This Old Historic House

Site 61 Hostel is located in a renovated, 100-year-old rooming house. Originally the extended family lived downstairs and rented nine room and one bath upstairs. The building was designated an Historic Structure by the U.S. National Park Service in 2013.

The current owner bought the building in 2013 in severly blighted condition and renovated it to modern standards, carefully preserving as many of the historic features as possible. Here are some of the details you may have noticed:

Each of the upstairs rooms has a screen door, as well as a solid wood door. Before mechanical air conditioning, ventilation came from the strong, dependable south breeze that blew from the front balcony out to a large window at the other end of the hall.

Rooms were also cooled with the help of a tall, double hung wood window in each room, In the two (VIP?) rooms opening onto the front balcony, extra-large french windows, or guillotine windows, reached from the floor almost to the ceiling. A wood screen pulled down over the lower part of the window.

Over each door is a transom window, designed to tilt out and allow air to flow, when the solid wood door is closed.

The original hardware includes porcelain door knobs, original door sets, and parts of the original transom hardware. The unique and rare screen door closers operate by twisting and putting tension on straight metal rods.

The ceilings were built to 11 ½ feet, to allow hot air to rise. Some of the ceilings are currently lowered, to allow for mechanical installations. The old plaster walls were too fragile to hold heavy items, so wood picture molding about a foot from the ceiling served to hang heavy things like mirrors and heavy framed pictures.

Gas lighting was the original light source, then minimal electricity was provided. The pipe “knobs” sticking out of the walls about 60” high are what remains of the gas light fixtures. You can see these knobs in the downstairs hall near the stairs, and in Rooms 17 and 13__.

The one bathroom upstairs had a 12” x 18” mirror over the sink and one hanging light bulb. Gas pipes ran helter-skelter through the bathroom, for gas heaters.

Chimneys throughout the house–in the kitchen, Room 42, Room 14, Room 01—were shallow, so probably designed to burn coal rather than wood. Later, the vents indicate they were used to vent gas heaters.

With only one bathroom for nine rooms, chamber pots were conveniently tucked under each bed. A purely decorative chamber pot is now on display in the west corner bathroom. (No, it’s not a wastebasket!)

Stained glass windows in the west corner bathroom and in the ensuite bathroom, Room 42, were designed to tilt out, rather than to be raised. At one time, there was probably a tripodal screen that could enclose the window in an open, tilted position. These windows are currently sealed shut.

Old clear glass was imperfect, with bubbles and squiggly lines melted in. See the difference in the window panes next to the large kitchen sink. One of the panes is original; one pane is new glass.

The wood floors have been in service for at least 100 years. In the lobby the dark spots on the floors are where the square, iron nails have oxidized.

In the early part of the 20th century, it was customary to lay linoleum in the center of the room and paint around the edges, between the linoleum and the wall. In Room 14, you can still see the painted edges.

The original front balcony came crashing down shortly after renovation began in 2014. In rebuilding the columns and the balcony, the carpenter copied the entasis of the original columns; that is, each column was slightly more narrow at the top than at the bottom.

The back porch, with its low sloping ceiling, is original. It was retained for its old-fashioned ambiance, even though having a porch roof and also a balcony floor above, is functionally redundant.

The beaded board walls in the dining room were probably not original, and by 2014, they had been partly painted and had been cut out here and there. But they were unique, individual solid wood boards. So the carpenters took them down, flipped them over, cleaned and finished the back sides and reinstalled them. They then added bead- board chases near the ceiling in the kitchen and dining room to hide the water pipes for the sprinkler system.

The water line from hurricane Katrina was left—just barely visible—on the door between the lobby and the locker/game room.

I hope you enjoy this old historic house!

Jean

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