Shock and Awe

Once the plans were approved, we secured the services of a local contracting firm, and after some preliminaries the work began. We didn't expect to see much activity at first; in our experience, contractors tend to be a bit short on time-management and supervisory skills.

As it turned out, our painstaking search for the right contractor paid off, because to our astonishment the contractor's men descended upon the Farm House with all the precision and fury of the Coalition of the Willing upon Baghdad. Literally before we realized anything had happened, they had removed and marked all the interior and exterior elements that were to be reused, performed all the demolition, salvaged the usable building materials, and removed all the plaster. This they accomplished in two short days.

We were in Pasadena that first weekend to visit our friends Nik and Jo, who live a mere half-mile from the Farm House, and the four of us stopped by the Farm House to see if any work had been done. We were startled, and quite unnerved, to behold the main structure perched on its now-exposed wood framing that had served as its foundation for 115 years. It was a sobering and instructive sight. I wish I had brought my camera.

I suddenly understood the truth behind our building engineer's characterization of the house as a "light structure." At the time he said it, with the Farm House towering over me, it was highly counter-intuitive to think of such an indomitable structure as light. But there it stood, resting upon nothing more than a hundred board-feet of 2 x 3s, and it was obvious that if it weren't a light structure it wouldn't have lasted 115 months.

In fact, it is the house's light, cellular construction that has enabled it to survive so well through 12 decades and several major earthquakes. Light as the structural members are, the building is in essence over-engineered, because none of the members has to carry a great deal of weight. That's why the rooms in the typical Victorian house are relatively small: shorter distances to span means less stress on the beams, so that lighter beams can be used. Less weight in a structure, especially higher up, means less twisting of the structure under the stresses of wind and earth movement. These are the lessons we have learned from the Sylmar and Northridge earthquakes, but those nutty Victorians already had it all figured out.

This end upyepA few days later, we returned to find the house perched on neat stacks of timbers four feet up in the air, towering over a huge, neatly dug hole in the ground. As startling and vertigo-inducing as this sight was, it inspired more confidence than the previous situation. After all, the house was now on significantly firmer and more substantial footings.

It's reheatableMai spelchekur iz brokeThe foundation subcontractor wasted no time in pouring the foundation. In the pictures accompanying this paragraph, the lower half of the foundations has been poured, and the forms are being built for the upper half of the basement walls.

Mambo!At this point, I took the once-in-a-lifetime (one hopes) opportunity to walk under the house to get a closer look at things. With the chimneys removed, I was able to gaze upon a sight unseen by human eyes for over a century: the inside of the chimney nose itches

Six weeks or so later, the house was once again earthbound, firmly affixed to its fabulous new underpinnings. Walking around inside was a new experience; no longer did the Farm House respond to my every step. The framing was already well underway; to the right is a picture of Lydia and my Uncle Ernest inspecting the framing of the addition.

fiddle-dee-deeSPQRAt the same time, the basement was taking shape underneath, and the garage, seen here from what will be the kitchen window, was already framed and sheathed.

Pure joy for everMeanwhile, back in Culver City Lucky contemplates the exciting new adventures awaiting him in Pasadena, with all those big trees.

Next: Revelations

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