worked on the project together for a while. Three of the furring strips are now completely level - 8 to go.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Update: The Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Company

I've written some about our new stove and the maker of the stove, the Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Company.

Cleveland; the Making of a City by William Ganson Rose provides an excellent early history of the company, on page 337.
W. S. Chamberlain, laywer, offered a tract of swam pland (Central Avenue and East 67th) near the Cleveland & Pittsburgh railroad to a group of Buffalo iron molders as an industrial site, if they would give him an interest in a proposed foundry. The Cleveland Co-operative Hollow Ware, Stove & Foundry Company was inforporated the followin year with Chamberalin as president. For forty years, the company concentrated on makin the massive, ornate, coal-burning stoves of the period. In 1909, it brought out a complete line of gas ranges. The entire plant was leveled by a storm this year. "Grand" ranges, stoves, air-conditioning equipment, and gray-iron castings produced by The Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Company, found profitable markets. James Mitchell became president in 1934.

I haven't been able to dig up much else about the company, so I contacted the appropriate subject departments at Cleveland Public Library.

The Business, Economics, and Labor Department was able to provide the following information, from their Cleveland Corporation Files:

1945: Grand Home Appliances became a division of Cleveland Cooperative Stove Company.

1948: Grand Industries Inc. became successor to Cleveland Cooperative Stove Company and Grand Home Appliances Company became a division of Grand Industries.

1952: Grand Industries Inc. went out of business. Its Grand Home Appliances Division, along with other divisions were sold out to different interests or abandoned.

Cleveland Chamber of Commerce indicate that purchaser of some fo the stove assets when Grand Industries sold out was Sunray Stove Company, Delaware, Ohio.

1982: Sunray Stove Company out of Delaware, Ohio is out of business. It was cancelled by Operation of Law December, 22, 1982, per the Ohio Secretary of State's website.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Perfect Faucet, Part II

perfect faucet

Oh no! It's the perfect bathroom faucet, on a sink! It's not so terribly far away, either.

This is almost exactly the same faucet that I wrote about a little while ago. It's nice to know that there are more of them out there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lighting for 1920s bathrooms

Porcelain shower light fixture (cleaned)

I love old bathrooms. The beautiful details never cease to amuse and interest me. I was conflicted about removing the light fixture above, but it scared me, somewhat, and it was one of the violations that the city is requiring we address.

I didn't realize it at the time, but this is a fixture that was designed specifically for use in bathrooms. Note that there are no visible screw holes - the fixture is attached to a mounting bracket in through screws at the base of the socket.

While this may have been the best that was available at the time, I was bothered by the possibility of being electrocuted, especially given my long, awkward arms and 6'8" frame. I've had my eye open for something better, something that would look historically correct, but at the same time be waterproof. Then I came across this fixture, in the Oviatt Building penthouse.

The fixture is simple enough and fits the space well. Finding a similar industrial fixture might be quite easy. I came across this one, from Barn Light Electric, which might do the job, if one removed the cage. I've a feeling, however, that something simpler and cheaper might be found at an industrial hardware store.

Of course, the problem remains that the code specifies a flush-mounted fixture... maybe in 30 years when I redo it again, the inspector will be more lenient.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The perfect bathroom sink faucet set

My idea of the perfect faucet

My idea of the perfect faucet

I never liked the faucets on most of the sinks from 1920s houses, not because the hot and cold were separate, but because they were so close to the edge of the sink. I recently learned that mixer faucets were available in the 1920s, albeit only in higher-end installations. I've been looking for various plumbing bits, trying to piece together the pieces of hardware to make the bathrooms complete. Most of this will have to wait for a while, given the cost of most of these things, but it's nice to know what's out there so that one can plan.

I came across the gem above on eBay recently - it sold for about $125. It's the only porcelain mixer faucet of that era that I've seen - all the rest are metal. It would have been perfect, oh yes. Even with the cost of rebuilding the valves, it would have been worth it. Whether I could convince A of that is another matter. My eyes remain open for the next one to hit the market.

This is all a diversion, mind you, to keep me from ranting about my plumber and general contractor. I've a phone call to make tomorrow morning. Argh.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Co.

The Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Co.

The Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Co.

Grand Home Appliance Co. Insulated Range

Our new old stove is a Grand, model 850, made by the Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Co., probably in the late 1940s. A comment on my Flickr account regarding the data plate led me to think about stopping by and checking out their premises. The address wasn't so far off the route from home to work, so I stopped by today.

It's not a terribly big factory. I haven't been able to learn much about the company. It doesn't help that "grand" is a relatively common adjective. Still, I'm sure I'll be able to dig up more around here, eventually.

