Caroline Andrews Fisk's Grandmother's Cellar Stair
Caroline Andrews Fisk’s Grandmother’s cellar stair was released from its attachment to the main homestead at the head of the kitchen’s cellar door when Caroline had the homestead lifted above the old foundation to allow a new foundation to be fabricated (from a cement mold) and “put” under the homestead. The cellar stair was carried outside the homestead from the kitchen by two men who, after prying it loose with crowbars and hammers, hauled it up from its footed (granite) stone rest in the cellar. They carried the stair out through the old summer kitchen into the sunlight in the yard and up past the Horse Chestnut tree marking the property line. The men set the stair by the edge of the “driveway” as Caroline called it. There were some previously removed old boards from the homestead already placed there so the removed cellar stair was in good company at its new resting place. Old ‘odd fellows’ from inside the old homestead they were, the boards and the stair together. They were in the sunlight together for the first time in over two hundred and fifty years. They were dry until it rained. Then they were ‘washed off’ and dried... in the sunlight. They sat there for about six weeks.
Until I came along and bought them.
That was okay; Caroline was having the cellar stair “replaced”. The old boards “didn’t matter” she said. There was also a “stack” of “the old doors”: “I am replacing those” she said. And sold them (the whole stack)
Other built-in features from inside the homestead were, too, removed, stacked outside, discovered by interested parties passing by and sold to them by Caroline. These included two fireplace mantels, three built-in cupboards (one a narrow chimney cupboard) and a gathering of “wide boards” “from the walls” (wainscoting). Further, the summer kitchen and attached shed were torn down, the lumber moved away, its granite foundation given away and the space bulldozed level to accommodate the raised patio Caroling “designed” for “that space”. She decided to “keep” the (old) barn.
Once the new foundation was “done”, the new furnace was “put in”. The electricians “re-wired” “the house”. New windows were... “too”.
The old brick center chimney and its fireplaces were all “taken down” and removed. The old brick was carefully loaded from the “pile” in the “yard” by the two men who “hauled it off” after this brick was given to them for their assurance that they would remove all of it. “You won’t BELIEVE how much SPACE there is now that those fireplaces are gone” reported Caroline to all interested queries.
I took the old stair to the indoor flea market. No one said much about it or about ‘buying it’. After two weeks the manager of the flea market notified me that a woman was “interested in it” and would “come by to talk to you (me)”. She had discerned that the price of the cellar stair was four hundred and sixty-five dollars ($465.00). Probably, I presumed, that price was a stumbling point in her interest and she wanted to “whack on me” about that (get a lower price).
She didn’t. She bought the staircase. Her concern was about payment; “Will you take a check”. I did, including the sales tax. She didn’t ask about the stair and for the price she paid I would normally presume that she knew what she was buying but from some sort of gut feeling I didn’t feel this was true. Her check was good and the money ‘all mine’. She had the stair “picked up”. I wasn’t there for that.
A few weeks later she was back at the flea market and spoke with me about the stair. She had, she reported, “Painted them” and “put them” in “my daughter’s tea room”. At first I thought that was a ‘room’ in a ‘daughter’s house’ but it turned out to be a new commercial venture modeled on 1920’s style New England tea rooms. The daughter was serving “tea” in a “room”. For profit. The stair, after being painted... white... was “put up” and had “her antiques” displayed on the steps. The woman showed me a poor set of photographs on her smart phone of the old cellar stair painted white and covered with “antiques”.
I had thought that I had charged (asked) enough money for the cellar stair; a Maine Colonial homestead era handmade natural surface White Pine lumber cellar stair case “in completely original undisturbed condition”, to prevent that from happening. I was wrong.
“I should have charged six-fifty (plus tax)”.
