First advertisement

The guy from Preservation magazine never responded, so my first advert is actually with the Lititz Retailers Association, www.shoplititz.com. They distribute 40,000 directories each year, and a half-page ad is only $210 (plus $110 annual dues), which seems pretty reasonable to me.

Our first advertisement

Our first advertisement

Their deadline was actually last week, but they’re waiting for me. I’m both excited and paranoid–I’m a software guy, accustomed to being able to change anything at a moment’s notice. Having to commit to a print ad for a full year is difficult. By the time the directory actually comes out next March, who knows what I’ll regret…


Your Life

Be sure to check out this Friday’s edition of the Lancaster New Era, as the “Your Life” section will feature photos of the mansion by Marty Heisey (who took the great photo below back in March) and an article by Susan Jurgelski (who read most, if not all, of our journal, poor girl).

A quick update:

  • The heat is off. The steam boiler was backfiring, so Dawn had it shut down, and turned on the hot water boiler, which is providing radiant heat to the kitchen only. Not surprising, lots of work is being done in the kitchen now. (Just kidding.)
  • The plasterers were here today, dropping off materials and getting ready to apply the blueboard. I’m still somewhat saddened that we’re not replacing the lath and plaster, but given the cost of the blueboard (which they say takes about half as long as applying plaster) and the amount of plaster work that needs to be done, I’m quite sure we couldn’t afford anything else.
  • Bob Sipos of Old Guard Mortgage has found someone willing to finance this little project of ours. Obviously, they haven’t read this journal.
  • During my Thanksgiving visit, we completely failed to resolve the outstanding issues with the lighting, paint colors, kitchenettes, storm windows, sign, lightning protection, and flooring. (But we did get away to New York City for two days, which qualifies as our only real vacation this year.)
  • I have taken out our first official advertisement, a small 25-word listing in Preservation magazine, a publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It reads in whole: Speedwell Forge B&B, Historic Elegance in Lancaster County, Pennysylvania, opening May 2006.


Media exposure

I just got back from a “site visit” (i.e. weekend trip). Last week I contacted the local papers, and the Lebanon Daily News published this blurb on Friday, under “Coming Events.” I intentionally did not include an address, figuring people would call for directions and that way I could get a headcount. I only got two calls, but 30 people showed up! (I still don’t know how they found the place.)

The Lancaster New Era didn’t post a notice (which I’m now very grateful for) but they sent a photographer to do a spread in the “Your Life” section of the paper. Look for it in the December 1 edition. (Hopefully I can get permission to repost it here, just like their last article.)

Finally, when the photographer for the Harrisburg Patriot-News was here last month for the story on Olde York Homes, I took him over to the Wolf Sanctuary and he snapped some pics. Apparently the newspaper liked them so much, they ran on article on the Sanctuary on Sunday,


Mike and Mike

Mike and Mike, normally “the HVAC guys,” became “the propane guys” for the day. Dawn had two 1,000 gallon tanks installed and filled in preparation for winter. I saw the bill and immediately started wondering, why didn’t we put in geothermal again?

installing propane lines at the Speedwell Forge B&B

Don’t let Mike’s shovel fool you — they used the backhoe to dig the trench

We were originally going to install the propane tanks directly behind the house (buried, of course) but then Dawn found out that a regulator needed to stick up 16 inches above ground. (Again, nobody seems to get that we want to restore an historic building, not create a shrine to modern conveniences.) So she moved the tanks up the hill, informing me (after the fact) how much more it would cost to run the extra piping.

And then to add insult to injury, they still needed to put a regulator directly outside the building, so we have a little pipe sticking up outside all three buildings. Argh…



A variety of events have conspired to prevent me from getting any fresh video for the past two months. (Dawn was taking it, I just couldn’t get it.) During her three-day visit last week, while she was cleaning the yard or something, I copied everything and chopped four hours of stuff into nine videos, each about a minute long. Click on the large picture to play; click on the link to get more information.

After drilling our new well 250 feet through solid shale, they found…nothing. So they picked another spot up the hill and drilled 500 feet down, and found water.

We’re using BIBS — blown-in blanket system — for insulation and soundproofing. First they tack up nylon netting over all the rafters; then they blow in insulation. When finished, it really does look like a soft, fluffy blanket.

