The winter months pass faster than you might imagine, as you count the days for Cape Cod summer to return. The sunsets are glamorous and this winter has been unusually warm — a mixed blessing for those of us so close to sea level. If global warming is for real, then we are looking into the maw of the beast. The silver lining? The mild weather makes it easier to dash out at sunset and catch this kind of panorama.
Construction continues at the Woods Hole Inn. The second floor, where the new guest rooms are located, is almost done. This week they put the finish paint on, and next week will be consumed with refinishing the amazing original hardwood floors. Radiators went back in, the old school cast iron kind, and french doors were hung on the doors to the decks. Deck railing comes next week as well.
On the third floor, where the staff of the Inn will live soon enough, the drywall and plastering is complete and carpenters are putting the trim on the windows and molding along the floor boards. Sadly, the old wood floors up there were trashed, a cruel fate required for structural reasons by the Falmouth building department. In it’s place, the sustainable cork tiles will look modern and clean. The shapes of the rooms can finally be seen fully, and it’s odd to have such an intimate memory of the bones underneath the skin of the walls.
We are ordering a special wallpaper for the front hall, made from the piles of 1946-era check in cards we found stashed in the attic. I am confident that it will look graphic and interesting, and also delight those who want to reminisce about Mrs Josiah Smith of Vineyard Haven who stayed at the inn in 1946 for $3 per night. In addition, I found two incredible Russian ship lanterns, galvanized metal with red paint and old marine glass. I am having them made into lights for the front porch. You will tell me if you think they make the right “vintage restored” statement when they are finally hung in place.
I took my copy of building plans and wrote a love note to the person who will unearth all our work 50 years from now. I tried to express the joy I found in the doing, but I secretly hope they will know my passions from the lines of the house before they ever find my rushed scribbles.
A few images for you:
View from the top of the stairs looking down. The splattered wood you see in the middle will be removed so that you can experience three stories in the entrance. These are the walls that will be wall-papered with the check in cards from 1946.
Top floor, a lovely living room with private balcony and views to Martha’s Vineyard. Grey from the fresh plaster, this will be painted white and all trimmed out.
Another view of the same room, the light streaming in from the side of the building that faces the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.
New bathrooms with combo shower-tubs and the vintage floors brought back to their pre-paint glory.
Cast iron tubs came from the tub doctor in New Bedford. They look happy to be out of the showroom and back in the action.
Finally, the perfect image of the summer coming, from my friend Denise at the Sippewissett Campgrounds. This is what we are all waiting for. Thank you for sharing this, Denise — Nobska Lighthouse on an incredible summer day.
I can’t wait to be out on my boat looking up at that lighthouse, waiting for the fireflies to come out, basking in the last light of the day as the sun sets over Vineyard Sound. See you all this summer.
Figuring out how to restore stuff from a creaky old house is complicated. Who can bring these aging beauties back to life? Where do you have to go to find old-world craftsmen? Who cares about worn and antique stuff anymore?
I am headed down to New Bedford to the workshop of the “Tub Doctor” this week. For $500, the doctor will re-porcelain your worn cast iron tub, and sandblast the exterior to ready it for paint of any color. He is a colorful fellow, the Tub Doctor, and you will learn all about his life when you visit him. He prefers black feet on the tub to chrome, he wishes that women were more faithful, and he is looking for investors in a new business idea that will double your money in less than three months. I am resisting calling his eccentric conversation style over-sharing…. how about peppered with interesting and specific information.
Just finding the studio is intense. Imagine a series of abandoned brick factory buildings, sprawling over acres of empty asphalt behind chain link and razor wire with an old wooden door that might be in a travel blog about Moldova or Croatia.
The workshop is set in the middle of the largely-abandoned mill compound, and this section is littered with debris, broken tile, odd concrete. When they say New Bedford never recovered from the collapse of the Industrial Revolution, they are talking about places like this.
On the inside, vast chambers disappear as far as the eye can see and you can feel the spirit of the mill girls from the 1890’s, giggling and laughing at their sewing tables, even in today’s dank and empty silence.
Once you get into the Tub Doctor’s lair the heat is on, a radio plays and the smell of cigarettes mixed with paint fumes makes you feel like you are back in the 21st century. The Doctor is friendly and chatty, telling me about his baby, his son’s landlord and the price of the lunch he plans to eat later today.
We debate the cast iron tub feet and I defer to his taste about the chrome — never looks good, he tells me, chrome paint just looks like chrome paint. I like how the feet look like chess pieces, pawns clustered in a corner for safety. Maybe the ghostly mill girls play with them after dark, I think to myself.
I pay him cheerily, genuinely happy to have stumbled upon this odd corner of the world. I look forward to seeing him again when he delivers the final product to the Woods Hole Inn in a month or so. I drive out of the compound, back in the sharp winter sunshine, and smile.
You can find the old tubs plus the Tub Doctor yourself by calling New England Demo and Salvage. Leave a little extra time for the stories, because let’s face it … the journey is half the fun.