And a kitchen is found

April 14, 2010

A few weeks ago we bought a display model kitchen from Arclinea– the italian cabinet-maker that the Italian government chose (and they could have chosen any Italian cabinet-maker right?) to do the kitchen for the Italian Embassy in Washington DC.

Arclinea prides itself on being green by Reducing Consumption of Raw Materials, utilizing Low Emission adhesives and seals, using Recycled Materials, and practicing Green Manufacturing to make a Superior, Durable Product.

The only downside of the product is the energy cost of shipping from Italy.  And though the unit has been in Chicago for approximately 4 years, it’s not really re-used.  That said it fit the space so well that it was too nice to pass up.

Aaron, Susan, and Charles from Arclinea have been completely generous with their time and help with figuring out how to make all the pre-existing pieces fit in our new space, as well as providing general design advice.

The future 1610 Kitchen

Stairs- Inside and out

April 7, 2010

Work progresses on the inside and outside stairs.  The inside stairs are cut and welded on site.  The outside stairs are also cut, welded and bolted on-site, but will then be completely dismantled, sent off to be galvanized, then brought back and put back together.

Interior stairs facing south

Exterior Stairs facing west

Elemental Building- International

March 26, 2010
Earlier in the month the COO of Elemental Building went for a site visit to check in on a project in the international program, ElementalBuilding-BC (British Columbia, Canada).  Though there were some initial concerns, the project is actually coming along nicely.  The project leader, Greg Dunn has designed space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, with lots of light, open space and interesting angles.  A lot of thought has gone into functional pathways, use and flow- with lots of attention to details.  From a green perspective, the project will have sprayed closed-cell foam insulation, and, well, that’s about it.  Though I’m sure the lumber was also drawn from local sources and the structure is incredibly solid which will make it extremely durable- an often over-looked green element.  Overall, we are really interested in seeing how this project pans out and revisiting it and providing future updates.  

Gregg Dunn- Project Manager


The source of concern on the initial site inspection

Dunn and Simpkin (specialized field consultant) on site - note multiple microlam beam and joist hangers

Next month we’ll go south of the border to ElementalBuildings- Melaque for a look at what’s developing south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Placing Concrete

March 21, 2010
As Mike Molnar once told me (from back in my Comer Children’s Hospital Days), you place concrete, you don’t pour it.  Last month we placed the basement concrete and have since framed the walls and run most of the plumbing and electrical in the basement and 1st floors.

Under the concrete we first placed 2 ” of  Polyiso Foil Faced Foam Board from AtlasRoofing.  The product will provide an R-value of 6.5 per inch under the slab.  It was also a bit hard to find, but we were steered in that direction after the August 1st article from Environmental Building News described the numerous downsides of Polystyrene Insulation which is still the dominant market product in below-grade applications.

Polyiso avoids many of the Polystyrene problems and the foil facing will help reflect the radiant heat from the radiant coils which were embedded in the concrete.

Since the concrete is going to be the finished floor we added ‘limestone’ color to lighten the look.

Polyiso Insulation as viewed from above


'Limestone' concrete comes down the chute


Vladamir (foreground), and Woytek, roll it out


A happy man


the calm after the storm

Raise the curtain(wall), the show is about to start

March 7, 2010
Last month we put the support structure in for the south-facing window wall.  Eventually, there will be twelve 7′ x 4′ windows from Serious Materials.  These windows will have an R-value of 9 and are the most energy-efficient windows built in the US.  R-value is the measure of insulation and basic windows have an R-value of 1, with most high-end windows only achieving an R-value of 3 or 4.

The Day Begins

Vladamir takes the top position

Woytek and Slovek take the middle of the column

Bogden, John, and Artur raise the base

'You're doing it wrong', says Ted

Checking for plumb


Artur is satisfied

The Final Product

Raise your hand if you’ve set off the new alarm system. . . .

March 3, 2010

Woytek fesses up!

The new alarm system is working as evidenced by two calls in the last 36 hours.  The first was Tuesday morning at 3 am, which resulted in Chicago’s finest responding within 5 minutes, where a real attempted break-in was discovered.  Together, we did a walk through of the house (after I had slinked up to the house afraid I was going to surprise the potential burglars in the act), and discovered the break-in point.  They held a light on the door while secured it with two more 2 x 4s.

