Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Fidelia Hall (Winter/Spring 2017 Update)

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Photo by Nadine Byers

When we decided to buy a 144 year old church building and a house that’s most likely also over 100 years old, we knew that we would be looking at nonstop home repairs, upgrades, and more. We knew that once we completed a project that it would be onto the next one, and that each project would help us “discover” what the next project would be. All of that has been true up to this point. Fixing the back roof led to us discovering just how much water damage had occurred to a certain area of the community room. Fixing the boiler led us to discover just how many of our radiators were damaged beyond repair. These things happen. Even though it’s not usually the best news to hear that you’re gonna have to find more money and time to fix something else, we’ve decided to take another approach: everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. It is a slow process for sure, but we feel that a positive outlook on things makes the process go a whole lot smoother.

And now….onto the updates:

PART ONE: Downstairs at Fidelia Hall 

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This winter we made a big choice: that our family would be moving into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall. Why? As with so many parts of our story, it starts with water. We found that there is most likely some kind of a leak behind a few of the walls in our house. Small water leaks are never great, as they are hard to pinpoint and then there’s always the possibility of mold (especially in a house that’s over 100 years old). With all of this in mind, we evaluated where we were at and what we wanted to do and….we’re moving into the downstairs of the old church building.

But there was (and still is) work to be done, and some of that is in the photos above. What you’re seeing is the downstairs space, now free of carpet and a drop ceiling! Underneath the carpet and drop ceiling were two great unpolished gems: a hardwood floor and the original tin ceiling. Both the floor and the tin ceiling are in need of some love, but we’re getting there. Over the last few months, we (Haley and I) have been using an air compressor to blast away any of the chipped and flaking paint on the ceiling. We’ve got one room left and after that we’re onto painting the tin ceiling. That should happen soon! All of the carpet has been pulled up and soon we will head to the local True Value to rent a floor sander and get that hardwood floor back to looking beautiful.

There’s a lot more to do with the downstairs and I’ll just post that here: my parents have been extremely kind and helpful to us with this project and a month ago they purchased a new furnace for the downstairs space. This week we will begin installing that furnace, and after painting the ceiling we will move onto the duct work that will heat the downstairs. A few other projects involve building a downstairs bathroom, fixing up the electrical wires and switches, and then moving onto fixing the kitchen ceiling. Like I said above, everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. We will get there.

Once we move into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall, we will then move onto the next project: gutting the house. Why gut the house? A lot of what exists in the house today was something that was built on top of something that was built on top of something, and so on. You have to remember the history of the space: it was always the home of the pastor of the church and their family. With that in mind, we like to think that all of the repairs done to the house were part of a deal we call the “parishioner’s special”, where the pastor asked members of the church to volunteer their time to help fix up the pastor’s house. A lot of the repairs we’ve seen in the house are totally DIY work, and while these are fine over the years they haven’t held up so well. We want to fix that. With that said, if we dig deep in the house during this process and find that the damage to the bones of the place have been compromised, we may end up tearing down the house. I don’t think it’ll come to this, but who knows. On the plus side, we’ll have more space for gardens and chickens and all of the things we love.

PART TWO: All the other little things

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While the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall has been our major focus at the moment, we’re also thinking about everything else. In February, my father, my brother, and I got to visit an old convent in Pittsburgh, PA that was in the process of being torn down. From that convent, we got 10 radiators, 3 fire safe doors, 2 fire safe door frames, a water heater, and a few other odds and ends. It was a day full of a lot of work, but we got what we needed at a really cheap price (only $125!) and we are sure that all of this great recycled stuff will eventually find its way into Fidelia Hall. The radiators will be installed in the upstairs space we’re calling The Great Hall and with a few tweaks they’ll be heating that space up next winter. Finding this stuff second hand was quite an amazing moment for us: while all of this stuff isn’t brand new, it works and it gets us one step closer to our goals.

We hope to complete these repairs by the winter of 2017-2018. Moving into this new space and having heat in the upstairs of Fidelia Hall will allow us to focus on cutting down our utilities (electric/heat for two buildings can get expensive).

PART 3: Spring and Summer and Gardens and Chickens

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We love spring and summer and we know you do too. At Fidelia Hall, we really love building gardens, feeding all of the birds around the property, and building flower gardens for the bees and butterflies who live all around us. This year, Haley has come up with some great ideas for the gardens. Expect to see us dabbling in growing some kiwi, apples, and other fruits as well as our standard vegetables. Last year’s straw bale gardens were a success, but this year Haley is interested in hugelkultur for the gardens. What’s hugelkultur? It’s basically the process of taking rotting wood, twigs, branches, and other things and using that to build your gardens. It basically will look like this (image from http://permaculturenews.org/2012/01/04/hugelkultur-composting-whole-trees-with-ease)

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And for now, that’s all we got. Thank you to everyone for keeping up with our family, Fidelia Hall, and more. We’re getting there!

