One of my good friends from college (well, I went to school with her husband) came over tonight at our invitation to take a look at the house and give us any insights into its history. J. is an Architect getting a masters degree in architecture, and we were hoping that she could both tell us a little about the house and brainstorm about some of the things we can do to make good use of our spaces.
J. was pretty excited about the house, but wanted to see the basement first. Now our basement is pretty weird. The front half of it is concrete block--something extremely unusual for an old home. Architect pointed out that the concrete blocks (half-thickness) aren't actually load-bearing, but instead, they sit in front of the foundation, and the block wall that divides the basement in two has no supports whatsoever. She noted that a good swift kick could probably knock half of the wall over. So the basement is actually encased in concrete block as opposed to "made of concrete block." This is good news as far as I'm concerned, because I want to rip the block out at some point anyway (although it's pretty darned low on the priority list at the moment).
Why anyone would encase half of their basement in concrete block is beyond me.
Next, she pointed out that our house, while a brick house on the outside, is not entirely brick, but it's actually a frame house with brick facing.
Oh, and our radiators, which are hot water (as opposed to the typical steam heat), are not original, but were likely installed in the 30's or 40's. Radiators from our house's era (it was built in 1912) were ornate and decorative since they were out in the open. These radiators are plain and were always meant to have radiator covers on them.
The basement is stale, but oddly not musty. The windows in the basement are all painted shut, so it's never really aired out in ages. Combine that with the stale smell of paint applied sometime in the last year, and a whiff of sewer gas from what I can only presume is a dried-out P-trap in one of the basement drains, and you've got a beaut of a stink. So we stopped by The Paint Store and picked up a few Odor Magnets and scattered them around the basement.
We got the "natural" scent ones, and I don't know how these things work, but they really do suck the smells out of the air instead of masking it with some annoying phony smell. We used one of these a few years ago when we painted my office at home, and the strong paint smell was gone in less than two days. Let's hope these do as well for the basement.