This morning, Woytek decided to enter the garage without turning off the alarm- presumably to test the system, which it seems was mildly amusing to John.

John the Plumber (not to be confused with Joe)

What is fortunate is that Dexter did not have to get involved, and its good to know the new system is working as it is supposed to.

Tragedy Strikes!

February 24, 2010

Ok- maybe not tragedy, but disappointment.  Apparently local burglars aren’t buying into the green movement yet, as some person (persons) broke in and tore out the copper plumbing that was already in the walls.  Not only do we have to replace the copper, and also redo the labor of sweating the pipe and re-installing it, but they also damaged some of the walls in the process.   They might have gotten a couple hundred bucks for the brand new copper as scrap.  Such a waste.  If they had only asked, I might have just given them some money.  Still – not a big setback and their situation is probably way worse than mine to need survive in this type of fashion.

Also- for like the 1st time since the building has gone up, I left my tool bag with drills, measuring tape, utility knife, bits and CAMERA- and they got that too.  So no new pictures for a while- I’ll post some old ones soon and then new ones once I replace the camera.

A brief history of 1610

February 9, 2010

Map of 'the old neighborhood'

As seen from the above survey of the bucktown neighborhood, our building was built sometime before 1886. Originally called Girard Street, it was renamed Honore after Chicago Businessman Henry Honore  sometime in the 20th century.  1610 can be seen as property number 48 in the map below:

1610 listed as property 48

1610 N Honore St (formerly Girard St), otherwise known as lot 48 of E. R. Smith’s subdivision of Block 35 of Sheffield’s Addition to Chicago was (apparently) originally part of a plot of land once owned by Charles G Wicker (as in the Charles Wicker, of Wicker Park, the small park located one half-mile southwest of the property, general name of the neighborhood and title of the Hollywood feature film starring Josh Harnett).   Somehow property #48, which was once a combined lot with #49, made its way into the hands of Nathan Corwith.  And so our story begins:

1868 (yes 3 years after the end of the civil war)-  Nathan Corwith sold the property along with another dozen parcels to Richard Hurd for $5,400.

1870 -Hurd dies and wills the property to his daughter Anna who marries Richard Folsom from Cincinati.  (To his wife he leaves their Ohio home, $3,000, household goods, and ‘all his horses, carriages, and harnesses’)

1883 (August) – Anna (Hurd) Folsom sells the combined property (#48 & #49) to Henry Holpe for $700

1883 (November) – Holpe (along with his wife Hanna) divides the property and sells #48 (1610 N Honore) to Tollef Tollagsen and #49 to Amalie Schmragh (a spinster) for $450/each, pocketing a healthy 28% profit in just 3 months

1883 – 1890 – during this time Schmragh seems to have borrowed money from Tollagsen as well as a ‘bagman’ named George Coombs, using the #49 property as collateral.

1890- Tollagsen (and his wife Hilda) sell #48 to Wenzel Majeski for $3500- a 90% annual profit for Tollagsen (though as suggested by the map from 1886, Tollagsen may have been the person who built the home which stands there today)

1894- Majeski sells #48 to Alexander Wiedenhoft for an unknown amount of money (Majeski appears to have financed the deal for Wiedenhoft)

1924 – Wiedenhoft dies.

1925 (Feb) – Wiedenhoft’s heirs sell #48 to George Smegeil (a bachelor) for an unknown amount of money.

1925 (April)- Smegeil sells to William F. Ludwig by allowing Ludwig to assume a debt of $1800 that dates back to 1910 when Wiedenhoft borrowed against the property from a guy named Neuman. (Neuman!)

1925 Ludwig also buys #49 once again consolidating the two properties

1929 (March)- 7 months before the ‘Black Tuesday’ crash of the Wall St, the Ludwig family (operating under the trust ‘Ludwig & Ludwig’) sells the combined property to William and Helen Balrig.