Our $2,500 clawfoot whirlpool tub was unceremoniously upended and shoved through the second floor window.
I just can’t seem to get enough of the septic system. This is a compilation of twelve tanks being installed, but the video makes it look like just one tank.

Rodney removes the old mortar, while Henry re-points with new. Not terribly exciting, but a very important part of our restoration nonetheless.

Adam Moyer using an auger to dig holes for the plumbing and air conditioning line sets. If it’s true that the man who dies with the most toys wins, Adam has us all beat.

Dawn finished stripping the windows in the mansion, all 46 of the them.


Shopping list

Since I posted the to-do list, I might as well post the shopping list. These are the things we still need to buy before we hang out the “vacancy” sign (which we also need to buy).

  • Street sign
  • Spotlight for street sign
  • Light posts along driveway
  • Accent lighting on house?
  • Invisible screen door?
  • Stairwell keys with Darlington crest
  • TV armoire
  • Tablecloths, table liner
  • Kitchen sink, faucet, soap dispenser, water filter
  • Commercial dishwasher
  • Range hood, liner, exterior fan
  • Plates, cups, saucers, bowls, serving pitchers, platters, silverware, etc.
  • Wine carafes?
  • 4 twin mattresses (Boys’ room, Paymaster’s Office)
  • 3 queen mattresses (Kathryn’s room, Bill’s room, Summer Kitchen)
  • 2 twin/king converter
  • Sleeper sofa (Summer Kitchen)
  • Gas logs (Paymaster’s Office)
  • Stand-alone gas fireplace (Summer Kitchen)
  • Stand-alone electric fireplace (Boys’ room)
  • 4 electric fireplace inserts
  • 9 bedside lights
  • 5 alarm clocks
  • Lighted mirror (Kathryn’s bath)
  • 3 tub fillers
  • 4 hairdryers
  • Medicine cabinet (innkeeper bath)
  • 4 Vanity lights (Bill’s room, Boys’ Room, Summer kitchen, Innkeeper’s bath)
  • 1 Dresser (Bill’s room)
  • 1 Pool table
  • 3 wireless access points
  • 1 Paper folder
  • Backyard lighting (solar?)
  • 3 TV/VCR/DVD (Mansion, Summer kitchen, Paymaster’s Office)
  • 1 portable TV
  • 1 kitchenette with built-in microwave (Summer Kitchen)
  • 1 kitchenette with separate microwave (Paymaster’s Office)
  • 6 red chairs
  • 2 kitchen tables
  • pots/pans/dishes/silverware (cottages)
  • washer/dryer (Duet)
  • 1 folding table
  • 1 laundry sink/faucet
  • 40 drinking glasses
  • 4 luggage racks
  • 8 flower vases
  • Glass tops for all tables/dressers
  • 3 fans
  • Backup generator
  • Wooden blinds
  • Pictures/paintings?
  • 4 bedspreads (Amish quilts?)
  • 12 sheet sets
  • 12 washable blankets
  • Allergy “bags” for box springs, mattresses, pillows, comforters
  • 36 guest towels
  • Phone system (7 lines)
  • Credit card machine
  • Brochures, gift certificates, price sheets, guest comment cards
  • Travel kits (little toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)
  • Phone cards
  • Magnetic vehicle signs
  • Room diaries
  • 9 chandeliers (library, kitchen, hallway
    [3], Bill’s room, Paymaster kitchen, dormer, game room)
  • Front porch light


Summer Kitchen

After Brian had gotten a little overzealous and stripped off the wall-to-wall carpeting, six layers of linoleum, the original wood floor, and the old floor joists, the place sat quietly for three months. Last week, it was a hive of activity.

Mike had another job to complete in Cornwall, so Barry from Olde York Homes is helping out. His first job was to remove the only functional bathroom, which didn’t make him real popular with the rest of the crew. (The septic guys had accidentally cut off the water supply the day before, but nobody noticed the toilet didn’t flush. They noticed the toilet was missing right away.)

The many faces of Barry

The many faces of Barry

Barry then removed the “privacy glass” window that had been installed where the old door had been. (He found a brick signed “Wm Darlington 1952” — William was Dawn’s father.) Unfortunately, we don’t have a door to replace it with, so right now there’s a piece of board marked “door” covering the hole.

