As expected, we found more clues
about the Farm House's history once we
got a closer look at its inner structure. We found several pieces of
ephemera behind one of the mantelpieces. One is a card for the Pasadena
Blacksmith Shop (J. A. DeHay, Prop.) at No. 48 South Broadway (now
Arroyo Parkway). It advertises "general blacksmithing and wood work",
with "special attention given to HORSE-SHOEING and CARRIAGE WORK".
There is another business card for one W. J. Covey, "salesman of
high-grade pianos represented by Fitzgerald Music and Piano Co., 113 S.
Spring St., Los Angeles." It gives his residence address as Wilson Ave.
and Delmar St. in Pasadena. It further advertises "satisfactory piano
tuning, regulating and repairing." Mr. Covey, you're too modest.
Finally, there's a nice full-color die-cut advertisement for Crown
Flour that is clearly of Victorian vintage.
These items are not particularly
revealing, other than to suggest that
the Wilsons or perhaps some previous tenant either owned a piano or
considered buying one, but as with most ephemera they do give one a
taste of the way things once were. Imagine someone advertising his
services as merely "satisfactory" today!
pertinent is the discovery of evidence that indicates fairly
conclusively that the upstairs bathroom was plumbed some time after the
house was built, as I had suspected. The adjacent picture is of the
family parlor, taken from the fireplace opening. Note the darker
vertical band of lath next to the door; this is where the wall was cut
open to install the drainpipe leading from above. More conclusive are
the savage cuts made in the floor joists to create a pathway for the
pipes. If the house had
been plumbed when it was built, the pipes would have been installed
properly, with the framing designed to accommodate them.
There was some question in our minds
whether the part of the building
that housed the kitchen was built at the same time as the main
structure. Our architect felt it was not, because its trim
details were different from the rest of the house, and the junction of
the two parts was not executed seamlessly. He had a good point; the
wing did have something of a tacked-on look. Moreover, it was clear
that originally the first-floor room that was converted into a bedroom
had an exit to the outside, and it was plausible to imagine that this
was once the only rear exit. Still, it was hard to explain the two
entrances into the kitchen from the dining room and the hallway without
the kitchen having always been there.
the kitchen wing was demolished, what was revealed indicated farily
unambiguously that some structure had always been there. No vestigial
exterior cladding was exposed on the common wall, and the only
modification to the framing was the opening that had been made for a
closet serving the first-floor bedroom. It is possible that the kitchen
wing was a replacement built early in the Farm House's life for an
original structure occupying the same general space, but this seems
highly unlikely. The most likely explanation is simply that less care
was taken in the details of the kitchen wing because it was in
the rear, and out of public view. We still have not figured out the
originally-intended use for the first-floor bedroom that justified its
having a separate rear exit.
The most amazing discovery so far has
been that our supposition that
the house was framed in redwood was incorrect. The house was framed in
plain old fir. This makes the lack of rot or insect damage in a house
with such extensive wood-to-ground contact very hard to explain
rationally. Perhaps the best explanation is simply that they don't make
fir like they used to.
We also learned a bit more on the
historical front. Our friend Nik is
always on the lookout for any historical information concerning the
Farm House and environs, and a while back he hit pay dirt: a photograph
in a 1912 book taken of Pasadena looking down from Mt. Wilson in which
the Farm House appears. This is the first photograph of the house
that we have found from before 1985. It is hard to see the house
clearly because the picture is a halftone reproduction, but there is
enough detail to discern that it is indeed the Farm House, and that the
kitchen wing was there by 1912 in any event. Click on the
photo for a much better view of the house.