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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 23, 2005

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. When I came back from my visit with cousin Jake I was planning to tell you a story about Theophillus Smith and Hooper Warren. Well, that story has to wait 'til next time because the winter's work of preparation by The Paint Crew is overwhelming and we need to talk 'house'! All of a sudden 'my' house has just come alive like a beautiful butterfly! We can talk about the floors, Delft tile, paint, gardens, wallpapering, or door hardware. How about just starting with Henry's new hidey place?


Henry has an exciting new hidey place! I am not going to tell you where it is but I will tell you that I am positive my newly found hidey place was made by Great- great- grandpappy Ezra. He was the one who had great tales to tell about Col. Ben and Lucy and the goings on around here in 1820. Well, he made his hidey place in a great location where a mouse just fits and can see and hear what goes on in Col. Ben's house. No wonder he had great tales to tell! Thanks, Great- great- grandpappy Ezra.
What has Henry learned from my new hidey place? Well, among many things, the front door has a beautiful handmade brass lock and doorknob. I learned that the door and closet hardware that Keith and Jack are installing are 1820 and 1845 handmade reproductions. A handmade lock and doorknob is as close to the original in design and locking mechanism as possible. I learned that people were smaller in 1820 and you will understand that when you see how small the doorknobs are! The guys are installing hardware in the rest of 'my' house too.


Now let's talk about Delft tile made in Holland. When you folks come to 'my' house, please be sure to look closely at the Delft tile on the fireplace in the front parlor. It was very fashionable to use decorative Holland tile when the Stephenson's built their home. Many folks had goods of all types shipped to the U.S. from Europe because this country had not begun production of many decorative or functional household items. Past owners of the Stephenson house remember that Holland tile was on the fireplace in the front parlor. Thanks to the generosity of a member of The Friends of the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House, Delft tile is once again on the fireplace in the front parlor. The tile is called 'Jumping Jest' and was painted in 1780 by a Dutch artist from Amsterdam. A jumping animal is painted on each tile including antelopes, rabbits, horses, jaguar, reindeer and fox. Each animal has a wonderful naïve expression and a slightly different body look that make one think the Amsterdam artist used his imagination as he painted! Henry heard that these antique Delft tile were part of a wall of tile in Amsterdam in the 1780's. They are so warm and wonderful, you must take time to enjoy them!


Henry has always known that the 1845 floors needed big time cleaning and restoration and would be a difficult job for The Paint Crew. They had to use a big machine called a floor sander. Ever hear of a floor sander? That big thing about scared Ol' Henry to death! But, what a job the machine does. The Paint Crew started out using the big machine. Then they included Keith and Jack, and finally all the 1845 floors were sanded. They are now smooth and beautiful old wood. Do you remember when Tom was chipping away at the residue from the linoleum in one of the rooms? Well, Tom's floor is now a smooth, warm, mellow floor with a wonderful old patina, thanks to his continuing work and the floor sander!


This old mouse likes the feeling of the children's bedroom. The room is so calm and peaceful and just perfect for children of the 1820s. I checked it out yesterday and saw where Joe and Sid decided to leave a portion of the original ceiling on view. A section of the original lath, plaster and beams is visible in a framed area in a corner of the ceiling. Really interesting.


Ol' Henry just has to talk about The Paint Crew. All of them are retired Edwardsville guys who spend one morning a week at 'my' house working on the walls and the floors. Henry here has joked about how much they laugh and have fun but I didn't tell you how they work with great patience as they sandpaper the walls they have previously painted. As they sand, they check for spots that Keith the painter plasters to make the walls smooth. They mark these spots with little stickum's. At the end of the morning 'my' house is full of yellow stickum's on the walls and men covered with plaster dust from head to toe. It does make a mouse smile!


Then Keith the painter comes in and plasters where the stickum's are and makes the walls smooth. He has been a good teacher for The Paint Crew who has learned a lot and has done an outstanding job. They are a special group of men!


Talk about paint! It seems like in an overnight The Paint Crew had the front parlor painted. And, the next thing the old mouse knew the millwork in the children's bedroom was getting its final coat of a yellow-gold paint. Keith will wallpaper in there in a few days.


The master bedroom has one coat of a yellow paint on the millwork and closet doors. John, who Keith the painters son, explained this is the first of three glazes. The second color will be white and the third and final glaze will be a salmon color. The result will be a weathered or washed pinkish color. Henry told you before that Keith would be using his grandfather's tools called combs for the glazing. The master bedroom is one of the rooms where these combs will be used.


The bedroom closet doors are the actual closet doors that Col. Ben and Lucy used everyday! That thought just brings all kinds of pictures to Ol' Henry's mind. I can just see Great- great- grandpappy Ezra hiding and staying real still in the back of the closet as Lucy hangs up her coat!


Carol F. has been one busy lady as she helps Joe in selecting and finding good prices on documented wallpaper. She also works with Jim Zupanci planning the gardens and plantings. My new hidey place is so good that from here I heard that Carol has ordered old time Heirloom tomato seedlings and seeds. Let the planting begin!


The good news is that The Friends have received a $5000 grant from The Edwardsville Community Foundation. This money will pay for the installation of an upstairs bathroom and a downstairs handicapped facility. No privies at ''my' house!


Hey, Henry here could go on and on about 'my' house 'cause this old mouse gets real nostalgic when he thinks of all the hands that have touched the closet doors. And the many people, plain settlers or famous men, who turned the small doorknobs as they came and went to Col. Ben's house. Hey, you too can touch the original doors and take a step back into Edwardsville's past. What a trip!
Be back later with my story about Theophillus Smith and Hooper Warren.


See ya' 'later,
Henry




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