It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

It was one year ago that my wife took her last breath, soundlessly, as I changed for bed in her hospital room. There was no gasp or moan or soft closing of the eyes. Simply a silence that I did not notice until I finished changing and turned to gaze upon the love of my life and realized she had slipped from this world.

Marrying Kathryn Bosher was the most meaningful event of my life. Even the birth of our son flowed from the energy and drive and meaning that she gave to every moment of our time together. The contrast between life’s beginning and life’s beginning could not be more stark. After my son’s birth I remember so clearly the buzz of the delivery room and the nursery and the activity and support on the neonatal floor. I remember walking triumphantly from the Penn Hospital, strutting down Spruce Avenue at about 1am with visions of the future before me as I headed home. All was promise and congratulations. Sitting in the room with Kate’s body as the nurse came in and out, then the doctor, then the family, all was silence and all was past. I chose not to witness the indignity of being zipped into a body bag. Her spirit had left already.


Marrakech Street

I am exceedingly excited for two reasons. First, my son and I are getting ready to travel overseas. We’re visiting Myanmar, where my brother-in-law and his family live. Second, I bought ten rolls of Fuji Velvia 50 and have my Mamiya C220. I first bought this camera in early 2009 to take to Morocco for this same BIL’s wedding. The shutter blades were stuck so I disassembled it as well as I could and got them working again. It has been my favorite film camera ever since and it was worth the weight to bring it on this trip, which will probably be once-in-a-lifetime.

Marrakech Night

We’ll be staying a few weeks so I hope to get a decent sense of how the city of Yangon works and take plenty of photos.

Week 5 Renovation

Down to the wire. We were aiming for December 6th and it would be close — finishing the project before I left or leaving some stuff hanging over. And how much?

Basically, it was a couple coats of paint. When I decided to refinish the kitchen and half-bath floors, that more or less needed to happen while we were traveling. So then we pushed back completion of the half-bath in order to do as complete a job as possible (getting under the sink and stool). That was already planned to be incomplete. What we mostly didn’t get done was the large amount of painting.

I was a bit worried earlier in the week. I had invited some friends over for dinner Saturday and expected to be able to do a nice job of hosting. But the plumbers had a problem with my old sink and all the workers were stepping over one another and I didn’t see how it would get done.
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Week 4 Renovation

Thanksgiving Week. A few short days then one full week to get it all done. But we’re putting things back together now, rather than pulling them apart. At the end of last week the plaster was finished and we were ready for cabinets in the kitchen and resurfacing everywhere else, then fixtures.

The shelving and cabinets are custom built. The shelving arrived last week and started to go up Monday and Tuesday. The whole kitchen project is idiosyncratic, so the cabinet design is equally idiosyncratic to suit our situation.

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Week 3 Renovation

Week 1 got us off to a good start. Week 2 was delays, catchup, and seemed overall to show a lack of progress. I was eager for things to get moving this week if we are to have any hope of meeting our project deadline. But these things don’t always go how you want, so Monday was not very active — just some preparation for the spray-in insulation on Tuesday, including laying the bathroom subfloor. When I first contacted the contractor, Shelter Alternatives, they also suggested I get an energy audit with their partner business, Energy Check. One of the upshots was that the basement was leaking heat, as was the pantry/half-bath. Spray-in foam insulation was recommended for the bathroom all around.

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Week 2 Renovation

The story of Week 2 was…not much happened. The discoveries of the end of week 1 (asbestos-y tile and an old plumbing/carpentry cockup) put the brakes on much of the work from this week and led to a series of rolling delays.

Monday was carpentry. The solution to the cut joist and overly aggressively notched joists in the bathroom was cross bracing, rather than sistering.

