SUNDAY, JUNE 04, 2006


It may seem odd, but when restoring an old house, the best you can hope for when stripping paint is to find more paint.

Not only does that give you some chronology of the house, but also clues as to the original color because, ideally, that’s what you want to use. (And in the 18th century, they used really bold paints, colors we would never imagine using today, like bright oranges and dark greens.)

If a family had money, though, they would strip the old paint, leaving no clues as to the original color. (There’s even a cliche that poverty is preservation’s best tool.) Unfortunately, the Coleman family had lots of money.

victorian cabinet

We originally thought this cabinet was built-in, but it turned out the roof had just collapsed on top of it.

We only found one or two old coats of paint. Under the wallpaper, they had stripped the walls cleans. And in the cabinets, where you are almost assured an original color tucked away in an inaccessible crevice, we found nothing. It was terribly frustrating.

In the third-floor hallway is a victorian cabinet that, like all of the woodwork in the house, had been painted white. We were going to repaint it white (because we are a product of our generation) but had to strip off the first layer to get to a sound surface, and under the latex they found the original paint job, in pretty good condition!

Now keep in mind this cabinet only goes to 1880 or so, but it’s still fantastic to be able to showcase something like that. So we painted the interior (so we can use it as a linen cabinet) but then left the existing paint as-is. (We encapsulated it with a clear sealant, because that old paint is no doubt lead-based).

We have a matching cabinet that’s a little smaller, which Dawn wants to turn into an armoire for the summer kitchen. Now we’re going to see if we can expose the original paint on that, too.


Dawn’s status

Dawn wrote:

The condensors were installed today. Mike started installing the shoe molding in Bill’s room. I primed about ten peices of shoe molding and five window sashes for the Summer Kitchen. Mike is off the week after next for vacation. I watered half an acre today, and noticed baby grasses here and there. How exciting. Darin came by and picked up some of the Paymaster sashes that need repair and will deliver them to his father Richard. Richard is working on the card table for the Boys’ room and it should be back sometime this month. The painters are working on the grand stairway, Matt is priming the mansion exterior doors, Ted is preping the exterior to the Summer Kitchen. Brian and Bob will start hiding the drains along the driveway. Then Brian will start the basement doors for the Mansion and Paymaster.

I have received the cabinet shipment, and a Timex alarm clock radio with MP3 line-in and nature sounds. I have scheduled the electricians to come and do finish work (install lights) July 5th. I have picked the granite for the kitchen island. The range hood is installed and works. The ceiling and walls in the utitlity room are complete. The coolant lines have been run but not connected yet. The island is being built. The floor guys come back on Monday for the week. The tiffany billiard light has been delivered.

What’s amazing is that all of this happened within two days after I was there. Maybe I should visit more often…?

FRIDAY, JUNE 02, 2006

Hh2>Great news!

I received an email today from Barb Raid, architectural historian at Historic York, Inc., who handled our National Register nomination.

Hi, Dawn & Gregg —
I just received word from Carol Lee at the BHP that your property was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 24, 2006. Congratulations!


I also found an official notice on the National Park Service web site.

Since our future solvency rested on this decision, this was very good news, indeed.

200 year old sycamore tree

Carol Lee did a site visit in 2004 and said, “You can have anything you want. if you’ll just cut the ivy out of that tree.” She was referring to our 200+ year old sycamore, which is now ivy-free.


Summer Kitchen status

Lest you thought we were near completion and it was smooth sailing for the next six weeks, let me show you the current state of the Summer Kitchen:

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2006

Site visit

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Pennsylvania, which is no surprise since I’ve spent just about every holiday in Pennsylvania for the past three years. I came with a laundry list of things to do, and I left with a laundry list of things undone. Part of this was because the northeast had a heat wave, and I flew out of the mid-70s and landed in the low-90s, and I didn’t pack any shorts.

Our biggest accomplishment was spending two hours “researching” new mattresses for the B&Bs. I put that in quotes because Dawn, who has been sleeping on a futon for the last 15 months, would not lightly surrender the comfort of the new beds, leaving me to fend off the salesmen while she snuggled in with a thick pillow. That said, we both really liked the Stearns & Foster Garden-something firm mattress, which my cousin also highly recommended. (This is not an ad for Stearns & Foster, but should they see fit to donate some of these mattresses for marketing purposes, we would not refuse them. They cost $1800 each, and we need five.)

We both agreed not to do custom cabinet pulls on the kitchen island, which would have run about $179 each, and instead buy some $10 stock “Eastlake” pulls. We tried out the Sherwin-Williams “Colonial Yellow” in the kitchen and realized why it was nicknamed “DeWalt yellow” — it was not the light, pleasing shade we expected, but a sharp, cut-through-the-fog color that blended well with power tools. So Dawn picked up “Harvester gold” which, she hopes, will pick up the subtle colors in the granite slab she selected.

