Those who know me understand that I have a bit of a problem. I’m something of an odd duck. I love to work on old floors. I don’t really care to work on new floors unless I can make them look like old floors. This can be confusing until you understand what makes me tick. Sometimes it just takes a story to do that, so let’s get started.
Doug and Susan Abramson (a.k.a. Gatey and The Gourmet Cook, TGC, respectively; pictured at right) came to me about 30 years ago. They didn’t live in Inman Park but like most people in Atlanta whose homes dated to the 1880s and ‘90’, they had connections there. I had started my wood floor business in Inman Park in 1973, at the front end of what proved to be one of the most successful inner city rebirths to be found anywhere in this country. It was chock full of some of the zaniest people you will ever see who differed in many respects but had one common passion – old homes. For me, being around a group of people who lived and breathed old homes was like a cat living in a fish cannery. I had a blast.
Doug and Susan’s house was on St. Charles in the midtown area of Atlanta and like a lot of old homes in that area had beautiful pine floors that needed some attention. I got them looking pretty good, got to know them and their young family and would run into them from time to time at festivals, friends’ houses and other places. In more recent years I heard them mention a farm in the Washington, Ga. area and just stored that little nugget in my mental Rolodex.
Restoring 100 year old hardwood floors in Washington, Georgia
Last fall, when the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation announced that the Fall Ramble was going to be in Washington, Ga. that little light in my brain went off. I wasn’t the least bit bashful in picking up the phone and inviting myself to their farm and they graciously accepted my invitation. (This is a part of my personality my mom never understood or condoned. She was far too genteel.) I had heard too many good things about this town in east Georgia not to go. General Sherman may have bypassed it but I sure wasn’t. Small town USA does not get any better than Washington, Ga.
The Trust Ramble was great. My time on the farm was better. Gatey had given up his life as a corporate attorney and I am willing to bet his connection to the land and his 1948 Farmall tractor was probably more rewarding than any litigation he had ever encountered. For Susan, the house and grounds provided her with the perfect palette to display her eclectic collection of folk art and objects collected over the years.
Restoring 100 Year Old Hardwood Floors: Another Historic Restoration
The 100 year old hardwood floors looked shabby to say the least. Remnants of floor cloths, mastics, tacks, some heavy discoloration from God knows what and enough dirt to start a small garden had to be carefully removed. And there wasn’t going to be any sanding at all, just my version of “tough love” for old wood.
We started the work in early March and for the most part, used the same approach I used on two projects in rural Virginia – James and Dolly Madison’s Montpelier and Caserta II on the Eastern shore. I knew that beneath all that “stuff” were some breathtaking wood floors.
Once we had everything off that would come off, we applied a utilitarian oil to the floor. It is European and is part of a new family of wood floor finishes that are making their way into our market. They are fairly easy to apply and even easier to maintain. The product used was clear and no color was added. What you see is the color of a 120+ year old floor that is receiving finish for the very first time. Note in the next shot to that it is of the same area in the first photo above – minus the large discoloration.
Oh yes, the ghost, I almost forgot. I was given the guestroom of honor; the one where the ghost has been sighted. As legend has it, on September 10, 1864, Wylie Hill went out to investigate what he thought were prowlers. As he was climbing over a fence, his gun discharged and he bled to death from a leg wound. What made it even more unfortunate is that he was the only one who supposedly knew where some gold had been buried that he received in payment for goods sold to the Confederacy. Needless to say, Doug and Susan ask all who sleep in that room that if the ghost does appear, remain calm and ask him one question – “where’s the gold?” Since I didn’t see Wylie’s ghost, I never got a chance to ask the question. And I am dubious if I do see him that I will have the presence of mind (or even a voice!) to remember to ask.
Let me leave you with some reasons I love old, distressed wood floors. It just doesn’t get any better than this for me. Enjoy!