Sept. 10, 1955


I don’t know for sure when my house was cut up into a two family, but I do know it was on or after Sept. 10, 1955. As I removed the last bit of Masonite on the stairwell side of the added wall, I spied a rolled up and folded newspaper stuffed into a gap between the last stud and the exterior wall; I carefully extricated it and flattened it. I wish it had a been a front page, but oh well. Instead, I got the tail end of the sports section (Rocky Marciano was taking a wee break before his upcoming fight) and the classifieds and car ads (a new Nash with radio, heater and continental wheel? Yours for $1,397).


And this is the clean work…

Circa 1955, the wall material of choice – at least in this house – was a precursor to contemporary sheet goods: 6′-long x 16″ wide pieces of some kind of gypsum board, rough on one side, with paper sandwiched between the smooth side. Over the top is a coat of plaster, about 1/8″ thick (you can see it squeezing through the seams on the backside above), with a skim coat on top.

Altogether, It’s about 7/8″ thick and I’m guessing it has Osmium in it (not really); I was breaking out 16″ squares, each of which weighs about 15 pounds. That doesn’t sound like much, but when it pops free of the nails and one is atop an 8′ ladder with a crowbar in one hand, well…

But it’s worth it. Already, with only the bottom area torn out, the entryway is much more inviting (if one can overlook the dust), and a lot brighter, too. I still have plenty of the plaster-like stuff to remove to fully open up the stairwell, and there’s some pretty nasty carpet to tear out (and under that, Masonite). So I don’t yet know the state of the trim on the bottom edge of the staircase (if it’s even there) or if the original treads are still in place (and/or salvageable).

I’m itching to find out…but like Marciano, I need a wee break before that next fight.


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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13 Responses to Sept. 10, 1955

  1. rondennis303 says:

    I hope you are using a respirator. Who knows what is in those building materials.

  2. N266237n says:

    You’re doing quite well with your progress, but be careful and press on.

  3. Brian says:

    Thats such a fun part of rehab. Coins are ubiquitous, but newspapers and garbage are also pretty common. Question: can you tell from the way it was inserted whether this was the date signature of a craftsman vs the leftover sandwich-wrapper of a sloppy apprentice?

    • fitz says:

      I’m pretty sure it was ersatz gap filler/insulation, given the location…and resulting gap when I removed it 🙂

  4. Paul says:

    The continental spare was a fancy cover for the spare tire mounted on the back bumper…. It would be NEET to see the Nash now.

  5. Nik Brown says:

    At least it’s better than lath and plaster…. I’ll never buy a house with any of that ever again!!!! or if I do I’m hiring help for once!

    • fitz says:

      I actually have a fair amount of practice with patching plaster…good thing, because many of the interior walls original to the house are plaster.

  6. tombuhl says:

    Hmmm, I would have taken Nik for a lath and plaster kind of guy. Next thing I’ll find out he has a table saw…and uses it.
    Megan, fun to live the demo life vicariously and without the dust. Have at it.

  7. David Taylor says:

    Totally vindicated! I have done that in every building I’ve worked on; left a newspaper section (and I always include the front page!) in some normally inaccessible place for some future renovator to find. I always wonder who will find it, why they are tearing out the wall, fireplace or what have you, and how long it stayed in place. I’ll probably never hear about one of mine but it was cool to hear of your find!

  8. nateharold says:

    My dad has had a ’53 Nash Statesman for the last 30yrs. Red top, black body. Very comfortable and quiet to drive… and I love how the vacuum tube radio warms up.

  9. steveschafer says:

    I think the official term for what you have is “foil-faced gypsum lath” or “foil-faced rock lath.” The foil is a vapor barrier, much like you see with foil-faced insulation. The modern equivalent of gypsum lath is blueboard (much lighter weight), but I don’t know if you can get it with foil facing (not that foil facing seems relevant in this location).

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