Old House Stories: Small Town Queen AnneTennessee River Country Old Photo Album

Welcome to our place on Lower Lick Creek Road.

The river is just a five minute drive from the house. There are several boat ramps handy.

The creek is a pleasant five minute walk from the house.

Deer in my yard in the early morning. I don't hunt but you could if you owned the property.

A walk in the woods. This is a ten minute movie I made in 2007. In this movie I just cover one half of the woods, the part on the right-hand side of the house.

Welcome to Old Tennessee House where I want to present information and inspiration about old houses, renovations, restorations, fixer-uppers, tools, materials, and the people who love old plaster and millwork. These are the stories of the houses I have worked on and fixed up between 1975 and 2009.

First, Some History

When I was a young guy I hardly knew how to roll paint on a wall. I was scared of any power tool that had a sharp blade.

I remember in the first little house in Nashville, I had to get a friend to come and show me how to nail down underlayment on the kitchen floor. He even had to show me how to swing a hammer correctly.

Joe puts on paint with a paint pad.

That first house was a four-room cottage in the Belmont neighborhood; my then-wife and I had paid a down payment and assumed a loan of about 13 thousand. Sounds cheap, but even then we could barely swing it. It had asbestos shingle siding and a gas powered floor furnace in the hall in the middle of the house.

I was a beginning fix-up guy but I soon learned that I could tackle whatever job was needed. We were there 3 or 4 years and had improved the house quite a bit when we got hungry to sell out and get one of the bigger, older homes we saw in the neighborhood around us. Once we went with an agent to see a big house in the fifteen hundred block of Sweetbriar Avenue that listed for about 15 thousand—it was split up into three apartments and had people living in it. Somehow we weren't able to swing the financing at that time, which was a shame because we found ourselves paying twice as much for it a couple years later—from a man who had bought it as an investment in the meanwhile.

Charlie Perry and James Campbell (probably) scraping paint

It was with the second house, an American four-square, that I learned how to handle myself with the fundamentals of old house fixing. I learned to put up scaffold, repair rotten eaves, straighten crooked porch posts, patch cracks in plaster, and paint inside and out. One of the biggest jobs on that house was scraping old putty out of the window sash and reputty miles (seemed like) of window panes. My brother Charlie helped me. I remember him sitting on a scaffold reglazing dozens of small window panes on the upstairs sunporch. His help (and the help of others) helped us over the hump and we managed to complete in sixty days the tasks on the dreaded codes letter, in time to get the promised loan from the S & L. We even had a party to celebrate and invited the codes inspector along with all our friends.

Dad cutting away rotten flooring at kitchen sink

I even got my dad into the act. I remember how happy I was when he (after his retirement from his government job and before his new vocation with World Christian Broadcasting) and mom came to visit and he tackled the rotten flooring under the kitchen sink. I remember going off to the hardware store (or somewhere) and when I got back he had taken the circular saw and plunge-cut right into the floor, which I would have been scared to try. You see I was afraid to tear up anything that I wasn't sure I could fix back—but I had to learn I just had to tear in and dig out the bad stuff and trust the matter of fixing back and covering over would be apparent.

Always expect to find rotten floors under kitchen sinks and toilets in houses older than forty years—sometimes in newer ones. Always expect things to have shifted a little beneath the surface. And always expect it to take more time, more labor, and more materials than you thought. Those are the kinds of things you learn when you work on old houses. Oh yeah, and always expect rotten sills in the floor systems of house that set too close to ground level.

We were in the house on Sweetbriar for a little more than a year when I started hearing the call to a small town. I started touring the counties around Nashville and found a house in Centerville where we would end up staying for fourteen years.

Read about the house in a small town.

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Joseph William Perry

Commodore Hotel in Linden

Just ten miles from my place. Kathy and Michael Dumont have delightfully redone this small town hotel. It's a great place to lodge in Linden and Perry County.

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My Home Page:
Joseph William Perry

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