 

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Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Technology, Three Things

THREE THINGS 2016.9

THANK YOU TECHNOLOGY

Brief shout out to computers, the internet, and technology in general. It’s easy to be negative about technology and computers, especially since they are a bit confusing and sometimes don’t work properly. But in the long run, wow, technology helps us out quite a bit. A large portion of my summer has been spent working on budgets, grants, and building maintenance and without technology it would have been much more difficult. Google Drive allows me to keep everything I write related to grants and budgeting in one place and gives all of my proposals and work a continuity that is much needed. It is also really helpful to communicate project updates and changes with my board and the community via email and social media. Conversation and communication are key!

KISS

Thank you to KISS for all of their music and their makeup that my son Aero seems to love oh so much. Over the weekend he wanted to dress up as Paul Stanley aka Starchild from the 80’s version of KISS. That’s the version of him you’re seeing in this video. He was amazed that KISS could take off their makeup. Even neater is that he think that their song “Lick It Up” is actually titled “Pick It Up” and is about picking up toys.

SUMMERTIME

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I hope everyone reading this is enjoying their summer. We’ve been spending a lot of time with our rabbits and chickens and also watering our plants and gardens. Just last week we got to eat our first crop of the season, radishes. It feels great to live in what basically amounts to our own little semi urban farm. It fits our family.

Great People, Life

GREAT PEOPLE: Abraham Schechter

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I have known Abraham Schechter since 2010 and from that moment on we have kept in touch through letters, emails, and Facebook messages. You see, Abraham is a writer, but he’s not just that. He’s a typewriter enthusiast, a local historian, a photographer, a preservationist, an expert in book repair, an essayist, and most importantly an amazing human being.

He’s a big reason why I write on this blog. When I started justinthelibrarian.com, my main focus was on writing about libraries. In our chats, Abrahama always reminded me that life was more than just our work. It was the person that did the work and those things that made that person tick. He was one of those people that I’ve needed in my life to remind me that life needs balance and the full picture.

Abraham’s work at the Portland Public Library in Portland ME (where I worked with him between 2010-2013) is simply amazing. In my opinion, he is the heart and soul of The Portland Room and everything local history related at the library. During my time there, I saw Abraham pour hours and hours of hard work and love into the Portland Press Herald Negative Still Film Collection and the Digital Commons Collection. I may not know much about local history and digitization, but I do know quality work and I can say that this is some of the best work in this field that I have ever saw.

Abraham always said that “Literacy and learning are at the heart of the librarian’s mission” and he put that into practice every day. When he repaired books at the library he didn’t do it alone…it always turned into a performance, a mini pop up program of his own. He created an audience around him and educated them on what he was doing. When I brought teens through the library, I always had them meet Abraham. We’d learn about calligraphy, book repair, typewriters, and more. Abraham made these topics fun and amazing for all ages. He still continues to wow me with programs like his Philosophy Forum. This brings new and amazing people into the library and this is what it is all about.

Thanks for being part of my life Abraham and for being an inspiration to the world.

If you’re reading this, you should connect with Abraham on LinkedIn here

Abraham has also been very involved in the Belfast Bound Book Festival, and this year he’s organizing the whole program. Read more about the Belfast Bound Book Festival at the images below or click here:

Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Three Things, Titusville, PA

THREE THINGS 2016.6

FIDELIA HALL

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I am a very anxious and constantly moving ahead kind of person. Fidelia Hall has been one of those projects in my life that has caused me to stop and think about who I am and how I can become a better person. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Fidelia Hall. The boiler sort of works and heats half of the building. The next project is ripping up the carpet in the basement, replacing some rotted wood, and making the hardwood floors beautiful again. After that we turn our attention to the gutters and how to get water away from certain parts of the building. After that is how to get event insurance and more stuff like that. It does not end.

I am learning to be more patient in life as I get older. Kids have helped tremendously with that. But there is still work to be done and Fidelia Hall will help with that. The important part is what the Fidelia Hall project seeks to accomplish: We believe that a community can be strengthened when it has a space dedicated to creative expression. I can’t let the little moments get in the way.

OLD ISN’T BAD

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When you’re a teenager and even into your twenties you have this idea that the old way is the bad way because look where the old way has gotten us so far. I have always been skeptical of this way of thinking and I am even more so now that I am way out of that part of my life. Take for example, the photo that you see above. What you see is a very beautiful and ornate tin ceiling. Fidelia Hall was originally built in 1873 and this tin ceiling most likely came in the 50-60 years after that. It is beautiful yet it is in need of quite a bit of love and attention. At some point in the history of the building it was decided to cover up this great ceiling with a modern drop ceiling. The drop ceiling did the trick….sort of…it managed to cover up the work that needed to be done to the tin ceiling and make the room usable for a time. But after awhile the drop ceiling got a bit wet, uneven, and moldy. It looks gross. It smells like it has kept every smell in it since 1975.

When Haley and I uncovered this hidden gem over the weekend we were over the moon. Look at that ceiling! Imagine that ceiling after being repainted. Won’t it be glorious? Won’t it add so much to the character of Fidelia Hall? It will. Just remember: old isn’t bad. There’s good things that can be taken away from things both new and old. Smoosh the two together and see what you get.

THE HOENKE FAMILY

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I enjoy all of the time that I spend with my family very much. There’s not much more I can add to this. They are perfect.