Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm in pieces, bits and pieces...

Yesterday, I renewed my library card, finally. :)

That gave me access to several things online...and I was able to find a couple interesting things about the house AND about my family and the house I grew up in...

1. I found a 1948 Chicago Tribune story about graduating high school seniors at the local public high schools who were to be some sort of award-winners, as voted on by their classmates. A girl named Patricia Morrison, who attended Steinmetz, came up as living at our current address here in Portage Park (as the story listed the addresses of the kids up for this honor as well as their high school). So that's a lead, definitely.

2. I got onto the Cook County Records page and was able to find a few things out about the owners of our house just prior to us. Apparently, Ronald Schabinger (the softball Hall-of-Fame member who lived here just prior to us but died about six months before we bought the house) had this house for quite a while. Or at least, a family member of his did. There were three different members of the Schabinger family listed in the records at different times going back to 1987. In 1987, the Timko family appears to have owned the house. But that's as much as I got. Still, again, a good lead.

3. As believed, the Sanborn fire insurance map showed that the back porch of the house once was a separate porch with a side entrance (where our current stove/oven sits), much like the "typical" Chicago-style bungalows out there. However, what is further interesting from the Sanborn maps is the fact that our house apparently had NOT BEEN BUILT in 1924, when the map for this area was first drawn. In fact, the second house in from the corner was on a three-wide city lot, including our lot AND the corner lot. What intrigues me about this is, there had been confusion to begin with over whether this place was built in 1922 or 1924. What also intrigues me is that the second house in from the corner (our neighbor's house) looks like it's more of a twin that would have been built around the same time as our place. Maybe not. Anyway, this will lead to more investigation.

4. The other interesting stuff I saw was mostly related to the house I grew up was apparently one of the first built on its block on the Southwest Side, because it's surrounded by empty lots in the Sanborn map for its block, and things like that.

Anyway, today I've been spending most of the day fighting the backyard floodwaters again, trying to keep them at bay and from coming in the house. Went to Home Depot and got the last pump they had, and so far, it's been great. Maybe I'll post a review at some point!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Looking for Ikea Trofast reviews/alternatives...

Hey, wonderful, glorious readers of Build a Better Bungalow (and wherever else this might end up...Google?

I need some help. Going into Christmas, we knew our son would get tons of toys for his first Christmas...we knew it. But we didn't have a toy box or toy "storage." Well, he did, and now we have to make our move!

I don't want just some old toy box, even though a traditional box would be, well, traditional. I want a storage unit that will allow sorting of the toys and will prevent little pieces from falling to the bottom and being forgotten or lost. I also want something that can change as he gets older and will give us some versatility. As such, Ikea's Trofast system came to mind. Here's a picture and a link:
So, aside from the Ikea Web site really, honestly sucking, and my general derision toward the thought that I would buy anything at Ikea (I don't like the quality I've seen on many things I've browsed or that my wife has owned from them, and typically I'm not attracted to their styles of furniture), this does actually seem like it would be a solid purchase to make.

My question is, has anyone out there used this system at all? Any positives? Negatives? Any better options out there at other stores that might cost less but provide more or equal to Ikea?

My wife and I traveled all the way to the Ikea in Schaumburg today, but couldn't find this particular combination or figure out how to get it. And, after dealing with a stupidly laid out store (again, my humble opinion, but I shouldn't have to lug my 9-month-old son in the doors, up an escalator and halfway across the 2nd floor to get a shopping cart -- he's not a feather, you know), invisible employees and other headaches, I decided to leave and see about getting it online. Of course, I got back here and checked, and I can't order this specific combination I wasn't happy about that.

So, I'm actually hoping someone else will give me a better store/better option than Ikea! Comment away!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all, especially Target...

Originally uploaded by southsideandy
So, OK, this picture isn't of the tree I'm about to discuss...the picture is our tree, tonight, on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to everyone out there!

Here's a tip for all of you least my local Target is doing this. I was at Target during the day Christmas Eve, picking up a few things. I noticed that they were selling the floor model pre-lit Christmas trees for 75% off! Gina and I thought about getting one this year, but just decided that it wouldn't be a good move at the moment, especially since the trees I liked were all regularly $250 and up.