Contractor woes, an update

I talked to the plumber today before leaving for work. He explained that he was unable to obtain a straight vertical pipe (I forget the technical term) that goes between the tank and the bowl that is long enough. He said that he'll be fabricating an extension, so that it will sit at the right height.

He further stated that he had attached it to the wall so that he could figure out exactly how high it needed to go. When I pointed out to him that this was one more unnecessary hole in the wall, he said that it would be covered by the tank and that he would caulk it in. I countered that this was an unblemished tile that could have been used for a repair elsewhere in the room, and that this was a hole in the wall that didn't need to be there.

I don't know what to ask for at this point. While there may be manufacturers out there that make white tile that the same shape and has a flat glaze, matching the color will be close to impossible. I don't think it's reasonable to ask him to cover the cost of a custom color match for one tile - that would be excessive.

What would you do? What would you ask for?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stove update

Our beautiful new stove is now functioning properly. The problem with the pilot light on the one side was resolved by scraping some cruft from the inside of the pilot light and turning the adjustment screw for the pilot light a bit.

Of course, initially I turned the pilot light up too much. I realized this later when I thought I smelled something by the stove. I held my hand over the left pilot light and found it was much warmer than the area over the right pilot light. With some trial and error, I got the pilot light as low as I could without it going off.

Now I'm just trying to figure out how to light the broiler. Right now, I have to use a match and light it in a minimum of two places - and this is for one large burner assembly. There has to be a better way.

Contractor woes, part II

Toilet, non-master bathroom

Earlier, I mentioned some problems with my general contractor and the sub he has fixing our toilet. Those issues were not issues at all, but the result of a miscommunication. There was, however, one major problem.

Look at the previous entry. Now look at the picture at the top of this entry. Notice something different? Yup, they failed to install the ceramic tubes between the bowl and the tank. An error corrected easily enough. Look harder. Notice anything else?

Old and new holes

Perhaps this picture will help illustrate things more clearly. See the row of holes in the wall? Those are where the bolts from the tank used to go. See the shiny new hardware going through the tank? Notice that the tank is now bolted into the wall a couple inches lower than it was previously? I'm not happy. There's no way that the lid could sit on the tank like that. How could someone get that far without seeing that he had screwed up?

So I called up the general contractor, left a message, and waited for his return call. He seemed to be familiar with the situation, though he didn't say anything to suggest knowledge of it prior to our phone call. He acknowledged that the tube between the tank and the bowl was too short, and that a longer one would have to be obtained. He said that he would be there tomorrow to ensure that the work was completed properly.

I've little confidence that he'll actually show up.

Right now, there isn't much I can do. The last time I paid him was five weeks ago, for work that was completed in a satisfactory manner. I don't have any problem with the work that he's completed thus far - the rates that he's charged have been reasonable and the quality of the work has been to my expectations. This business, however, of not showing up when he's said he'll show up - and not calling to let me know that he won't be here - it's really getting to me. He's been placing all the blame on the sub that he hired for the plumbing - um, isn't the reason why I'm dealing with a general contractor so that I don't have to deal with the problems of the subcontractors? Isn't that his job? The manner that he spoke about the subs problems was inexcusable. How do the sub's problems change the need for the general contractor to call if he can't keep an appointment?

I'd fire him right now, except that I will have this problem resolved.

I'm looking for a plumber in the Cleveland area who is comfortable dealing with old plumbing and fixtures. I'll pay fairly for good work. If anyone has names that they'd like me to consider, please send them my way.

Contractor woes

Siwelclo, by Trenton Potteries

This morning, a text message showed up in my inbox from A, stating that the plumbers had permanently affixed this toilet to the floor.

This was the toilet that had leaked and caused so much other damage previously. We've been waiting five weeks for them to get parts and get over here, which has become more and more frustrating. Our frustration is not so much due to the delay as the manner in which our general contractor keeps telling us that he will be here at a certain time and then not showing up. This might be ok if he called and said that he wasn't going to be able to be there, but to just not show up is unacceptable.

A says that they permanently affixed it to the floor because there was no way to properly secure it otherwise without damaging the tile. What are we supposed to do now if something happens and the toilet has to be repaired? The fixtures in our bathrooms are almost entirely original, and I really really like it that way. Another toilet bowl for this toilet would be $500 or so from a retailer dealing in such things. Is this a compromise that I'm just supposed to make to deal with these issues?

I'll be investigating this mess when I get home, and probably having some choice words with the plumber tomorrow.


The toilet bowl was not affixed to the floor - there had been a miscommunication. Rather, the new flange is permanently affixed to the floor, which is perfectly acceptable. There are, however, major issues, which I will detail later, and which I have been told will be addressed tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We have stove! (mostly)


I picked up the stove this afternoon and lugged it into the house. I even got it hooked up and working, mostly. I say mostly because the two burners on the left will not light. Their pilot light is lit, and they can be lit by matches, but they won't light automatically. I have to wonder if this has something to do with the burner assemblies falling out while I was loading the stove into the van.