The chimney cupboard came back to haut me too. Again the smart phone photographs were force fed to my horrified eyes. “Refinished” it “myself” after “sanding the paint off”. “Replacing” one “knob” (original Colonial wooden door button) with “one that works” and “nailing” (tacking) a scrap of 1920’s ceiling molding to the top of the formerly ‘built in for two and a half centuries’...”. They painted the molding white to ‘match the ceiling”. “It doesn’t look (sit) level so my husband is going to fix that”. That actually means (translates) “If I had discovered the ‘level’ problem before I ‘restored’ the cupboard I wouldn’t have bought it but don’t think I can get you to take the cupboard back now that I have done so much work on it”:
She RUINED IT (the cupboard)
That is what she did: Ruin it. In a year or so it will be out in her garage and then she will sell it in a yard sale for “I paid XXX” for it and am “loosing” money. Then the cupboard will be sold again... a couple of times... at flea markets.
The someone will “keep it” and “use it”. “I didn’t know that it is actually an OLD cupboard”.
How would you.
When Caroling put the house on the market, after she completed the “makeover”, she failed to “flip it” like she said she was going to do. So the house was for sale... and I think it still is. Someone is living in it. There is aways a ‘big, black and ugly’ SUV parked there. And two other cars. The lawn is mowed. The mailbox still looks brand new. The rest of the land is for sale too. The house and barn sit on one point seven acres and there are ‘plus or minus’ eighty-four acres “behind” for sale. The original lot was four hundred acres.
The Tea Room folded first and the cellar stair entered the secondary (“used stuff”) market before the chimney cupboard was ‘yard sale ready’ from the back of the garage (“DON’T MOVE IT UNTIL SOMEONE BUYS IT”). The next time I saw the stair it was being used ‘as display’ in a booth in a coastal Maine ‘group shop’ ‘antiques center’. The stair did not appear to be for sale. It had no price on it and was covered with priced ‘antiques’ for sale. It is not still there.
The next time I saw it, it was in a different booth in the same ‘group shop’. It was still being used as display but had been... cut in half to make two ‘smaller’ display stairs. That was a really good idea. Wasn’t it.
Remarkably, the chimney cupboard managed to ‘get worse’ than the stair. When it was sold at the yard sale it ‘went into’ a local auctioneer’s auction... after he ‘discovered’ it in the garage at the yard sale. He actually ‘paid well’ for it but the original owner did not ‘recover’ her “costs”. The cupboard sold at the auctioneer’s auction for just a tad more than his ‘costs’. He ‘recovered’ but had to bounce the bidding off the wall at the end. If you know what I mean.
Then... I get this stupid woman calling me up to “SEE” if I can tell her “HOW OLD” the cupboard is. She’d been told to “ASK” me at the ...indoor flea market. Eventually she found me there, “ASKED” me and insisted I see too... her photographs of the ‘ruined’ cupboard on her smart phone including it in situ in her home
; “If I put adhesive wall paper on the SHELVES do you think that will make it WORK?” she ask me when we were looking at her photographs. I told her I thought it would. “Cut it” I told her; “I think it will CUT it.” I told her. She was completely satisfied.
“It’s a little BIG.” She confided.
“You could always cut it in half.” I said.
Scrutinizing the photo showing on her smart phone she paused and then said “I COULD do that. Your right.”
The old barn at Caroline Andrews Fisk’s Grandmother’s Colonial homestead was torn down. With little ceremony. So little I missed that. The torn down barn was hauled away, the site “CLEANED” and a cement “pad” “set”. A prefabricated three unit ‘garage’ was “set” on the “pad”. That’s there right now. The big, black and ugly SUV is still parked outside. The other cars are in the garage? I guess so.
The barn was empty. The older section, about one half, was built in the 1780’s. The “addition” was built after the Civil War. When the barn was taken down, an argument erupted over who got what of the barn lumber. I heard about it and didn’t go over. The next time I went near the place the barn was gone and the ‘pad’ for the garage had been “poured”. The new garage is made of metal and plastic so what happened to the wood didn’t matter