Next, Barry laid out a grid of new floor joists, but Mike the HVAC guy stopped him so he could first install some ductwork. Soon the plumber and electrician were also involved, and the entire floorplan was modified! Now there’s a “utility room” that’s only accessible from the outside, which houses the air handler, hot water heater, and breaker box. It’s actually kind of clever; I wish I’d thought of it.

So then Barry went upstairs to pry up the old floorboards on half of the room so he can reinforce the floor to support a whirlpool tub and a bathroom. The plumbers have asked if they can hoist up the bathroom fixtures while the floor is out, instead of having the take them up the circular staircase, so he’s waiting for them.

So if you’re keeping score, Barry removed the old bathroom without building the new one, he opened the wall but didn’t install the door; he laid the floor joists without laying the floor; and now he has pulled up the old floor upstairs without repairing it. Barry, can you finish one job before starting another? 😉


Final word on the septic system

I’ve decided to never mention the septic system again. After this, of course.

  • The septic system is designed to handle 1,800 gallons per day. We will have 5 adults plus up to 10 guests, so even on a full day, assuming each person takes one 5-minute shower and I run 3 loads of laundry, everyone will have to flush the toilet 37 times each before we exceed capacity.
  • There are two fields, each 60′ x 220′. Together that is half the size of a football field (or the full size of an arena football field, if you’re into that sort of thing). In city terms, my septic field in Pennsylvania is 5 times bigger than my entire property in Los Angeles.
  • The “nitrate plume” area (which we can never build on) is 10 acres in size. The minimum lot size in the area, I believe, is one acre, so that’s the equivalent of 10 homes. At a conservative value of $10,000 per acre, that is$100,000 worth of land sitting idle.
  • The pipes run a quarter-mile (1,350 feet) long, and 93 feet up. Now, I don’t design septic systems for a living, but even I am pretty sure going uphill is a bad idea.
  • There are 5 tanks, totalling 7,500 gallons, which all had to be custom-built for our project.
  • The system requires access points every 50′. That means 27 manholes will dot our property.
Septic System or Sub-division? It's hard to tell

Septic System or Sub-division? It’s hard to tell

Everyone tells us they’re happy we’re restoring the property, but then they make up these ridiculous requirements that defy common sense and cost a fortune. If I ever meet anyone who is considering restoring a property in the area, I will tell them they’re crazy.

Come to think of it, everyone we talked to who had restored a property in the area told us we were crazy.



The project is now moving so quickly, I can’t keep up. The septic guys are building the sand mounds, digging the trenches, and burying the tanks; the air conditioning guy is running ductwork and installing cooling lines; one carpenter is fixing the roof on the summer kitchen, while the other one is prepping the radiators; the electricians are hooking up the junction box; the mason is repointing the stone walls; Brian is finishing the basement in the workshop; and Dawn is trying to stay on top of it all!

When Brian first approached Henry about doing the mansion, Henry said we were too far away. Then somehow Brian tricked him into visiting, and as soon as he saw the stonework he agreed to do the work. I think that's the mark of a true craftsman.

When Brian first approached Henry about doing the mansion, Henry said we were too far away. Then somehow Brian tricked him into visiting, and as soon as he saw the stonework he agreed to do the work. I think that’s the mark of a true craftsman.

The only person who isn’t there is the heating guy, who is probably the most crucial person right now. We have been assured he will be there next week and will have enough time to run all the plumbing to the radiators by the end of October. We’ll see.

Henry Hollenbeck, along with Brian and Rodney, are “repointing” the mansion. This means blowing out all the old loose mortar (the stuff that holds the stones together) and applying new mortar. The trick is to match the mortar to the stone — if the mortar is too hard (like portland cement), then during a freeze-thaw cycle the mortar destroys the surrounding stone!

Needless to say, the last person who patched the walls used portland cement. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like too much damage was done, and Henry is going to pull all that out. He is also trying to match the color of the new mortar to the old, and also “tool” (shape) it like the original mortar, so when he’s done patching we won’t be able to tell old from new. (That’s the plan, at least.)

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