But holy cow, 75 percent off for a floor model tree? If it was something else, I might hesitate, but here's something that has been a floor model for only about three months and is up high where people can't just grab at it and poke at it and drag it.

So I bought it. Furthering my discount was the fact that the employee gave me an incorrect tag for a tree that was $200 regularly priced (compared to my tree, which would have been $275 regularly). So I got a great, great deal, and all that's missing is the box!

I'm excited for next year!

Everyone have a great holiday!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Family first... has been HUGE. Huge, I tell you...

I've found so much stuff on my family ancestry, I can't even begin to describe it all. Some of it I didn't know. Some of it, I knew but did not have confirmation. The rest, I knew, it's just nice to get it down "officially" and all that.

As such, my house genealogy has taken a backseat for the moment. Like I said though, I'm going to have to go to the library and find out what I can during my work's "winter break"...gonna have a lot to look up, that's for sure!

And hopefully, then, lots to report back here! But we shall see how it goes. I needed to get some family genealogy out of the way, given that I'm going to see my family here next week for Christmas, and want to be armed with the stuff I know in order to "interview" my uncles, aunts and parents on what they know that I don't.

Should be fun...just like the 6-12 inches of snow we're expected to get tonight...yippee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

House history: It's contagious...

Spurred on by The Bungalow Chronicles and Bungalow Insanity, I decided to scratch the House History itch this evening...using their methods of checking the 1930 Census data, I found out about a previous owner of our house -- the Stoffer family. Julius P. and Margaret Stoffer were of Romanian descent, and came to the U.S. sometime between 1913 and 1921 -- I know this because they had a 17-year-old daughter (Elizabeth) who was also born in Romania, and a 9-year-old son (Martin) who was born in Illinois.

Julius was a bricklayer in building construction, according to the census data -- his neighbor to the east was a Romanian cement finisher in building construction as well. I wonder if they worked together and/or built these houses? Of course, I believe our house was built about 8 years prior to the census, so anyone could have built these homes and lived in them prior to the Stoffers. That said, the "cement finisher's house" and mine are extremely similar, so who knows?

Elizabeth, it appears, worked as a bookkeeper for a furniture moving company, for what it's worth, at age 17.

So now I'm curious about all this...I wish I had the time to research more. I did confirm that the previous owner died about six months before we bought the house, and was relatively young (50 years old). I do know more about him though, having done research and asking neighbors about him before, when we first moved in.

But I'm excited -- yet, finding out more, I fear, will require a trip to the Harold Washington Library downtown, and would probably require a day or two for it all too. That excites and scares the hell out of me, mostly because I wish I knew where to start first, rather than wasting time figuring out what to do. You know?

I did spend a lot more time today on researching my family tree, rather than my house's previous owners (I hardly know any, so that's why). It's a really cool tool for that, if any of you are into genealogy of your families.

Anyway, if I figure out anything else, I'll record it here, of course.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Not a moment too soon...

Well, the insulation work was done this past week, but I had to travel for work and was fighting through a tough cold the entire week. Not fun.

We got Pro Pink loose-fill insulation blown into the cavities between the first and second floor, which was my main concern, as we were getting serious drafts under the floor on the second floor that were actually cooling that level quite a bit more than was comfortable. We also had the kneewalls on the second floor insulated fully and covered with housewrap on the non-finished side of the wall. The access panels were given a foam insulation backing, and the hood vent ducts from the kitchen through the crawlspace and out through the roof were wrapped in foil insulation.

All in all, it took about a day for them to come in and do the work, and it was reasonably priced, in my humble opinion.

This all comes not a moment too soon, as our most recent gas bill arrived today and is near $400. That's ridiculous, since we spent less than $300 last year for the month of November. So I'm hoping to death that the insulating we did will put a serious dent in that number. I am concerned, though, about the fact that the roof did not get any insulation, because they couldn't access behind the drywalled ceilings to inspect for it. Personally, I don't think there's a lick of insulation up there, but I could be wrong. I'd like to know and find out if it could be insulated. I just wonder how much heat is escaping through the ceiling/roof of the second floor finished space. We shall see, I suppose.

Now, on to getting that basement family room finished already...Lord knows it's been sitting there for a while now...