As to the question of how many people are required to move such a beast, the answer is two men in decent condition or one idiot with a heck of a lot of determination and mechanical advantage.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Look, there's an oven!

And there's another oven! And there's a third oven! 'Cause our house has three ovens!

Yes, three ovens, but not for long! The reason there are three ovens is because one of the two ovens in our old stove was DOA. It leaked gas and didn't run. We've been looking for a replacement stove to fit in our kitchen ever since. Finding a 40" wide stove that is still operational and hasn't been sitting in someone's basement for a decade or two is a bit of a challenge. Even more of a challenge is the desire to not have a stove with a massive dashboard.

I found the above Grand stove on my local Craigslist, after an extensive search over a 6 state area. It's not quite the stove of my dreams (I would have really really liked one with either six burners or a griddle in the center), but it's pretty darn good. The seller and I have agreed on a price, so it's now just a matter of negotiating a date and time for pickup.

This leads me to another matter:


Crown gas stove

We will be getting rid of our late 1960s stove made by the Crown Stove Works of Cicero, Illinois. Free to anyone who wants it. Even more free to anyone who will volunteer, quickly, to help me schlep it out of the kitchen!

If you have even a small degree of interest in this stove, say something NOW. If you don't want the whole stove, but just need some parts, let me know and I'll see if I can pull them. I can't promise that removal won't involve a reciprocating saw, but I do promise that I'll make my cuts nice and broad and include more material than needed, not less.

Here are the problems with the stove: three of the four burners will not light; one oven will not light; the springs on the oven doors are completely shot. On the good side, I have a set of NOS burner caps for this stove that I'll toss in free.

One More Stove Item

If you're looking for a wonderful 1950s stove, I strongly encourage you to check out this $400 Kenmore in Parma Heights, Ohio.

I went to look at this stove with A. and would have purchased it on the spot had it not been two inches too wide (42"). Actually, I wanted to purchase it anyway, but the voice of reason intervened. It has four burners with a griddle in the center. Underneath, one half is an oven and the other, a broiler. The top burners have a pilot light and the oven and broiler must be lit manually.

I've never seen another unrestored stove of this vintage in this condition. The oven and broiler looked as though they'd never been used. To clarify: they still had that newish sheen! It was hooked up and in use when we saw it. The only thing that did not work was the clock.

Again, if you're looking for a 1940s or 1950s stove, this may well be the one. I firmly believe that it would be worth driving a couple hundred miles to pick up.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bathroom naming contest!*

There are two bathrooms on the second floor of my house. One is slightly larger than the other. It is attached to the master bedroom - thus, it is the master bathroom. Simple enough.

The question is as to what to call the other bathroom.

"Non-master bathroom" sounds too awkward. Some other options are, um, uncomfortable. "The other bathroom" might work, in some houses, in other parts of the country. In Cleveland, however, we were able to purchase this house with a whopping three and a half baths for less than the current median national home sales price. There's a half bath on the first floor, and a bathroom in the attic. The half bath, when greater description is needed, is referred to as the "mirror bathroom". The third floor bathroom is rarely mentioned. There's also a toilet in the basement, which I'll install a sink for, someday.

The two second floor bathrooms are chromatically similar - both are tiled in white. There are few defining differences, at least over the long term. For now, they're "the bathroom with the toilet" and "the bathroom with the sink".

I welcome any suggestions that will allow me to address this bathroom more succinctly on these pages.

* There are no prizes in this contest. All entries are subject to arbitrary and biased judging. Any and all entries may be ignored, disregarded, or appropriated a couple months later, once I've forgotten that you were the one who made them.

My brilliant neighbor

My neighbor's house

I've always liked wood shake roofs. The problem with them is that they cost about as much as slate, yet have the lifespan closer to that of asphalt shingles. They do, however, look stunning, especially when crafted to look like thatch.

My next door neighbor (or perhaps his contractor) had an idea that I wish I could take credit for. If it's ok to paint wood shingles on the walls of your house, why not paint the wood shingles on the roof? (I don't think he chose the best color, but that's another matter.) While the visual effect isn't quite the same as the unpainted shingles, I think it's a better compromise than ripping them off and replacing with asphalt. With regular painting, I assume that they will last as long as any other exterior wood.

More roof photographs

Front of the house
I actually got some decent looking photographs of the roof yesterday. This one happens to illustrate the chimney and a couple broken slates as well.

Gutter detail, south side of house
This is the area behind the gutter. Note the utter lack of paint. This appears to be the case all the way around the house. Note also that the gutters are soldered together at the seams, which will make removing them somewhat difficult. Ugh.

