Monday, September 20, 2010

Ancient history

Continuing from my previous post on Athens, NY, here are a couple of my favorite discoveries from the house where I stayed.

First off, what could possibly be the original bathroom:
Ancient latrine

The house was built some time in the 1700s and seems not to have been updated much since then. These toilets are in a large stone shed in the back of the house. Imagine you and a couple of buddies sharing a special moment here on a dark and freezing winter night.

Of course, I had to look down the hole.
Ancient toilet

But, that's a close as I dared least, without a flashlight.

Up to the attic!

Every old house has to have a creepy mysterious attic room and this one did not disappoint.  The stairs to the attic were located (of course) in the shower of the upstairs bathroom.  That meant there was no earthly way I could take a shower in there without fear of the ghost of Norman Bates leaping out at me from the other side of the curtain. 
In the attic...

Anyway, the attic room had two dormer windows looking straight out over the Hudson River.  I could imagine the amazing unobstructed view the house must have had when it was built.  The roof was completely uninsulated - I could even see the sky through gaps in the boards.  This is why, I assume, the walls and ceiling were covered in paper.

Some of it was old wallpaper with a faded floral and striped pattern that looked like the 1930s:
Attic wallpaper

The real treasure, though, was the newspaper.  Whole sections of it were tacked to the walls with big rusty staples.  Upon closer inspection, I saw some of the papers were extremely old, like this page of the Catskill Recorder, which is dated March 22, 1872:
Catskill Recorder

This page is from the Kingston Journal Weekly Freeman and, according to other pages on the wall, the date is likely 1885.  Most of the pages contained ads for pills and tonics to cure various maladies.  I like the sound of "King's Evil" which can apparently be treated with Ayer's Sarsaparilla.
King's Evil

How could these newspapers possibly survive 138 years in a damp and drafty attic?  By the time the 1885 Kingston paper was published, the Catskill Recorder was already 13 years old - a long time to hang on to a newspaper.  Could these have been stashed upstairs by a hoarder?  Was it common to leave newspapers lying around for so long?  Why use them to paper the walls?  Some of the pages were sideways and the job did not seem to have been done neatly, so how did this come to be?  The decorative wallpaper looked much more recent, so why would someone wallpaper a room without removing the old newspaper....or were the ancient newspapers put up after the wallpaper?

Questions, questions, questions.

More photos of this house and other upstate NY towns can bee seen here.


  1. amazing photos and an amazing story!

  2. The house is a bit creepy and wonderful at the same time. Any work being done on it for the winter??

  3. Thanks, guys. I'd really like to get back up there and spend more time studying those papers. I still can't believe they're real and have lasted so long.

    @Melanie - winter will be interesting. I am going to suggest closing off the upper floors and keeping all the fireplaces lit. I'm getting shivers just thinking about that icy wind coming straight off the Hudson.