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Week 1, Reno/Rehab

The work: there are three things I’m having done on my new/old house. The first is re-converting the “pantry” off the kitchen back into a half bathroom. This is a little room, about 5′ x 7′, taking up part of the back porch space, that became a bathroom to serve the first owner, Henry Whitlock. Once he grew advanced in years he wanted a bathroom on the main floor so he didn’t have to use the stairs so much. The plumbing is “still there” but the codes have changed and the work may not have been the best quality in the first place, so it’s not an easy change. In addition, there was very little insulation to this room, so the energy audit showed it was really leaking heat.


The second thing is related to the first; since I’m moving the fridge out of the pantry, I’ve got to have a place for it. Thus, I’m moving a doorway a bit and putting the fridge in a new corner, along with some cabinets and shelving. Then I’m putting in new butcher block countertops to replace the older tile countertops that are there.

The third thing is updating the upstairs bathroom. This is mostly resurfacing (paint and flooring), shifting a bit of plumbing, and putting in a new tub/shower. This is the only photo I have of the bathroom pre-reno because no one ever wants to record its image for posterity.
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Foursquare Design

You probably know a foursquare when you see it — hipped roof with center dormer, fairly symmetrical facade, wide porch. On the inside, four rooms on each floor all roughly equally sized.

Lots of shade.

Lots of shade.

Yep, that’s the stuff.

But then what? How were these detailed and ornamented? Were there notable foursquares as there were for the bungalow, shingle style houses, or Victorians? I quickly reached the limit of my knowledge other than that it was a vernacular design popular at the turn of the century and into the 20s. The published record is EXTREMELY sparse regarding foursquares — hardly a commercial or academic book on them out there. Since foursquares featured prominently in Sears catalogs for mail-order homes, literature on Sears and other kit homes deal with them a bit. But that’s about it. It seems exceedingly difficult to find other sources on foursquare design, finishes, or restoration and rehabilitation. More to come.

The Whitlocks

Henry Whitlock was a painter.

He had once been a farmer, but moved to Blacksburg and built the house at 201 Giles Rd. in 1927. At that point Blacksburg was so small it did not have street addresses. Whitlock’s father and uncle had been building contractors and he had some experience with the trade, so he took a position at VPI and eventually moved up to a crew foreman position.

In the 1940 census, the Whitlocks indicated a home value of $5500, which inflates to $91,880 in 2013 dollars. The house has become MUCH more valuable than it was, in part due to improved features (e.g. radiators rather than coal stoves), a bit due to further development of the property (the finished 3rd floor) but largely due to the overall development of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg.

Henry Whitlock and Rosa Whitlock had a sizable brood. As of the 1940 census, 6 children lived in the house: Hortense (25), Ralph (19), Sydney (17), Josephine and Jewell (14), and Henry Jr. (7). There were actually 10 children (4 boys 6 girls), all of whom survived to adulthood as far as I can tell, meaning that for several years TWELVE PEOPLE lived in the house. This was not a Catholic family but Episcopalian.

Whitlock lived to the age of 102 and lived in the house until he was about 100 years old, according to the previous owner. In his later years he made the dining room his bedroom and made the pantry off the kitchen into a half-bathroom. This was a good idea that was subsequently changed back to a pantry for some reason — I’m going to change it back to a half-bath again. You can still see the location of the hinges on the dining room door frame to the kitchen where they put in a closing door. Whitlock eventually sold the house to a former VT football player and now real estate developer, Bill Ellenbogen, and moved into a nursing home in Virginia Beach. Here is the text of the only online obituary I can find on the web:


BLACKSBURG – Henry Byrd Whitlock, 102, father of Mrs. James P. Scott of Newport News, died Sunday, Oct. 29, in Heritage Hall Nursing Home.

He was born in Montgomery County.

Other survivors include five other daughters, four sons, 27 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Arrangements are incomplete.

Hoy-McCoy Funeral Home is in charge.

His wife, the prodigious Rosa Whitlock, seems to have passed away in 1977 and there is, lamentably, no online obituary for her.

I tracked down one of Whitlock’s few surviving children, Harry, now 96, and had a halting conversation with him over the phone the other day.