Entryway ridge
This illustrates why it is not a good idea to use aluminum for ridges on slate roofs. Copper or galvanized steel is sturdier.

Weird overlap pattern?
Finally, here's something that I just don't understand at all. If you look at this picture, you'll see, in the first row of slates, two slates that have a wider gap than might normally be expected. In those gaps, you can see what appears to be a short slate. This does not make sense to me. Kurt? Anyone?

Here's a slightly better detail. It occurs in several spots on this, the west side of the roof, across several rows. I can't imagine that these are the result of broken slates being repaired, but I can't think of anything else that it might be, either. Surely there's something that I'm missing here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oh where, oh where has my cricket gone?

Fireplace chimney

I knew when we bought this house that there should be a cricket to divert the water around the chimney here. You can't see it in the photograph, but the chimney is about 3-4 feet wide. Thus, there's quite a bit of water hitting it when it rains - and some of that water is leaking in.

Today, I climbed the extension ladder to investigate the condition of our roof.

Missing cricket
And then...

Missing cricket
The site of the missing cricket.

It seems that there was a cricket to divert the water around this chimney, but at some point in the past, some idiot, likely the one who installed this lovely bit of flashing, removed it. Meh.

If there's a reason why this would be a good thing, please, let me know.

Cobalt blue toilet and sink on eBay!

I was browsing on eBay when I came across this very blue 1920s toilet and sink. They seem too blue to be believable, but I want to believe, oh, I want to believe. And for a mere $100! Surely you need them!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Looking for subway tile vendors

Master bathroom

I'm looking for replacement tile for repairs for both of my second floor bathrooms. Like many of the projects I discuss here, this one awaits sufficient funds. However, being who I am, I want to complete as extensive research as possible.

The existing tile in the two second floor bathrooms is white, 6x6 ceramic, with a flat glaze profile. The floors are comprised of a round "penny" tile.

There are several areas where replacement tile is needed. The most notable is in the shower in the master bathroom, where the bottom 4 rows of tile as well as the floor were replaced with a bad match at the time that the shower pan was replaced. Another large section was replaced with a slightly better match behind the door in the non-master bathroom. Further, several of the trim pieces around the door to the shower stall broke and were replaced somewhere along the way. There are also some other assorted trim pieces here and there in the bathroom which have been clumsily repaired. I'm unsure as to whether I would want to repair or replace them.

The only vendor I've seen thus far that meets my needs is Subway Ceramics. They have several shades of white and all the trim pieces I need. Clay Squared lists the basic tile at $20 a square foot and the trim pieces between $15 and $25 each.

Does anyone know of other vendors who might have similar tile available? I'm especially interested in seeing other manufacturer's tile so that I can compare the color, to find the closest match to the tile that I have.

Stan Hywet Hall


I've long been a fan of the Historic American Buildings Survey, one of the many projects created in the 1930s to make work for the millions of unemployed Americans. It hired photographers, many with a fine art leaning, to document historic American buildings and structures. Many structures include extensive interior documentation, which should be quite useful for historical researchers. I've yet to find another source that provides such exhaustive documentation of bathrooms and kitchens from the 1910s and 1920s. The downside is that the homes chosen tend to be some of the largest and most opulent of the era, so they are not too representative of what one might call average.


The Historic American Buildings Survey includes extensive documetation of one of the great Tudor Revival mansions in America, Stan Hywet Hall, which was built in Akron, Ohio, in the 1910s by F. A. Seiberling, founder of the Goodyear Tire Company. While the house is open to the public as a musuem, the documentation provided by HABS is especially interesting as photographs are not allowed inside the house. The Survey includes photographs of the house, the carriage house and garage, the gate house and entrance gates, the garden house and garden, the gardener's house, and the lookouts.

The following are some of my favorite photographs of the house, from the Historic American Buildings Survey.

View from the office wing.

Lamp, by the main entrance.

Trim detail, main entrance.




Library fireplace

Removable lamp, library.

Main kitchen.

Coat room. Note the nice original widespread faucets.

Great hall.


Ceiling detail.

Light fixture.

Carved stone springblock.

Mrs. Seiberling's bathroom. I find the use of a tankless toilet interesting - while this would make sense in a smaller bathroom, lack of space definitely was not an issue here.

Mr. Seiberling's bathroom. Note the ribcage shower. It appears that the shower pan is not tile, but a solid piece of ceramic.

Inglenook, Blue Bedroom.

Phone nook, with period telephone.

Second floor room.

Office wing.

gate house
Even the gate house is oversized - bigger than the houses of many of the readers of the blog, I would wager.

This is the sort of project, I think, that would be an excellent way for our tax dollars to be spent - this is what we should be doing instead of bailing out banks. The public works created in the 1930s endure today - why not do more now?