If for some reason you had ever made it to the third floor of the Whaley House, maybe as a volunteer or because you told me you just really like old houses and I’m a sucker for that kind of history talk, then you know it was divided it a few rooms. It was a finished third floor, but it wasn’t always like that.
This is a picture of the third floor after the fire. You can see all of the walls that were once there.
When the Whaley family lived at 624 E. Kearsley the third floor was one large room used for storage. Often during this time the third floor could have been used for bedrooms for children, particularly sons I read in one book on the gilded age. The Whaleys, however, had no need for more bedrooms, so we have it on record that the third floor was just storage space.
After Mary passed away in the mid-1920s the Whaley House became the McFarlan Home for Elderly Women. It was at this point that the third floor was finished and divided into bedrooms. Once the house became a museum in 1976, the third floor returned to being a storage area. One room was dedicated to Christmas decorations, others to collections and programs storage, and still another to odds and ends.
After the fire all of the walls on the third floor had to be demolished. Suddenly, we realized that we had an opportunity to make the Whaley House even more historically accurate than it had been! We are going to return it to one large, open room!
This is the same space pictured above! You can also see the difference between the new lighter colored wood and the darker charred wood. The burned planks that are left are still perfectly fine and we were able to save them. Less of the roof came off than we thought!
Not only will this better represent the house as it been during the Whaleys tenure on Kearsley Street, but it will also increase the amount of storage and work space we have. As an historic house, which is all on display for visitors to see, the third floor and the basement are the only spaces we have for this and neither is conducive to work space. Before I would set up tables in the summer kitchen (the lobby area) work on what I had to do, be it collections or exhibit construction, then pack it up before a tour. Anyone who came into the museum would see whatever mess I was in the middle of. This will eliminate that and make work more efficient!
There are steel beams that run along and sit on the brick wall and extend around the house. This absorbs the weight of the roof and distributes it, to avoid pushing the brick walls out.
It isn’t just going to be a big open unfinished attic, though. Since there will still be artifacts kept up there, we need to make sure that it is insulated and the climate controlled, as much as an old house can be. We are going to attempt to leave some points of interest exposed, so some brick, some beams, maybe a glimpse of the steel beams they added to reinforce the structure, but overall it will be a finished, clean space for us to store collections and work on those items we don’t want people to walk in on when they show up for a tour.
The progress we are seeing is amazing! All conversations are positive and we can’t wait to continue to show you more.. Feel free to share the progress with your friends and hopefully we’ll see you at a program soon!
This photo shows the middle of the roof. You can see where the large steel supports come together. There is essentially one huge triangle.