1930s- the Balrigs seem to get in a bit of jam, having a mechanics lean placed on the property by the General Accept Company, and borrowing money from Seymour Marks, and the Noel State Bank, posting both properties as collateral.

1938 – the Balrigs quit their claim to the joint property and it goes to Jean Leibowitz (a spinster) who later marries a man named Diamond and takes his name.

1939 -1942 At the end of the great depression, there is a rapid series of transfers of the property.  Diamond (Leibowitz) splits the property again and quits her claim on #48 to Erwin Klenn, who then quits his claim to Sarah Owcarz, who then quits her claim to Josephine Owcarz who then quits her claim to Sarah Carmst

1949- Eventually there is a real sale again and Sarah and her husband Edward Carmst sell to John Schaeffer and his wife Ellen, who take out a $4,000 mortgage.  Shaeffer  pulls the only building permit listed for the property which interestingly enough is for a 20 x 20 garage which (per the permit documents) is estimated to cost $460.  (60 years later we’ll rebuild the garage at a cost of $115,000).

1956 (June)-Schaeffer sells to Peter Nikolich

1956 (October)-Nikolich sells to George Owcarz Jr and his wife

1974- Owcarz sells to Manuel Ramirez for an unknown amount of money.  Ramirez takes out a $10,000 mortgage to purchase the property.

2008- Ramirez sells the property to Thomas McGrath (bachelor) for $565,000.

2010- stay tuned. . . . . .

(special thanks to the staff at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office- Pat, Michelle, Sam, Lawrence, and Rich, for their education and help in navigation)

New Things from Old things

February 3, 2010
Playing with the 120 year old wood from the original structure has been one of the more rewarding parts of the project.  Oxidized and dark brown today, once the rough cut wood is run through the planer the golden hues of the underlying material are released to be seen again.

120 year old rough cut lumber

the same board after its been run through the planer

The following few pictures show a nearly 100% recycled bed made from material on the site.  The old fence posts were cut down to 10″ and the paint was ground off and used to serve as the legs of the bed.  The lath board planks that have been made (see the earlier Dust to Diamonds post on this blog) became the decorative sides and shelves of the bed.  Even the mattress supports came from old maple hard wood floors that were salvaged from the house.  Some nuts, bolts and washers were purchased to hold the thing together but that is about all that was new.

Old fence post

old lumber center and side rails with flooring supports

The final product

To see more pieces fabricated from the old material at 1610, see the Furniture page on this web site.

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

January 26, 2010
The initial idea in rehabbing 1610 was to ‘unwrap the building’ by removing all the structural/decorative elements, replacing all the inefficient mechanicals, insulation and windows and re-wrapping the building with the salvaged structural/decorative elements.

  Unfortunately a lot of stuff simply could not be re-used- The building had layers upon layers of materials added over the years from all 3 faces of the building (walls, ceilings and floors). 

Old hard wood floors were covered first by sheets of linoleum, then square vinyl tiles, then carpeting.  The walls had plaster, wallpaper, then new sheets of drywall and wood paneling.  The ceiling had plaster ceilings covered by 8″ square ceiling tiles staple to the surface and then had a drop ceiling.  Even the front brick of the house had a faux brick covering:

Faux brick (including the 1610 address) over common brick


typical room treatment


What wasn’t saved was first offered to ‘the urban reclaim market’:

Now you see it

(moments later) now you don't


metal in the building

The metal in a pick-up truck and the guys who put it there


I looked into the possibility of recycling everything else- including 3’x5′ ceiling panels. Armstrong ceilings will take the stuff back and turn it back into new ceiling tiles- as long as its not wet or painted (much of mine was) and they only take it by the semi-truck load.  I found a place in the northern suburbs which acted as a consolidating point, but when I did the math -the carbon footprint of driving the few dozen panels I had up north outweighed the savings of recycling them.

The rest (again unfortunately) wound up in an RSI (Recycling Systems Incorporated) dumpster, where they continued to sort and salvage anything they could.

loaded dumpster


 The only good news about these extra materials added layer upon layer to the house- is that they did a reasonably good job of protecting the 100-year lumber, lath and floors- the subject of next week’s post.