We also went and looked at an antique secretary desk Dawn had found for $900. It has a pull-down lid that doubles as the desk, plus a set of drawers that would be perfect as a small dresser, and it fits in the small corner of Bill’s room. Using the small closet for clothes, this would avoid losing any more space to an armoire (like I had planned), plus include a nice writing desk that is perfect for a laptop. However, the secretary had several scratches, and I was not comfortable paying that much for something in second-rate condition, so we passed. We tried looking at other antique stores in Adamstown, but it was Sunday afternoon and we managed to arrive at three places just as each one was closing.

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2006

Furniture pics

Here are some photos from the Restoration Clinic, in Mechanicsburg. My undying gratitude goes to Marsha for organizing everything, and everyone there for taking such good care of everything. (Even the stuff I wanted to get rid of, like the crystal chandelier, because I thought it was acrylic…)

SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2006

Grand opening party

I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I have no idea what to do.

For our grand opening, I want to have a big party, but we can only handle about 20-30 cars at a time. I think if we do an “open house” affair, not everyone will come at once, but that means a lot more organization and preparation. Having a 90 minute tour is one thing; having a two-day open house is quite another.

With two staircases, we can direct traffic so people aren’t walking into each other, but I’ll need to staff each room, plus have a parking attendant, so that’s 13 people! And of course we’ll need tour guides for the wolf sanctuary. I have no idea where I can find that many people, though I’m hoping I can press some of the contractors into service so they can talk about what was done.

Plus there should be some food. What do you serve a couple hundred people arriving over the course of two days that will get them to refer their friends to your B&B? I do a mean Belgian waffle, but that’s a lot of work, and I’m not sure it’s legal. (Serving hot food, for some reason, is always treated differently than serving cold food.) Maybe Dawn can whip together twenty bundt cakes?

For entertainment, I tried to get a Revolutionary War reenactment troupe, but they were booked until 2008! (I will try again in 2010, when Speedwell Forge turns 250.) So then I contacted Landis Valley Museum about having people do forge-related demonstrations, but so far nobody has contacted me. Maybe I’ll just set up some folding chairs and do a slide show in the barn.

I’ve also got to find out if we need a permit, but unfortunately I’m only there for the Memorial Day weekend, which means Dawn has to do it, and she’s got so much on her plate right now, plus she caught a cold. Today she had a fever and was out stripping a door. I think she’s crazy.

We still haven’t picked a date, but I’m shooting for July 1 and 2, which is only six weeks away!

FRIDAY, MAY 12, 2006


Three years ago, we had seven accounts: Checking, savings, two credit cards, a mortgage, my 401k, and Dawn’s 401k.

Somehow, that has morphed into 27 accounts: three checking accounts (one in California, two in Pennsylvania), two savings accounts, two business checking accounts (one for my computer business in LA, the other for the B&B), three personal credit cards, three business credit cards, three mortgages, an escrow account, three store charge cards, six retirement accounts, and a car loan. Bookkeeping is now a full-time job.

Even worse, I have to maintain the business accounts in both Quickbooks and Quicken, because I don’t like the reports in Quickbooks.

Once I move to Pennsylvania, I’ll be able to get rid of many of these accounts, and hopefully bring the total back below 15. I will also turn the business accounts over to a professional bookkeeper. But in the meantime, it takes me about 16 hours each month to balance everything, not including the dozen or so emails I send to Dawn with questions about various expenses.

SATURDAY, MAY 06, 2006

Field of Dreams

My toll free number is finally set up: (877) EST-1760. (Established 1760, get it?) I’ve also set up an online reservation service, so I’m going to spend the weekend updating the web site, and we should be ready to take reservations starting Monday.

I just hope if I build it, they will come. In fact, much of this project is eerily similar to “Field of Dreams”–building something in the middle of a corn field, spending everything we have, being told we’re crazy, seriously straining our relationship. I wonder if I can get Kevin Costner to do a guest appearance, or James Earl Jones to record our answering machine?

I do have to say, the first reservation is for Mary of Maryland, who has asked three times, “Are you open yet?”

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2006

Island sketches

While “island sketches” sounds like I’m going to wax rhapsodic about a recent trip to a tropical destination, the reality is it’s been three years since my last vacation, and it’s probably going to be two years until the next one. Boy, that’s depressing. No, these island sketches were prepared by Don Geiselman, our contractor’s father, for the kitchen island. Remember that this 8′ x 4′ monster is really our kitchen, because all of the wall space is taken by windows or existing cabinets. He also drew a sketch for a custom refrigerator cabinet, but we had to put that on hold because we couldn’t find a refrigerator to fit. (Seriously, we wanted a true “cabinet” fridge but the only one we could find was a Sub Zero and, in addition to the expense, Consumer Reports indicates their repair rate is three times higher than other manufacturers, and for a B&B that’s unacceptable.) So initially we’ll just have our old refrigerator there, and we’ll work on the cabinet next year.
Here's the cabinet we're trying to match:

Here’s the cabinet we’re trying to match:

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