Secrets of Old Homes

Winter street and 1931 Salt Lake TribuneJanuary 2013
Rather than returning the pipe insulation tape I bought for an issue elsewhere, I decided maybe I should take a look at the pipes in my Yalecrest home and see if I can use the stuff here. It’s been so cold. I tend to keep my house cooler in the winter than most people. (In fact, my brother and I were once asked if we were related to polar bears.) I knew the pipes were near the furnace room, originating from the little shelf basement on the north. Being fairly ignorant on fixer-upper stuff, I couldn’t differentiate the water and gas lines with just a glance. But, it wasn’t hard to figure out. And it looked like the water pipe could use some wrapping. I put it on my to-do list.

Last night I decided it was time to knock that item off the list. The fluorescent light in there burned out, maybe a year ago. I figured the fixture should be replaced, but what’s the hurry? I bet Bill (the guy I bought my house from) put it in when he remodeled the basement… back in the day when brightly colored shag carpeting was all the rage. He was quite the handyman. I loved that guy. He had his hand on my house and a couple homes across the street. And he pruned the roses of neighbors that lived in Yalecrest, but not on our block. The late Martha Tucker told me he moved his old garbage disposal from my home into hers before putting in a new one. I thought that was kind of funny. Those old folks were always re-using, never wasteful, environmentalists to some degree before their time. But I digress. Back to my work…

I propped open the doors, put on my head lamp and crawled in to wrap that pipe. The pipe comes up out of the ground and then turns 90 degrees. The vertical part was completely bare. I wrapped it up. The top part was covered with light brown paper. It reminded me of old packaging tape that lost its stickiness. It appeared partially unraveled, like it was ready to fall off. I started tearing it off in little pieces because it wasn’t coming off as easily as I expected. Then I realized I was tearing off pieces of newspaper too. Someone wrapped the pipes with NEWSPAPER?!! (I briefly envisioned a movie scene with a homeless person under a blanket of newspapers.)

After using up the insulated tape, I started cleaning up. I became curious if one of the newspaper scraps might reveal a date. The stuff was old, crumbly, dirty… and in very small chunks. But I found a date. The paper was from Feb. 1931! WOW! That means the first owner covered this pipe with newspaper… during the first winter after “our” home was built! Awesome good job, Peter Peterson Jr 2nd! [yes, that wasn’t a typo]

One neighbor told me another neighbor said (sounds like a friend-of-a-friend thing?) that “these are just tract homes.” I held my tongue. I was listening, trying to decipher if there was a hidden meaning behind the first utterance and in this new repetition. Well…. my thoughts today?

Spec home, tract home, WHATEVER.

I’d take a home on a block of mostly Doxey-Layton/Layton Construction homes built 1929-1930 over any of the “custom homes” today’s builders/architects have modified in Yalecrest. Our long dead builders thought about the whole community and they knew how to build them. I respect the quality, craftsmanship, character of their work. Not so much when it comes to certain builders today. That’s my opinion. Ha! 🙂

—Kelly Marinan


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