Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Joey's Mom: Renovating Barclay Street

We're back with another post in our Joey's Mom series! After Joey's Mom and dad were married, his boss at the barbershop generously offered to give up his apartment for the newlyweds. In the housing shortage post WWII, this was a big sacrifice to make and Joey's Mom theorized that Mr. Ripmaster didn't want to lose his star barber.

The enterprising newlyweds got to work renovating the Barclay Street house, turning the upstairs into separate apartments. Jerry and Joey's Mom did most of the work themselves on nights and weekends. You can read below about their work on the house and stay tuned for more fun renovating stories from Joey's Mom on a second rental property - including photos taken for a DIY contest they entered!

Below, Joey's Mom shares about the experience of renovating Barclay Street!

Our life was now constantly work, work, work, but with we did it with relish! Day jobs, then a quick Kewpee oliveburger, then evenings at Barclay Street. Days off and Sundays too. We weren't having a lot of fun but we committed a lot of "sins." Most of them consisted of painting over beautiful old wood!

Our tenants could walk into an apartment with a suitcase of duds and start living. Electricity, heat, and water were "on," and we provided furniture and window coverings. Above, Jerry updates a good sturdy chest found in the building.

Our combined skills got the job done. Jerry's knowledge of carpentry expanded daily as he worked. He was the better of us to draw plans from scratch when we built new. I was quick to visualize how to renovate the old: where heat runs could come up from the basement through the first floor, where we could fit in a bathroom, etc. I "invented" a 3-foot-by-9-foot bathroom that took only a narrow slice off a former large bedroom to create an entire apartment.

While Jerry did most everything himself, he didn't hazard the intricate plumbing maneuvers necessary for this job. Ed the plumber was a customer of Jerry's at the barbershop who agreed to do the work. When the bill came later, Jerry was surprised and angry. Litigation ensued. I learned a lesson from the sidelines: Have a clear understanding up front, preferably in writing. The knowledge served me well later in contracting work on my own, as I purchased buildings and renovated them in Lansing and East Lansing.

Jerry continued to hone his cabinetry skills on this building. Such small amounts of space for complete apartments almost dictated built-ins, and they were the rage in the 1950s anyway. Here Jerry designed and built space for clothing in deep drawers and cupboards, while to the right he hid a chimney behind bookcases and shallow cupboards.

Jamie here: We see these kind of renovations all over "blogland" these days and it's so fascinating to know this DIY culture is not a recent phenomenon! I love peeking into Joey's Mom's world! Want to see more? Check out Joey's flickr stream!

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  1. Jamie-as you know, I love this series. It's so fun to read about things from the past, and to see the pictures is an added bonus. :)

  2. thanks! this accidentally posted about 11 hours early... oh well!! :)

  3. Between the two of them, those rentals had to be absolutely amazing.


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