Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on Wallpaper and Earthquakes


That’s the total number of different types of wallpaper found in my house – so far.  I may find more, but at this point, I think this is “it.”

The reason I’m telling you about paper number 18 is that it’s a really interesting find. 

Last weekend we were being treated to the penultimate winter weather on Vancouver Island – rain, wind, heavy black clouds and wind all rolled into one glorious day (also known as a hoolie) to spend inside.  I elected to (finally) climb into my attic space and check out the box of Christmas Ornaments that had been left behind.

Out to the shed, I collected the ladder and then inside I prepared to go up into the attic. 

Flashlight in hand, I climbed the steps and pushed the hatch open.  I pulled the box out and laid it on the floor below.  There is some interesting stuff – a couple of tall stand-up Santa Clauses, some flocked and glitter-encrusted plastic holly/cedar boughs and some bells.  Nothing antique though - ah well.  I had a look around and lo and behold… I found the hatch into the upper attic – the TRUE attic space to my house.  I pushed that open and climbed up further.

I didn’t find anything particularly interesting except for a HUGE unused space that, some day, I can convert to living space.  I did also note, however, that there really isn’t any insulation to speak of up there (there was some of that blow in fill between the rafters) and I have lined up an immediate project for myself as well as a long term one (in the conversion of that space into living area.)

On my way back out of the upper attic, however, I *did* discover something VERY interesting. 

Or rather, a FEW very interesting things. 

The walls between the bedrooms and the main living space of the main section of the house are very rough cut 2” by 8” planks – and I would estimate them to be 12’ long. Between the rooms there are two layers of them – so the original walls are VERY sturdy wood that’s not actually framed the way we would see in a conventionally framed house.  I suspect that they were nailed firmly to the rafters when the rooms were added.

I suspect this is why, after 115-some-odd years’ worth of earthquakes, my house is still standing.  I learned that there have been 7 major ones in the last 100 years - including one that measured 7.3 on the Richter scale right here in Cumberland (the epicentre was Forbidden Plateau) in June of 1946 that was so strong that it knocked down chimneys – here’s a short write-up that has been respectfully taken from the Earthquakes Canada website:

“Vancouver Island’s largest historic earthquake (and Canada’s largest historic onshore earthquake.) The epicentre was in the Forbidden Plateau area of central Vancouver Island, just to the west of the communities of Courtenay and Campbell River. This earthquake caused considerable damage on Vancouver Island and was felt as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The earthquake knocked down 75% of the chimneys in the closest communities, Cumberland, Union Bay, and Courtenay, and did considerable damage in Comox, Port Alberni, and Powell River (on the eastern side of Georgia Strait). A number of chimneys were shaken down in Victoria and people in Victoria and Vancouver were frightened, many running into the streets. Two deaths resulted from this earthquake, one due to drowning when a small boat capsized in an earthquake-generated wave, and the other from a heart attack in
Seattle. “

So at the very least, I know my house is built to last!

Anyhow, something else I discovered then I was up crawling around in my attic (and sub-attic space) was Wallpaper Number 18.  This find was a dilly!  The wallpaper itself is probably the least obnoxious I have found and is also the most historically significant one.  This is the ORIGINAL wallpaper put up in the house.  How do I know this? Its cloth backed paper (yes, paper stuck on linen cloth) that had been tacked directly to the rough-cut planks of wood that made up the original walls!  The paper is so brittle (100 years later) that I will have to remove it VERY carefully in order to take a sample… Hopefully I'll be able to provide you with a peek in the next week or two.

With love across the waters,

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